Bloomberg |January 15, 2010 | 12:44 EST
The U.S. will issue a formal protest to the Chinese government over the cyber attack on Google Inc. that the company says originated from China. “We will be issuing a formal demarche in Beijing,” likely early next week, to express U.S. concern about the incident, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said in Washington. In the protest, the U.S. will demand that China explain the attack that Mountain View, California-based Google says targeted its Web site and the e-mail accounts of Chinese dissidents.
Google, which owns the most popular Internet search engine, has said it plans to stop censoring results in China and may leave the Chinese market over the attack. The Chinese Embassy in Washington couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the planned U.S. action. David Shear, the deputy assistant secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, met with the Chinese Embassy’s deputy chief of mission in Washington yesterday to express concern and ask questions. Shear didn’t receive answers to his questions, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity. Google said the attack, which occurred last month, included theft of its intellectual property and hacking into the e-mail accounts of rights activists, and that it targeted at least 20 other “large” companies in technology, finance and chemicals.
China’s Ministry of Commerce today charged the U.S. with “backsliding” toward protectionism and said companies must comply with foreign laws in the aftermath of Google’s threat to pull out of the country. Google briefed the Obama administration before it took action. Representatives of the company spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the matter last week and had discussions with Obama’s national security advisers, according to administration officials. Google didn’t seek U.S. government help and administration officials didn’t encourage or argue against proceeding, the aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. The night that Google publicly disclosed its intention to stop censoring its site in China, Clinton called for the Chinese government to explain attacks on Google’s Chinese Web site. The administration was publicly treating the matter as a part of the regular give-and-take in bilateral relations.
Alec Ross, Clinton’s senior adviser for innovation, said yesterday the Obama administration views the allegations of cyber attacks as more than a commercial dispute. “I don’t think that we’re looking at these issues through the prism of American business interests,” Ross told reporters. “The United States has frequently made clear to the Chinese our views on the importance of unrestricted Internet use as well as cyber security, and we look to the Chinese government for an explanation.” Google approached other companies to seek their help drawing attention to the cyber attack last month and was frustrated by their reluctance to come forward, according to a person familiar with the matter. Google wanted other companies that were attacked to talk about the incident, the person said. Those companies refused, and Google made the announcement by itself, the person said. Google traded at $580.86 a share, down $8.99, at 12:30 p.m. on the Nasdaq Stock Market in New York.