- - Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chinese government denials of military hacking against the United States have sparked controversy in China from the political left and right.

Chinese National Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Gen Yansheng called unfounded a report this week by the private U.S. cybersecurity firm Mandiant about persistent Chinese cyberattacks on the United States. He said the Chinese military does not support any hacking activities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei announced China has been a major victim of massive U.S. cyberattacks but cited no evidence.

However, these boilerplate denials have caused strong reactions from all sides of the political spectrum in China.

The Global Times newspaper, a subsidiary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, echoed official denials. The newspaper called the American accusations “lies and fabrications,” but also criticized Beijing’s official denials as being “too officious, lacking specifics,” and caused by China’s habitual “excessive politeness” to the Americans.

China should stop being nice and humble; we should instead pierce wide open the thin veneer of pretentious mutual harmony with the American side and directly confront the United States,” the anti-American Global Times said in an editorial Thursday.

However, waves of criticism from China’s Internet community emerged on many leading websites, ridiculing China’s official denials and hawkish rhetoric on the cyberattacks.

“No denial means the accusations are false; once the government denies, the accusations are true,” an Internet user with the surname Ye commented on the popular sina.com website.

“A newspaper that makes up stories on a daily basis is now displaying righteous outrage?” another wrote on the Phoenix website, chastising the Global Times.

NAVAL DRILL IN PACIFIC

A three-warship flotilla of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Northern Fleet, based in Qingdao, held an 18-day drill in the Western Pacific that ended Feb. 15.

The maneuvers were provocative because they were conducted close to the areas controlled by Japan, Taiwan and U.S. troops based in Okinawa.

Billed by China’s state-run media as a “high-intensity and saturation” drill during the holiday season of the traditional Chinese New Year, the naval exercise was led by Vice Adm. Tian Zhong, commander of the Chinese Northern Fleet.

The flotilla sailed by the narrow Japanese strait of Miyako, which connects Japan’s Miyako island and Okinawa, triggering intense Japanese maritime monitoring of the Chinese vessels.

The drills began Jan. 19, when the flotilla first sailed directly to the South China Sea to greet PLA soldiers stationed on the disputed Spratly Islands.

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