Snowden's claims and the implications for the US and China

Edward Snowden Photo: The Guardian/Glenn Grenwald, Laura Poitras

Whatever you think of Edward Snowden, he's changed the way the world's two largest powers deal with each other.

His revelations detailing US hacking of China and Hong Kong came at a time when America had spent months building up a detailed case of Chinese hacking and cyber warfare; aimed at the US.

President Obama had highlighted the fears of Chinese hacking in his State of the Union speech.

Days later a detailed report from a US security firm pinpointed the location of a Chinese military unit tasked with hacking western companies.

Every week the case has been made in stronger terms that China is behind industrial scale hacking.

Snowden hacked the legs off that narrative. It may be true but it makes the White House look hypocritical and blunts their attack on Chinese espionage.

The Chinese have been delighted by what they've learnt from Snowden, now able to call the US "the greatest villain".

With Snowden now gone from their territory, the outcome is a win-win for Beijing.

There have been claims of hacking from both the US and China. Credit: Press Association

A source of mine in Hong Kong insists that the PLA, China's armed forces, were watching and protecting Snowden when he was in Hong Kong.

The question is did they debrief him as well? Edward Snowden doesn't want to be seen as a traitor, or a hero, in his words he's "just an American".

By handing over the full set of secret documents to the Chinese he would be classed as a traitor by many Americans.

It's been interesting to note how many of the stories have been exposing US hacking of Chinese targets.

His reward, if that's what it is, from China has been safe passage out of Hong Kong. A decision to move that was approved of by Chinese leaders; according to a source in Hong Kong's government.

So China gets Snowden's secrets and someone else gets the diplomatic headache. Despite the public bluster, the talk of being "deeply troubled"; the US may also be quietly pleased that Snowden has left Hong Kong.

The current row over Snowden between Washington, Hong Kong and Beijing will be short-lived.

What all sides have managed to do is preserve the long term strategic relationship between China and the US.

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