U.S. Holding Back on Cyber Sanctions against China before President Xi’s Visit

According to a U.S. official, there are no plans to impose sanctions on China by the United States ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit next week.

A senior U.S. administration official with insider White House knowledge, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed there are no plans by the White House to impose sanctions on China over multiple cyber attacks targeting the U.S. economy and other related installations, reports The Washington Post.

The reason, according to the official is simple. Diplomacy.

The White House is supposedly keen to avoid any potential disagreements before a landmark visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Quite simply, any spanner thrown in the works during the Chinese state visit that includes a black-tie state dinner at the White House that is to be hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama would be a diplomatic disaster.

Furthermore, the decision to refrain from imposing any sanctions also followed an “all-night meeting” between senior U.S. and Chinese officials where a “substantial agreement” was reached on several cybersecurity issues.

U.S. Sanctions are Still Possible

Despite the new stance taken by the White House, the potential for sanctions against China for the latter’s alleged cyber espionage operations is still on the table.

“But there is an agreement, and there are not going to be any sanctions,” confirmed the senior official speaking to the newspaper.

Reports surfaced last week with U.S. officials noting that sanctions were being considered by the U.S. against Russian and Chinese individuals and companies, specifically for cyber-attacks carried out against U.S. companies.

Crucially, the sanctions chalked up were planned against foreign citizens and firms that are held responsible for breaching and launching cyber-attacks on U.S. industry and commercial enterprises.

If implemented, the sanctions would mark a milestone. It would be the first time the administration carries out an executive order signed by Obama (originally in April) to impose penalties on foreign hackers accused of intruding into U.S. networks and computer systems.

Featured image from Kaliva / Shutterstock.

Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.