China hacked Google, US claims in WikiLeaks cable

WikiLeaks' Cablegate revelations look set to put strain on US-Chinese relations, as newspapers worldwide report American suspicions that China has been involved in a worldwide campaign of cyber terror.

According to WikiLeaks' own figures, China appears in 8,300 of the not-so-secret cables - the fifth most common country name to appear, just behind that of Israel and ahead of Afghanistan.

In one cable not yet posted on the whistle-blowing website, but shown to newspapers including the Guardian, US sources allege that a senior Chinese politician was behind a hacking campaign earlier this year against US companies operating in China.

US embassy staff in Beijing were told by a local contact that the Chinese Government was behind an eight-year campaign against the US and its allies, as well as targets such as the Dalai Lama and US businesses.

The campaign included the sophisticated 'Aurora' hack on Google in January, which led to the search engine moving its servers offshore to Hong Kong.

According to the Guardian, the campaign was orchestrated by a "senior member of the Politburo who typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticising him personally."

Also featured in the cables are allegations, reported in the Wall Street Journal, that China ignored a US request to stop sharing ballistic missile technology with Iran, and offered $3 billion to the Asian state of Kyrgyzstan to close a US airbase there.

Fears of dirty tricks by Beijing resurfaced earlier today after a number of users in China reported that the search box had disappeared from Google's home page.

A spokesperson for Google, who declined to be named, told the Wall Street Journal the problem was due to a technical glitch.

"For about four hours on November 29, a small percentage of users in mainland China saw no search box when they visited google.com. This was a technical error on our side and we have since resolved the issue," the spokesperson said.