It will be interesting to see if more information about the evidence pointing to the defendants comes out in the legal process, Akerman said. "The government has made a very strong statement: 'We know what you're doing, we know who's doing it, and we know how you're doing it,'" he said. "That, in itself, is pretty important."
The charges could help the U.S. press China during diplomatic discussions, he added.
While the chances of the defendants appearing in a U.S. court are small, the DOJ may have ways of making that happen, including extradition agreements with other countries, if the defendants ever leave China, he said. "The world's a lot smaller than it used to be," he said.
Akerman dismissed the Chinese complaints that the U.S. spies on its residents. "The NSA thing is a completely different story," he said. "You're talking about trying to track people who are terrorists as opposed to going in and taking information out of companies that can be used to undercut the competition on the world market. I don't see how you can even compare the two."
U.S. Representative Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat long focused on cybersecurity issues, also praised the DOJ's indictments.
"This is far different than the spy-versus-spy espionage that dates back to ancient history," he said through a spokeswoman. "This is the systematic, methodical, and wholesale theft of corporate property for economic advantage by a country. It is absolutely unacceptable behavior, and this form of economic warfare needs to be combatted aggressively."
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