China’s rampant thievery is the real trade problem

Thursday’s federal indictment of two Chinese hackers damningly sets out the real trade problem: That country is run by thieves.

Formally, the charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft target only Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong.

But the two are part of the government-run hacking group Advanced Persistent Threat 10, which has been at work for more than a decade stealing American intellectual property at Beijing’s behest.

Indeed, as CNBC first reported, the hacking campaign infiltrated at least 45 tech companies and government agencies across the globe.

The indictments also highlight what US intelligence officials have been saying all along: China hasn’t even tried to honor its 2015 agreement to stop pilfering US companies.

“This is outright cheating and theft, and it gives China an unfair advantage at the expense of law-abiding businesses and countries that follow the international rules in return for the privilege of participating in the global economic system,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

More than a dozen US allies are also expected to condemn China, but that’s not remotely enough.

After all, the Justice Department indicted 10 others this year for stealing jet-engine designs for China. And just last week, news broke that Chinese hackers had successfully hacked Navy contractors multiple times over the course of 18 months.

Ugly as the effort may get, it’s time for the West to start looking for ways to roll back China’s access to that global trading system. Not remotely playing by the rules has to have serious consequences.

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