China is hosting a group of U.S. officials in Beijing for talks on cybersecurity, a prelude to next month’s kick-off of the new cyber dialogue announced during Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in September. The U.S. delegation, led by Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, included representatives from the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Justice, as well as representatives from the National Security Council, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. They met with their Chinese counterparts, including Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun and Vice Minister of Public Security Chen Zhimin.
According to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security, the primary purpose of the two-day visit is to “advance implementation of bilateral commitments on cyber issues and prepare for the first U.S.-China Ministerial Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues in December.”
The new bilateral dialogue was one of the highlights of Xi’s visit to the United States, and will represent the highest-level regular talks on cyber issues between the U.S. and China. That dialogue will be co-chaired by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the U.S. side, and will include representatives from China’s Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, Ministry of Justice, and the State Internet and Information Office.
As always, however, the true test of the worth of this platform will be in its implementation – and how frank and forthcoming both sides are willing to be when addressing their concerns. As U.S. President Barack Obama put it during his press conference with Xi, “[T]he question now is, are words followed by actions. And we will be watching carefully to make an assessment as to whether progress has been made in this area.”
The current delegation is designed to help pave the way for fruitful discussion in December. They’re certainly saying the rights things: Public Security Minister Guo told Mayorkas that the U.S. and China had “clearly indicated the direction for bilateral cooperation on cybersecurity law enforcement” during Xi’s visit. “Strengthening mutual trust and cooperation in the area of cybersecurity is in accordance with the common interests of China, the United States, and the international community,” Guo added. He also repeated that Chinese government “firm and unmoving” stance on “fighting cybercrime and protecting cyber security.”
Chinese state media also released information on China’s domestic fight against cybercrime on Wednesday. According to Xinhua, China’s Ministry of Public Security said that police arrested over 900 hackers involved in 400 cases, thanks to a campaign that began in July 2015. The ministry added that China is stepping up its fight against cybercrime, with the establishment of 300 new facilities specializing in cybercrimes (including evidence collection). Xinhua added that the ministry plans to strengthen international law enforcement cooperation on cybercrime.