President Barack Obama has called for “swift work” between the U.S. and China to narrow their differences on “cyber issues”, amid persistent concerns from the two countries over hacking attacks and trade barriers related to tech.
On Tuesday, Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the issue, and other topics, in a phone call, the White House said in a statement.
Xi hoped that the U.S. would relax the export of high-tech products to China, and take steps to make it easier for Chinese businesses to invest in the U.S., according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.
The Chinese president is scheduled to visit Obama in Washington in September.
In the past, the two leaders have struggled to find common ground on the topic of cybersecurity. Obama has continually urged China to stop state-sponsored hacking attacks against U.S. firms, while China denies any involvement.
Back in May, the U.S. Department of Justice charged five Chinese military officers with conducting cyber espionage against U.S. companies.
The unprecedented move, while symbolic, enraged the Chinese government, which warned that the “fabricated” charges could jeopardize ties between the two countries.
Not helping the matter were leaks months prior from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, claiming that the U.S. had been spying on Chinese schools and companies.
Two days after the U.S. charged the five military officers, China announced an upcoming “cyber security vetting system” meant to weed out secret spying activities from IT products. Companies that failed to pass would be banned from the market.
China is preparing to release more details about the vetting system soon. But U.S. businesses are already alarmed.
Last month, over a dozen trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to the Chinese government concerned that new policies meant to safeguard the country’s telecommunications and banking sectors would actually exclude foreign companies from the market.
These new policies would require vendors wanting to sell to these sectors to hand over sensitive intellectual property to the Chinese government, including their software’s source code.