Cyberattack accusations ‘irresponsible’

US, UK sanctions against China aim to divert from domestic issues, experts say

The recent collusion between the United States and the United Kingdom to accuse China of cyberattacks and their subsequent unilateral sanctions are a politicization of cybersecurity and a violation of China’s legal rights, experts say.

The US and the UK announced sanctions against a Chinese company and two individuals on March 25, citing alleged involvement in cyberespionage.

New Zealand joined in the campaign against China the next day, with Defense Minister Judith Collins attributing a 2021 cyberattack on the Parliamentary Service and Parliamentary Counsel Office to purported “China-linked” entities.

In response, a Chinese embassy spokesperson rebuffed the allegations as “baseless and irresponsible”, prompting diplomatic protests. China’s Ministry of State Security also issued a statement last week, urging relevant parties to cease their slander and vowed to defend the country’s legitimate rights and interests.

Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University in Shanghai, said, “The sudden bringing forward of an alleged breach dating back to 2021 is clearly part of a coordinated operation with New Zealand’s allies in the Five Eyes Alliance spy network, which is led by the US and also includes Australia and New Zealand.”

US and UK officials have started a new round of smear campaigns against China by filing charges, imposing sanctions and accusing China over an alleged cyberespionage campaign claimed to hit “millions” of people, including lawmakers, academics and journalists, Chen said.

“These lurid accusations, accompanied by a hysterical media propaganda, are part of the US-led efforts to directly confront China and prepare for more aggressive actions, in order to establish unchallenged US global hegemony,” he said.

He also criticized the US and its Western allies for fabricating cyberhacking narratives to hinder the development of Chinese technology companies such as TikTok and Huawei.

Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, CEO of the Asian Institute of Eco-civilization Research and Development in Islamabad, said, “It is an open secret that many Western countries are facing various economic crisis such as lower growth, higher inflation (and) unemployment.”

By hyping up “China cyberhacking” accusations, the West wants to divert people’s attention from the bad economic situation in their own countries, Ramay said.

“The US has emerged as a significant source of cyberattacks and poses a substantial threat to the security of global cyberspace. It is widely acknowledged that Washington has long been engaging in large-scale espionage against nations worldwide, including its allies,” he said.

“Utilizing its technological advantages and leveraging the internet resources of countries within the Five Eyes Alliance, it has been involved in the unauthorized acquisition of substantial volumes of data pertaining to the politicians, businesses, and citizens of these nations.”

Hindering development

The real objective of the accusations is to check China’s peaceful development by engaging it in conflicts, said Zamir Ahmed Awan, founding chair of Global Silk Route Research Alliance and a non-resident fellow at the Beijing-based Centre for China and Globalization.

“However, they cannot do it alone. That’s why the US and the UK are ganging up against China and making alliances with many countries to drag them in an anti-China campaign.

“These actions might harm the bilateral relations with both Australia and New Zealand to some extent, even though China understands the conspiracy, and will not overreact to them,” he said.

Chen said authorities in Australia and New Zealand should evaluate their relationships with China in the long run, rather than blindly following US actions to spread disinformation. “As Sino-Australian and Sino-New Zealand ties are on the rise, it is important for the two countries to take more responsible measures to collaborate with China.”

Awan said, “The world is fed up with US hegemony and already many countries have expressed their serious concerns.”

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