Okay, shooting people is illegal, but shooting people to protect others from getting shot is not. Compromising internet security is illegal in China, but hacking to "protect" the Chinese people from having their leader's security compromised must be okay, right?
Lethal force is only okay in very specific scenarios -- usually when lethal force is first presented by the attacker. Could you explain what the New York Times did that warranted the use of hacking? Did the New York Times hack the Chinese government? Did the New York Times even threaten to hack the Chinese government?
Obviously, there is nothing worse than having your leader's integrity challenged, so they are doing everybody a favor by hacking the Times.
Actually, I can think of a good deal many things that are worse than having my leader's integrity challenged. Truth be told, I quite enjoy my leader's integrity being challenged -- especially if there is fact behind it. The Western world enjoys this over-scrutiny of our leaders. Here's a worse scenario than your leader's integrity being challenged: your leader actually is corrupt and nobody's able to investigate it!
The only favor they're doing us by hacking the New York Times is showing the world that they believe their control of the media transcends their national borders. By paying petty lip service to their own laws (which are often subjective and which they feel they are above), the Chinese government is telling the foreign presses that they better fall in step with their mouthpieces or they will be hacked.
It's quite sickening and I find no way at all to view this as acceptable. This is an international attack on our constitutional values -- most notably freedom of speech.