(CNN) – Jon Huntsman, former U.S. ambassador to China, said the indictment alleging five members of the Chinese military hacked American businesses is a "symbolic" move by the United States and will do little to curb the intellectual property theft.
"This is symbolic," Huntsman said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
The indictment, announced last week by Attorney General Eric Holder, alleges that five People's Liberation Army officers violated U.S. federal law by hacking to spy and steal secrets.
"You put five PLA members in a most wanted poster. We're not going to make any headway on this until such time that we really target” the access that China has to U.S. markets.
Huntsman, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate and former governor of Utah, said the theft of intellectual property – 70% of which comes from China - costs the United States "roughly $300 billion a year."
"At some point we have to start getting serious about how we respond beyond just the symbolic measures, and while this will ratchet up the level of discussion, I don't think it's going to really do much to stop the activity that's going on," Huntsman said.
China has pushed back on the allegations, demanding that the United States withdraw the charges. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called the charges "extremely absurd," saying that the United States "has fabricated facts" and that China is a "staunch defender of cybersecurity."
Huntsman said he anticipates a reaction from the Chinese, and "it probably will cost us a whole lot more than it's costing them, is what is sad about this whole thing, this symbolic gesture."
He also suggested that United States needs to do a better job in differentiating between espionage and the theft of intellectual property, which he called a "serious economic issue."
CNN's Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.