Chinese President Xi Jinping, who begins a U.S. visit Tuesday, said his government takes cybersecurity seriously, and that cyber criminals, including hackers stealing commercial secrets, should be punished according to the law and international conventions.
In written comments published early Tuesday in response to questions from the Wall Street Journal, Xi said China has also been a victim of hacking and denied any governmental role in stealing business data.
"The Chinese government does not engage in theft of commercial secrets in any form, nor does it encourage or support Chinese companies to engage in such practices in any way," Xi wrote.
On Monday, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice warned China that Beijing-sponsored cyber espionage is a major stumbling block to U.S.-China relations, and said such spying must stop.
Xi told the Wall Street Journal he is ready to boost cooperation with the U.S. on the issue of cybercrime.
He also discussed the disputed islands in the South China Sea known in China as Nansha and elsewhere as the Spratly Islands.
Xi asserted that the chain, also claimed in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, has been Chinese territory since ancient times. China has been carrying out land reclamation projects, as well as building civilian and military facilities.
"China's development and maintenance of facilities on some of our garrisoned islands and reefs in the Nansha islands does not impact on or target any other country, and it should not be overinterpreted," Xi said.
The U.S. has demanded China stop those activities, calling them out of step with international norms and a risk for sparking conflict in the region.
Xi noted the large proportion that China and the U.S. account for when it comes to the world's population, economy and trade, and said the two countries should "understand and respect each other" while taking into account each side's interests and concerns.
"If two big countries like ours do not cooperate with each other, just imagine what will happen to the world. Both history and reality show that China and the United States stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation."
He noted areas where China and the U.S. have come together on the world stage, including concerns about nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the situation in South Sudan and climate change. Xi said there are differences, but that those reasons are why they should "complement each other and find best solutions to issues."