US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew is to press Beijing on cybersecurity issues when he meets with China’s new leadership next week, a senior US administration official said on Friday.
Lew will discuss a wide range of issues with Chinese officials during his visit to China on Tuesday and Wednesday, including cybersecurity, Chinese economic reforms and the undervalued yuan, said the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Making his first international trip since taking office a few weeks ago, Lew is to meet with China’s new president, Xi Jinping (習近平), and other senior Chinese officials, as well as US business leaders.
Lew is expected to voice the concerns of US President Barack Obama’s administration that the Chinese government is sponsoring some cyberattacks against US corporations, infrastructure and government.
“I think you can expect Secretary Lew to discuss our growing concerns about cybersecurity when he meets with Chinese officials, highlighting this issue has become a growing challenge to our economic relationship,” the official said. “This is an issue of very high concern and importance to the president.”
In a congratulatory phone call to Xi after his installation as president on Thursday, Obama raised the importance of addressing cybersecurity threats which he said, diplomatically, represent “a shared challenge.”
However, the senior administration official suggested Lew would be taking a tougher stance, referring to blunt remarks by US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon earlier in the week.
“Increasingly, US businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information ... through cyber-intrusions emanating from China at a very large scale,” Donilon said.
“Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities,” he said.
China has called such charges “groundless.”
Lew is also to discuss the rebalancing of China’s economy away from export dependence toward domestic consumption, a move that could benefit the US economy, which wants to export more to China.
Questioned about China’s new economics team as the world’s second-largest economy undergoes a once-in-a-decade leadership change, the official said it was too soon to cast judgment.
“We’ve seen in the plan that was recently put forth on income distribution and the statements that we’ve seen so far, Chinese leadership seems to be intently focused on strengthening the role of the consumer as a driver in growth in China,” the official said.
Lew is also due to raise the thorny issue of China’s undervalued yuan currency, which the US says keeps Chinese exports unfairly cheap. Although the currency, officially known as the renminbi, has appreciated 16 percent against the dollar since Beijing unpegged it slightly in June 2010, “more progress is needed,” the official said.