Reuters reports that Guo Shengkun, China's minister of public safety, recently told FBI Director James Comey in a Beijing meeting that his country was willing to enhance its mutual trust and respect with the United States with respect to certain core interests.
"[We should] deepen law enforcement and security cooperation in the fields of Internet security and counterterrorism," writes the Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua paraphrasing Guo Shengkun.To earn the respect of the United States, China would need to overcome a record of questionable internet security practices. This legacy includes evidence that state-sponsored hackers attempted to infiltrate American firms even after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to neither conduct nor support activities that would result in the theft of intellectual property online. China and the United States would also need to find common grounds when it comes to internet safety and human rights values. Shengkun's calls for cooperation at a time when the FBI is steeped in a legal battle over whether it can compel Apple to assist it unlock an iPhone 5C formerly owned by Syed Rizwan Farook, a suspected terrorist who perpetrated the mass shooting and attempted bombing in San Bernardino, California last year. As its main defense, the FBI claims that this matter is essential to national security and that Apple's compliance would weaken the security of Farook's iPhone 5C only, not others' devices. Civil rights advocates and tech companies alike have passionately challenged that assertion. Meanwhile, Xi Jinping has openly expressed support for blocking and censoring the web as well as for jailing individuals that "spread rumors" online or post content deemed threatening to the state. At the same time, China continues to deny human rights abuses which may be contributing to Islamist militant violence in its far western region of Xinjiang.