Every nation spies, but China, as a matter of state policy, collects information and passes it on to state enterprises to help them compete in the international marketplace. Washington has continually complained but gotten nowhere with Beijing. Exasperated, Holder on Monday said “enough is enough.” Hence the criminal charges.
China’s cyber thefts are no ordinary crime. Estimates of annual loss range from $20 billion to more than $300 billion, with best guesses around $110 billion. If China did not engage in this thievery it’s estimated that there could be 2.1 million more Americans employed each year. “It’s the greatest transfer of wealth in history,” saidGeneral Keith Alexander in January 2012, when he was director of the National Security Agency. Therefore, it is also the biggest heist in history.
In one sense, the indictments are largely symbolic. No one expects the accused Chinese officers to surrender at the federal courthouse in the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the grand jury was impaneled. And if they did, criminal proceedings would take years to complete. Finally, even if prosecutors obtained convictions, it wouldn’t make a difference. The PLA would replace the quintet with five more hackers back in Shanghai to jockey communications links and to steal technology, know-how, and information.