As China continues on its path to become the leading cyber adversary to the United States, lawmakers and government officials are looking for ways to strike a balance that will cater to benefits of economic partnerships with China while not exposing American security interests in the process.

During a May 31 Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, lawmakers asked government officials about getting to that balance.

“The United States and the PRC [People’s Republic of China] are the two largest economies in the world,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, assistant sectary at the Department of the Treasury. “Despite the current tensions in our relationship, cooperation between the two countries is absolutely critical and addressing important global challenges like the climate and managing international debt distress,” she said.

“The United States does not seek conflict, but rather a constructive and fair economic relationship with China, where we can work together when possible, for the benefit of our countries in the world,” said Rosenberg.

To mitigate against any potential cyber and economic risks posed by China, the Treasury Department engages with “the private sector, providing typologies and red flag indicators,” and partners “ally nations who share similar concerns and can take complementary enforcement actions,” said Rosenberg.

Matthew Axelrod, assistant secretary for export enforcement at the Department of Commerce (DoC), discussed actions that his department has been taking to combat vital technology falling into the wrong hands.

“First, we’ve enhanced our enforcement policies. Second, we’ve expanded our partnerships at home and abroad. And third, we’ve taken aggressive enforcement actions to impose real costs on those who seek to violate our rules and undermine U.S. national security, both in China and elsewhere,” said Axelrod.

As government agencies are taking action to enforce economic and security measures to protect the U.S., senators have also begun to introduce legislation aimed at deterring Chinese technological influence in the U.S.

“I recently introduced a Know Your App Act to increase transparency and protect Americans by requiring app stores to label apps controlled by foreign adversaries,” said Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

The push for protecting American technology while also trying to preserve economic benefits comes after decades worth of Chinese cyber mischief and theft of U.S. technologies, the senator said.

“For years China has grown in force and strength, persistently engaging in coercive economic policies to further its interest and undermine those of the United States and our allies,” Sen, Scott said. “China has resorted to intellectual property theft, unfair trade practices, and other harmful actions that ultimately challenged free markets and U.S. innovation and innovation.”

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.