Light Wave


Blinken Calls Out China on Email Hacks and Air Emissions

By Jake Beardslee · July 23, 2023

Secretary of State Blinken discussed concerns over China's hacking of US emails and lack of commitment to reducing air emissions.  U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed concerns over China’s recent hacking of unclassified U.S. government emails as well as other issues now dividing Washington and Beijing during an Aspen Security Forum “fireside chat” Friday.

The China-linked hacks of top U.S. officials, including Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, have set off a series of recriminations that have unsettled relations between the two superpowers. Blinken explained: “As soon as we detected it, which goes back some time, we took immediate steps both to make sure that we were strengthening our protections and defenses.” He said the administration also notified Microsoft “to make sure that they were doing everything possible.”

“This is a constant effort, as you know, as we all live in cyberspace, so much of our life is in cyberspace. Of course, it’s a constant concern,” Blinken explained. “What we’ve had occasion to share more than once with with China is the concern that anything targeting the government, targeting citizens, targeting companies is a real concern for us.” He said he was unable to elaborate further due to what he described as an ongoing investigation.

The discussion, moderated by NBC News, then shifted to the issue of China’s commitment to reducing emissions from its vast network of power plants and manufacturing facilities. Blinken said purpose of climate-change envoy John Kerry’s recent trip to China “was not to get an agreement, was not to get some concrete deliverable. The purpose was to renew the conversation, the dialogue we’ve been having with China on climate.”

Blinken then urged China to take “urgent action to deal with its emissions,” noting that “if it wants to be seen as a responsible leader globally, it has to be responsive to demand signals that it’s getting from the region, from around the world.”

Light Wave commentary

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments make plain the ongoing tensions between the US and China on two critical fronts: cyber-espionage and climate change. Blinken, however, conveys a mixed message regarding China’s role in combatting climate change. On the one hand, he and the President and climate-change envoy Kerry continue to urge Beijing to do reduce the nation’s woeful air emissions. Yet Washington refuses to take concrete action to make its demands stick. Friendly jaw-boning will have scant agency with a tough-minded despot like China’s Xi Jinping. Similarly, China’s brazen hacking of top U.S. officials deserves more than a quite “ongoing investigation” followed by a quiet wrist slap.