Traditionally reserved Beijing has heaped scorn on the US, calling it a ‘robber playing cop,’ after Washington filed criminal charges against Chinese military officers accused of conducting economic espionage against major US companies.
Chinese rhetoric crashed out of the gates on Wednesday after the US Justice Department took the unprecedented move of publishing, together with a 48-page indictment, the photographs of five Chinese military officers it suspects of committing cybercrimes against a number of household-name US companies, including US Steel, Westinghouse and Alcoa.
The wanted individuals are affiliated with Unit 61398, an elite cyber-department of the Chinese People's Liberation Army that attracted the condemnation of US officials even as the United States was conducting its own intensive cyber espionage against China.
An editorial in the Global Times, a subsidiary of the People’s Daily, the official journal of China’s Communist Party, was packed with insults aimed at Washington.
"We should encourage organizations and individuals whose rights have been infringed to stand up and sue Washington," the newspaper said. "Regarding the issue of network security, the US is such a mincing rascal that we must stop developing any illusions about it."
The editorial went on to label the United States a "mincing rascal."
Beijing summoned the US ambassador on Monday hours after the indictment was released, vowing to retaliate against Washington's actions. It also suspended a Chinese-American working group dealing with cyber security.
"Suspending the operations of a bilateral group on cyber affairs is a reasonable start, but more countermeasures should be prepared in case Washington obstinately sticks to the wrong track," state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary on Tuesday. "Otherwise, it should take full responsibility for the consequences of the farce that features itself as a robber playing cop."
Meanwhile, the People's Daily, drawing attention to the US National Security Agency’s global surveillance program, exposed last summer by American whistleblower Edward Snowden, called Washington's accusations against China "high-handed and hypocritical."
The English-language version of the Global Times on Wednesday reminded in its editorial that the United States “spies both home and abroad with the PRISM program of the National Security Agency (NSA).”
“Washington was condemned by international public opinion and therefore its pretentious accusation against Chinese army officers is ridiculous,” it said.
The newspaper revealed that Beijing is still bristling over the NSA surveillance, which targeted a number of Chinese institutions, while lamenting that more was not done to apprehend the architects of the NSA global spy apparatus.
The White House “still owes an apology to Beijing” over the NSA hacking of its network, and Interpol should have ordered the arrest of “designers and implementers of the PRISM program, but they did not.”
The editorial added that Washington overstepped its legal boundaries by posting photographs of the five Chinese army officers, saying their human rights were violated.
“It appears that Washington has mistaken its domestic law for a law applicable to the international community by directly indicting active-duty Chinese army officers. It has severely infringed their human rights.”
The dispute marks the latest setback in relations between the world’s two economic superpowers, already heating up over Washington’s growing naval presence in waters near China.
Although Beijing will unlikely comply with US demands to hand over the wanted individuals, the indictment will place severe restraints on where the men can travel without fear of being detained by those governments that have extradition agreements with the US.