Snowden leak tips balance in US-China cyber-war

The release of data about US hack attacks on China has deprived the West of the moral high ground in the cyber-war, Hong Kong City University Professor Joseph Cheng told RT. This could give China diplomatic ammo in future negotiations with the US.

RT:Nations have been spying on each other for as long as we can remember. Do you think there is any surprise here on China’s part?

Joseph Cheng:
I don’t think it is a surprise for the Chinese authorities. Basically, China and all major powers in the world understand that internet capabilities and capabilities in outer space will be crucial in future warfare. It is very likely that the major powers would like to test their own capabilities, as well as those of their opponents and competitors. So China is probably a bit relieved at this stage that the Western governments and the Western public opinion no longer enjoy the moral high ground to criticize China.

There's the opinion that goodwill between the US and many nations worldwide may have been degraded. But there is the argument to be made that China needs the US as much as it is vice-versa. What do you think?

JC: I agree with that. The recent summit between [President] Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama was a very important symbol, demonstrating that both leaders want to reduce mutual distrust and that they certainly would not like to see a deterioration in bilateral relations. In the handling of this incident it was obvious that the Chinese authorities did not want to further publicly embarrass the Obama administration. The Chinese authorities chose to allow Mr. Snowden to leave. And of course domestically the commentaries were very critical, but they were not the official position of the Chinese government. The Chinese government also did not make any attempt to exploit the presence of Mr. Snowden to extract information from him. So I think that the Chinese authorities would like to demonstrate that they value good relations with the US.

Do you think China will play this to its advantage in the future armed with sympathy and confirmation that it is being spied upon by the US? How do you think China will use this going into the future?

JC: China will probably let it die down. But when Western governments pick up the issue again, China will feel it has a strong case for criticizing the double standards of Western governments. Ideally, it can be hoped that various governments throughout world will come together eventually to establish a set of norms governing surveillance of the internet. But this is of course a very idealistic view.