Obama will greet Chinese president with handshake, not cyber sanctions

US President Barack Obama meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March 2014. The Obama administration has put a hold on sanctions over Chinese hacking of US companies in advance of Xi’s visit on September 25.

US President Barack Obama during a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the US Ambassador’s Residence in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Monday, March 24, 2014.

When Chinese president Xi Jinping arrives in Washington, DC next week, he’ll get the usual full state visit treatment from President Barack Obama. And at least for now, he won’t get the welcoming gift the administration was considering up until this weekend: a pile of sanctions over Chinese hacking.

“We have been quite clear that the United States does not engage in the kind of cyber activity that yields a significant financial benefit for American companies, and that’s precisely the kind of behavior and activity that we’ve raised concerns about with regard to China,” said Josh Earnest, an administration spokesman press secretary, during a White House briefing yesterday. But for now, sanctions are not on the table after an unannounced set of meetings between Chinese and US officials worked out at least the framework for some sort of cooperation on cybersecurity issues.

During a briefing with press yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei suggested that any hacking of US companies originating from China was criminal activity. “China always firmly opposes and combats in accordance with law cyber attacks and cyber espionage launched in China,” Hong said. “Anyone who performs such action within China shall be held accountable.”

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