The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

State confronts China over Google – kind of, over lunch

There are reports around Washington that the White House is taking the news of China’s intrusion into Google seriously, convening high-level meetings to take the hardest look yet into the vulnerability of American government and corporate assets to Chinese government cyber espionage. And what is the State Department doing to confront the Chinese government on ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

There are reports around Washington that the White House is taking the news of China's intrusion into Google seriously, convening high-level meetings to take the hardest look yet into the vulnerability of American government and corporate assets to Chinese government cyber espionage.

And what is the State Department doing to confront the Chinese government on a diplomatic level? Apparently, discussing it over some dim sum.

There are reports around Washington that the White House is taking the news of China’s intrusion into Google seriously, convening high-level meetings to take the hardest look yet into the vulnerability of American government and corporate assets to Chinese government cyber espionage.

And what is the State Department doing to confront the Chinese government on a diplomatic level? Apparently, discussing it over some dim sum.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley proudly announced at Wednesday’s press conference:

"We have had a discussion today here in Washington with officials from the [Chinese] embassy. We raised the issue. And as the secretary said, it is a serious issue. You know, the incident raises questions about both Internet freedom and the security of the Internet in China. And we’ve asked them for an explanation."

The sharp State Department press corps pressed Crowley for details about the meeting. That’s where his story unraveled a bit.

How many State officials met with how many Chinese officials? Apparently one of each; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Shear met with the Chinese DCM. And did the meeting happen at the embassy or at the State Department? Neither.

"It might have been at lunch," Crowley said, inspiring a round of laughter by the reporters. It’s not clear even whether the lunch was about the Google attacks, or if it just came up.

Still, there are signs that the State Department is planning to take the Chinese to task over the incident. Today there are reports that State will send a formal protest to Beijing about it (State didn’t respond to requests to confirm).

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give what is being billed as a major speech on "Internet freedom" on Jan. 21. A State Department official previously told The Cable that the speech was going to be about innovation on the Internet. Clinton dined with Google CEO Eric Schmidt just last week, but State isn’t saying whether they are coordinating their response.

 

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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