Hillary Clinton has demanded that Beijing investigate the widespread hacking attack on Western businesses that has prompted Google to threaten to leave the country.
The US Secretary of State made the demand in a speech on internet freedom in Washington DC, in which she claimed the free movement of information strengthened countries and economies.
Clinton demanded that "Chinese authorities... conduct a thorough review of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make its announcement."
The remarks about Google were part of broader speech decrying some countries' moves to extend repression online.
According to the Associated Press, Clinton directly challenged China, saying that "countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century", while China and the US "have different views on this issue, and we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently."
According to reports, she told her audience, and by proxy China, “countries that censor news and information must recognize that from an economic standpoint, there is no distinction between censoring political speech and commercial speech... If businesses in your nation are denied access to either type of information, it will inevitably reduce growth.”
Clinton said that individuals and corporations had to be able to rely on the security of networks, to protect both intellectual property and cold hard cash. Presumably she'd like to see the same sort of protection enjoyed by political and religious dissidents.
Clinton reeled a list of actions by oppressive regimes against bloggers and the like, and, presumably in a nod towards conservatives in her own country, said some countries used the internet to crack down on "people of faith".
"Prayers will always travel on higher networks. But connection technologies like the Internet and social networking sites should enhance individuals' ability to worship as they see fit... We must work to advance the freedom of worship online just as we do in other areas of life."
State officials said that internet freedom is now firmly on the agenda when the US is sitting across the table from other nations.
Being the US's chief diplomat, Clinton wasn't so vulgar as to suggest that China didn't need to do too much of an investigation as the suspicion is that it was the government itself that sponsored the attacks.
For its part, China had already shrugged off Clinton's speech, saying earlier today that the Google issue had nothing to do with relations between Beijing and Washington. ®