Packing for business in China? Bring your passport and business cards, but maybe not that laptop loaded with contacts and corporate memos.
China’s massive market beckons to American businesses — the nation is the United States’ second-largest trading partner — but many are increasingly concerned about working amid electronic surveillance that is sophisticated and pervasive.
Security experts also warn about Russia, Israel and even France, which in the 1990s reportedly bugged first-class airplane cabins to capture business travelers’ conversations. Many other countries, including the United States, spy on one another for national security purposes.
But China’s brazen use of cyber-espionage stands out because the focus is often corporate, part of a broader government strategy to help develop the country’s economy, according to experts who advise American businesses and government agencies.
“I’ve been told that if you use an iPhone or BlackBerry, everything on it — contacts, calendar, emails — can be downloaded in a second. All it takes is someone sitting near you on a subway waiting for you to turn it on, and they’ve got it,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, a former senior White House official for Asia who is at the Brookings Institution.