FBI, MI5 raise alarm over Chinese espionage in joint address
In a joint address, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Christopher Wray and United Kingdom MI5 director General Ken McCallum on Wednesday asked businesses to be wary of China's espionage threat. Both warned business leaders that Beijing is determined to steal their technology for competitive gain. Meanwhile, China called the accusation 'groundless' and asserted that it opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks.
- There have been several reports of the Chinese government stealing proprietary information to try to be in an advantageous position.
- The FBI feels the technology espionage efforts of the Chinese Communist Party pose a grave threat to the economic well-being and democratic values of the United States.
- US security agencies feel that Beijing employs tactics to achieve policies that are more favorable to China.
Speaking to officials and business executives in London's Thames House, Wray said, "We consistently see that it's the Chinese government that poses the biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security, and by 'our,' I mean both of our nations, along with our allies in Europe and elsewhere." Without mincing words, Wray said that the Chinese government uses unsuspecting techniques to steal technology.
"Outside of China, their government uses elaborate shell games to disguise its efforts from foreign companies and from government investment-screening programs like CFIUS, America's Committee on Foreign Investment in the US," Wray said. McCallum said, "The world-leading expertise, technology, research, and commercial advantage developed and held by people in this room, and others like you" are at risk from Chinese Communist Party aggression.
Talking about partnerships to address the Chinese threat, Wray said, "We're not just in the business of articulating problems, we're doing something about them, together with MI5, the private sector, other government partners." The FBI chief asked business leaders to help the investigating agencies to get more information on these threats. They urged companies "to take the long view in making decisions about China."
The FBI, however, clarified that there is no problem with people of Chinese descent or heritage but with the policies of the Chinese government. "To be clear, the adversary is not the Chinese people or people of Chinese descent or heritage. The threat comes from the programs and policies pursued by an authoritarian government," according to the FBI.
McCallum said the Chinese government and its "covert pressure across the globe" are amounting to the most game-changing challenge they are facing. "This might feel abstract. But it's real and it's pressing," he said, adding, "We need to talk about it. We need to act." This is the first time the two chiefs have come together to address a global threat.
Rejecting the allegations of "immense threat" made by the two chiefs, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, said that China "firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks." In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, Liu called the accusations groundless. "We will never encourage, support, or condone cyber attacks," the Chinese statement added.