Beijing blasts US as ‘empire of hacking & theft,’ rebuffs claims that China will exploit Pacific cable project for ‘espionage’

The Chinese government has rejected allegations from two US senators that it seeks to leverage a multi-million dollar undersea cable project for “espionage,” deeming the charges cover for Washington’s own global spying efforts.

Addressing a letter penned by Republican Senators Marco Rubio (Florida) and Ted Cruz (Texas) warning of Beijing’s role in the project, obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan said the charges were “pure slander” designed to “justify the wanton US suppression of hi-tech Chinese companies.”

“The Senators you mentioned will oppose whatever China does. They are always making up lies to smear China to seek political gains. They have no political integrity to speak of,” Zhao told reporters at a press conference, also pointing to sweeping US surveillance efforts around the world, citing the NSA’s PRISM program by name.

It is the United States that has been conducting massive cyber theft all over the world, even on its allies, since PRISM came out. It is a real empire of hacking and theft.

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Sent to the government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in September, the senators’ letter claimed that Beijing would use a $72.6 million undersea cable project to wage “campaigns of espionage and geopolitical coercion” in the Pacific, urging officials to reject Chinese involvement.

“The Chinese Communist Party subsidizes companies such as Huawei to ensure they are able to undercut all competitors,” Rubio and Cruz wrote, adding that awarding the construction project to a Chinese company would “deeply complicate relations between our countries and hinder the ability of US diplomats and personnel to interact with your government.”

The letter followed similar pressure from Washington over the summer, in which US officials sent a diplomatic note to the FSM voicing “strategic concerns” after Chinese firm Huawei Marine submitted a bid on the cable enterprise, according to Reuters.

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The FSM government acknowledged earlier this month that some of its partners on the project had raised concerns about “cyber-security related gaps” and demanded that officials ensure the cable “does not compromise regional security.” The government did not indicate a stance on participation from Chinese firms, but called the bidding process a “complicated endeavor.”

The undersea cable is designed to improve communications to the FSM, Kiribati and Nauru – all Pacific Island nations – and is reportedly backed by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The project has run into obstacles in recent weeks amid an impasse at the bid assessment stage, however, leaving its future in limbo as various international firms compete for the contract. In addition to Huawei Marine, Japan’s NEC Corporation and the Alcatel Submarine Network, a subsidiary of Finland’s Nokia, have also submitted bids.

Though Huawei Marine recently divested from parent firm Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and is now majority-owned by another Chinese company, Hengtong Optic-Electric, Washington has repeatedly alleged that Huawei poses a dire privacy and security threat to the US and other nations. Both the company and Beijing have denied those charges, with Chinese officials arguing the American campaign against Huawei is merely a way to damage a foreign business competitor.

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