It appears that the hacking attempt on Google that came out of China last month was the last straw for the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today called on the Chinese government to investigate the cyber attacks and declaring that free access to the Internet will be a top priority in its foreign policy, according to news reports.
During a speech in Washington, she said: "We look to the Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough review of the activities that led Google to make its announcements... Chinese authorities need to provide an explanation for the cyberattacks originating on Chinese soil..."
Last week, Google went public about a hacking attempt on its infrastructure - and on at least 20 other companies across a number of sectors - and said it would no longer comply with the country's censorship rules and threatened to leave China because of it.
Specifically, she said her concerns were around countries that use technology to crush human rights. She announced a new $15 million investment into work that helps young people, women and citizens in other countries to communicate via the Internet. From the way it sounded, that would include the development of tools that would help people in those countries to circumvent censorship rules there.
Until now, it was unclear how the U.S. would respond to Google's actions last week and how it might impact U.S.-China relations. The Chinese government has downplayed the attacks and said that Google, like any other Internet company, is welcome in China - if it obeys the laws there. Clinton didn't limit her speech to activities happening within China, naming countries like Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam as having taking actions to increase Internet censorship.
Also see: Special Report: Google, China showdown