Large-Scale Attack?: China protested fiercely against spying allegations from America

Rosenstein slammed Beijing for repeatedly violating a pledge made by Xi to then-president Barack Obama in 2015 to halt cyber-attacks on U.S. companies and commercial infrastructure.

NASA and the US Navy were among those allegedly targeted in a programme the US Justice Department said also hit a major bank, telecom companies and healthcare providers in 12 countries.

"Just as when the Obama administration did it, indicting a handful of Chinese agents out of the tens of thousands involved in economic espionage is necessary but not important", Derek Scissors, a China analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, told reporters.

Hampton said the Chinese hacking activity was "counter to the commitment all APEC economies, including China, made in November 2016". "But the evidence suggests that China may not intend to live up to its promises".

Dr Robert Williams, executive director of Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Centre, said the allegations added considerably to a growing body of evidence that China had not dialled back its commercial cyber espionage in the way United States officials had hoped it would after the 2015 Obama-Xi agreement.

"These activities must stop", he said in a statement.

"It has always been an open secret that USA federal agencies hacked and monitored foreign governments, companies and individuals", Hua said.

According to the American authorities, it is Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong, who are part of the hacker group "Advanced Persistent Threat 10" and now reside in China.

According to the indictment, filed in a federal court in NY, the group has been conducting extensive campaigns of global intrusions into computer systems since at least 2006.

"Demonstrating a violation would require compiling data into an end-to-end narrative; compiling evidence that Chinese intelligence or military officials not only conducted the theft of intellectual property, but then passed that information to a Chinese company, which then used it in a product in a competitive situation with a USA business".

USA officials say the alleged hackers obtained information on several major American corporations and almost a dozen other nations.

The charges come amid growing tension between Washington and Beijing over trade policy, military friction in the South China Sea and Chinese ventures in Africa and Latin America. USA authorities said the two worked in association with China's Ministry of State Security.

China said the United States should drop the prosecution "to avoid serious damage to the relations between the two countries".

This is the latest salvo in Washington's attempt to pressure Beijing on a range of issues, with economic espionage one of the most high-profile.

The US department of justice has charged 2 Chinese hackers affiliated with Beijing's ministry of state security for running a campaign to hack and steal information from technology companies and the US government.

The two would have targeted networks in the U.S. and in other Western countries to steal confidential commercial and technical information.

Some countries, including the United Kingdom, have also made slanderous remarks against China on the issue of cyber security.

Much like the indictments the DOJ handed down against Russian hackers, the Chinese hackers have not been apprehended, and will probably remain at large.

Since then, China has detained three Canadians, in an apparent bid to pressure Ottawa into fully releasing the Huawei executive, who is now out on bail.

The ministry emphasized that the Chinese government had never been engaged in theft of commercial data.

Chinese espionage efforts have become "the most severe counterintelligence threat facing our country today", Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI's counterintelligence division, told the Senate committee.

The reports also accused China of cyber attacks against Canada and alleged that China violated its pledge to stop state-sponsored cyber attacks to steal trade secrets and proprietary technologies from Canada's private sector.

  • Jon Douglas