WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chinese espionage posed “the single greatest risk” to U.S. technology, a congressional advisory panel said on Thursday and called for efforts to protect industrial secrets and computer networks.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also called in its annual report to Congress for closer work with China to promote energy security and deal with environmental problems such as climate change and pollution.
The panel urged the U.S. Congress to examine “military, intelligence, and homeland security programs that monitor and protect critical American computer networks and sensitive information, specifically those tasked with protecting networks from damage caused by cyber attacks.”
“Chinese espionage activities in the United States are so extensive that they comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies,” the report said.
China was supplementing impressive gains in research and development of commercial and military technology with an “aggressive and large-scale industrial espionage campaign” that required S. Congress to examine and consider increasing funding for export controls and counterintelligence, it said.
China’s military, growing and making technological gains at a pace that often surprised experts, also required greater scrutiny, said the report, based on hearings with experts and officials over the past year.
“Sophisticated weapon platforms are coming off production lines at an impressive pace and with impressive quality,” it said. It recommended beefed up U.S. intelligence and checks into whether the Chinese were gaining military technology from research conducted by U.S. firms in China.
The commission, set up by Congress in 2000 to examine potential Chinese threats to U.S. economic and national security, urged similar measures to protect space assets in the wake of China’s controversial anti-satellite test in January.
The report called on Congress and the U.S. government to cooperate to help Taiwan modernize its military and boost its capacity for operating jointly with U.S. and allied forces.
China “must stop providing trade and diplomatic cover to countries such as North Korea and Iran” amid concerns about illicit weapons programs, it said.
China had improved its record in halting proliferation of dangerous weapons and components since the 1990s, the report said. But Chinese proliferation continued and China’s opaque government made it hard to determine whether those cases were deliberate or caused by rogue Chinese firms, it said.
A separate U.S. congressional panel monitors human rights and civil liberties in China. But the Economic and Security Review Commission used the 2007 report to highlight concerns prompted by China’s tight control of media and Internet.
“China’s control and manipulation of information make it difficult or impossible for officials responsible for food and product safety in the United States and other nations to identify potential safety problems in Chinese imports on a timely basis and intervene,” it said.
Media in China, all state-controlled, were used by Beijing to “create deep feelings of nationalism,” the report observed. It warned that such nationalism may constrain China’s options during international incidents in ways that could risk “turning a misunderstanding into a conflict.”
Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Bill Trott