China has stepped up its war of words with the United States over its Internet policy, delivering a thinly veiled rebuke of U.S. criticism in the form of an interview published today in the state-run Xinhua news service.
The comments of an unidentified government spokesperson continued the backlash against a speech delivered last week by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called on the Chinese government to investigate the wave of cyber attacks against Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and other sites that prompted the search giant to threaten to shutter its operations in that country.
"Accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber attack, either in an explicit or inexplicit way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China," the spokesman said. "We [are] firmly opposed to that."
The pointed comments follow a weekend that saw escalating rhetoric in state-run media both in defense of Chinese Internet policy and criticism of the United States' stance on the issue. In a piece published yesterday, Xinhua cited a government spokesperson asserting Beijing's legal right to regulate the Internet to block access to online material "which incites subversion of state power, violence and terrorism or includes pornographic contents."
On Saturday, Xinhua ran an editorial with a Washington dateline that attacked Clinton's speech for setting a double standard, arguing that the United States is quick to attack other countries' Internet policies, but at the same time is seeking to develop a robust cyber attack command in the Defense Department and enforces its own set of laws to block illicit Web traffic and prosecute purveyors of spam, child pornography and other content.
"The United States often gossips about other countries' policies on administering the Internet, but at the same time it takes similar measures to minimize the spread of illegal information," the news service wrote in the editorial. "That shows that the United States takes a strict line with other countries, but not with itself."
The increasingly strident response from China coincided with a fresh wave of attacks against the Web sites of several Chinese human rights groups over the weekend, though the person or group responsible remains unknown.
Over the weekend, five groups that advocate for human rights in China were reportedly hit with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that lasted more than half a day beginning Saturday afternoon.
In her speech last week in Washington, Clinton delivered the administration's most forceful response to Google's revelations that Chinese hackers -- whose connection with the government is still unclear -- targeted the company and hacked into dissidents' Gmail accounts.
Chinese officials quoted in various state-media stories have disputed that the attacks emanated from the country.
Clinton spoke of the importance of the uncensored Internet as a fundamental right of free expression, and called on the Chinese government to conduct a thorough and transparent review of the attacks against Google.
"Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society or any other pose a threat to our economy, our government, and our civil society," Clinton said. "Countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation."
She also announced the State Department's plan to partner with academics, businesses, advocacy groups and others to promote the development of new technologies to further diplomatic goals, pledging to set up a grant program to help new applications reach a global market.