How the leaders of two of the world's most powerful nations managed to keep straight faces when they agreed to a non-cyber spying deal is baffling many political observers. Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama announced yesterday a cyber-peace deal in which neither side will take part in commercial spying online.
The observers say that even the wording used when making the announcement was full of loopholes - especially as the two leaders emphasized the deal referred to “commercial” cyber spying, not military, political or national security related hacking.
"We have agreed that neither the US nor the Chinese government will conduct, or knowingly support, cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property – including trade secrets or other confidential business information – for commercial advantage," said Obama. "In addition we will work together, and with other nations, to promote international rules of the road for appropriate conduct in cyberspace."
President Xi described the deal as "productive".
The no-hack pact will see the two countries share information about online threats, and set up a committee of experts to research computer network defenses which will meet twice a year to discuss the latest "known" techniques used by hackers.
The observers say another almost humorous aspect of the cyber-spy agreement is that the group that will be meeting and "sharing" information is made up of organizations whose full-time job it is to both ensure their counterparts do not know too much about what they are doing, and also use security intelligence to know what they other side is up to. The group on the Chinese side includes the Ministry of State Security, Ministry of Public Security, the State Internet and Information Office, and the Ministry of Justice. Across the table will sit U.S. representatives from the FBI, the U.S. Attorney General and Homeland Security.
A special hotline will also be set up to be used by both sides to ensure quick responses to online security issues as they come up.
During his visit to the States, President Xi has taken time out to say the Chinese Government does not engage in cyber-spying to find "commercial" secrets from other countries, even claiming Chinese networks are hacked more than they hack.
The political observers, along with security experts, say the deal appears to be "political posturing" with the realistic odds being the agreement will never stick, even if the intentions behind it were pure. They say the history of hacking between China and the U.S. and the recent revelations that both countries have even spied on allies, including hacking personal phone and email accounts, is too significant to make them think it would stop anytime soon, or even at all.