"Former and current US officials describe a Chinese enterprise that goes well beyond conventional espionage – a deliberate, co-ordinated and well-resourced strategy to steal the intellectual property of American companies that has been going on for years and is gathering pace."
Washington is angry. Really angry. It is just not sure what to do about it. US officials have accused Chinese hackers of stealing corporate trade secrets since the mid-2000s but during the past few months the outrage has reached a political tipping point. cyber security has been thrust to the top of the agenda in US-China relations.
The Obama administration, members of Congress and the think-tanks that advise them have cast around for ways to punish hackers from China and elsewhere. Washington is considering a series of unilateral trade and other sanctions against Chinese entities and individuals.
"We will start sending a message to countries, especially China, that there is a consequence to your economic espionage," says Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House intelligence committee who is preparing a bill to penalise hackers. "We should have a dial we can turn up and a dial we can turn down. That means adding some teeth." When Barack Obama welcomes Xi Jinping for their first presidential meeting on Friday, he will press his Chinese counterpart on the issue of cyber theft.