By Terril Yue Jones
BEIJING (Reuters) - Cyber attacks against the United States from China are eroding the country's credibility and scaring off potential foreign investors afraid of losing their intellectual property, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The sheer scale of hacking attacks from China bred mistrust in the U.S. government as well as the business community, said Robert Hormats, U.S. under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment.
China has repeatedly dismissed the accusations as groundless and claims it is the victim of a vigorous cyber campaign by the United States.
"The cyber intrusions are particularly troubling because they've gotten so much visibility lately that the intensified visibility is really undermining a lot of business confidence of people who would otherwise invest here," Hormats told Reuters.
"So it's hurt Chinese interests," he said after speaking at a U.S.-China Internet industry forum. "The Chinese really need to take a look at this and decide if it's in their interest for these policies to continue."
Hormats said it was difficult to determine the precise origins of the attacks. A U.S. computer security company released a report in February in which it said much of the hacking came from China.
"It's important to have a dialogue on this, but it's also important that the dialogue be a means to an end, and the end is really ending these practices", Hormats said.
China does not abuse the Internet, and countries should not attack other countries using Internet resources, Qian Xiaoqian, China's vice minister of the State Internet Information Office, earlier told the forum.
China suffered more than 6,600 attacks by computers based overseas in January and February, he said.
"We shouldn't militarize cyberspace," he said. "Such attacks violate the rights of other countries and also moral standards."
Chinese and U.S. speakers at the forum urged dialogue to iron out differences.
"As the world's two largest economies, both dependent on the Internet, China and the U.S. must work together to address this problem, on behalf of our own citizens, our own companies, and our own institutions," U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke said.
(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones; Editing by Jonathan Standing)