In his op-ed in reaction to the revelations of official Chinese cyber-espionage against the United States Eliot Cohen makes an error that all too many American elites do:
If this is the game of nations, played by old rules (old, as in 17th- and 18th-century, at least), there is no point in focusing on individuals. “It’s business, not personal,” as they say in the mafia movies. At some point we may want to have dealings with people we have identified as crooks and malefactors, so in most cases, there’s no need to make it harder for us to do so.
Which is why the law is not the best instrument here. This is about our coming to terms with the existence of an unscrupulous mercantilist state of unprecedented size, wealth and power. It does not accept our legal norms — and in any case, given the revelations of Edward Snowden, we sound foolish standing on those grounds. That being so, action that bites — inflicting some pain on sizable Chinese companies that benefit from stolen information, for example — makes a lot more sense than pretending that U.S. jurisdiction is both universal and legitimate. Even the attorney general cannot believe that it is.
That reflects a misconception. We are absolutely, positively, totally unable to influence China’s behavior. It is too large and the authorities have too many levers that they’re ready, willing, and able to throw.
However, we can change our own behavior and, if we elected to, we could change the behavior of American companies. Rather than thinking about changing Chinese behavior we should be thinking about how we can change our own behavior to make us more secure against Chinese depradations. If we’re unwilling to do that, we should quit our belly-aching and accept them as the cost of doing business.