Google chairman Eric Schmidt has labelled China a menace to the internet, complicit in the use of cyber-crime as part of efforts to undermine its corporate and political opponents.
The claims are made in his upcoming book, The New Digital Age, extracts of which have been published by The Wall Street Journal. Schmidt brands China "the world's most active and enthusiastic filterer of information", and the "the most sophisticated and prolific" hacker of foreign organisations.
The published extracts come days after The Wall Street Journal and New York Timeswebsites were both revealed to have come under attack from cyber-criminals allegedly based in China, a claim the Chinese government has denied.
The Google chairman wrote that the growth of Chinese telecommunication firms only increases the country's potential power, specifically mentioning Huawei, which, along with ZTE, has been labelled as a threat by the US government.
"Where Huawei gains market share, the influence and reach of China grow as well," he said.
The New Digital Age sees Schmidt analyse how China exploits the internet for the benefit of its government and organisations.
"The disparity between American and Chinese firms and their tactics will put both the government and the companies of the United States at a distinct disadvantage," he wrote.
China takes a lack of internal laws about cyber-crime to its advantage, Schmidt claimed, because "the United States will not take the same path of digital corporate espionage, as its laws are much stricter (and better enforced) and because illicit competition violates the American sense of fair play.
"This is a difference in values as much as a legal one," the Google chairman added.
China is regarded as the largest threat to cyber-security by Western government, while General William Shelton, commander of US Air Force Space Command, recently warned that Iran is also "a force to be reckoned with" in the field.
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A discussion of the "risk perception gap", its implications and how it can be closed