Those companies can be barred from doing business in the U.S., and cyberthieves can be prosecuted, if they are arrested in a country outside of China and if the U.S. can extradite them, experts say.
Because of the close economic ties between China and the U.S., both countries have options for pressuring each other, while not crossing a line that would threaten their respective economies. In the case of the U.S, it could enact sanctions against China, leveraging the fact that the U.S. market is the largest buyer of Chinese goods.
For now, there is no international organization for either the U.S. or China to turn to.
"Corporate espionage almost certainly constitutes an unfair trade practice, but national governments, including the U.S., have hesitated bringing actions against the most egregious violators to the World Trade Organization for economic and political reasons," said Jacob Olcott, principal consultant for cybersecurity at Good Harbor Consulting.
In time, relations between China and the U.S. over cyberespionage could resemble those between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
"I suspect that like the Cold War, at some point the U.S. and China will come to some sort of tacit agreement on what is acceptable and what isn't," Murray Jennex, a cybersecurity expert and associate professor at San Diego State University, said in an email.
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