Chinese state media has reacted angrily to Canberra and its allies' move to call out Beijing over "malicious" global hacking activity targeting Australia and a raft of other nations.
In a statement released on Monday night in conjunction with the US and other allies, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews and Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the activities by China's Ministry of State Security had left Canberra "seriously concerned".
Australia and its international allies have determined the ministry exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange software earlier this year, affecting thousands of computers and networks worldwide.
"These actions have undermined international stability and security by opening the door to a range of other actors, including cybercriminals, who continue to exploit this vulnerability for illicit gain," the statement said.
As expected, the move from the US and its allies triggered a characteristically hostile response from Beijing mouthpiece the Global Times who refuted the claim as a "huge lie" and scolded the US for "enlisting allies to smear China".
"The US is stirring up new geopolitical disputes by turning cyber frictions into major conflicts among countries," the nationalistic tabloid said.
The editorial said the behaviour China has been accused of is grossly implausible and said China has "a strict system of accountability".
Once again China painted itself as the victim, saying it had fallen foul of Washington's own cyber crimes.
"The US, the global top technology centre, has blatantly set up cyber troops, but loudly accuses other countries of launching cyber attacks. How ridiculous!" the Global Times said.
China's foreign ministry is expected to be pressed on the position taken by the US and Australia at its daily press conference on Tuesday.
Beijing has repeatedly called on Australia to do more to improve badly-damaged Sino-Australian ties, and the latest move will likely only antagonise China further.
Latest claims 'no surprise' to China
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to make any concessions in his government's stance against Beijing, with Canberra condemning China over a series of matters Beijing deems as "internal affairs" such as Hong Kong's autonomy and human rights issues in Xinjiang.
A bitter dispute between the two countries has been complicated further by trade sanctions and national security legislation blocking foreign investment.
The Global Times accused the US of rallying its allies to unfairly target China once more.
"Since the US has already put labels such as 'genocide' and 'committed crimes against humanity' on China, any new accusation won't surprise us," it said.
The US Justice Department said on Monday four Chinese citizens - three security officials and one contract hacker - have been charged in a global hacking campaign aimed at dozens of companies, universities and government agencies in the United States and abroad.
The activities took place between 2011 and 2018 that focused on information that would significantly benefit Chinese companies and businesses, it said.
Australia joined the US, NATO, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand and Canada in levelling the allegations.
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