An investigation conducted by NPR reveals American companies and trade organizations may have looked the other way while China stole billions of dollars in intellectual property (IP).
The reason? The Chinese market was too important to risk making Chinese leaders angry.
In dozens of interviews with U.S. government and business representatives, officials involved in commerce with China said hacking and theft were an open secret for almost two decades, allowed to quietly continue because U.S. companies had too much money at stake to make waves.
Wendy Cutler, who was a veteran negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, says it wasn't just that U.S. businesses were hesitant to come forward in specific cases. She says businesses didn't want the trade office to take "any strong action."
"We are not as effective if we don't have the U.S. business community supporting us," she says. "Looking back on it, in retrospect, I think we probably should have been more active and more responsive. We kind of lost the big picture of what was really happening."
And we wrote about what was really happening in our report on the 8 Steps Huawei Took to Steal IP from TMobile.
Hacking the West: China vs. Russia
We also interviewed CNN Military and Cyber Analyst Col. (Ret.) Cedric Leighton about the differences in nation-state cybercrime.
Watch our 2-minute interview at a SecureWorld conference where Leighton explains the difference between why China hacks the West versus why Russia hacks the West.