The heads of the FBI and British Homeland Security for the first time shared a platform to issue dire warnings about the threats posed by the Chinese government’s espionage operations. BBC news reports† FBI Director Christopher Wray and MI5 Director General Ken McCallum spoke at a joint event at MI5’s London headquarters before an audience that included corporate CEOs and senior university figures.
“The Chinese government is determined to steal your technology — whatever it is that drives your industry — and use it to undermine your business and dominate your market,” the Chinese government said. Wall Street Journal reports Wray said in the speech. The FBI director added that the benefits of keeping a piece of technology confidential sometimes outweigh the benefits of accessing the Chinese market.
“Keeping a technological edge can do more to increase a company’s value than partnering with a Chinese company to sell into that huge Chinese market, only to find that the Chinese government and your partner are stealing your innovation and copying,” Wray said, adding that it poses “an even greater threat to Western businesses than even many sophisticated businessmen realized.”
In their speech, the two claim that the Chinese government is engaged in a “coordinated campaign” to gain access to key technology and to “cheat and steal on a large scale”. They added that the Chinese government’s hacking program eclipses that of any major country and that it has a global network of intelligence agencies. The threat means MI5 is conducting seven times as many investigations into Chinese activities as it was four years ago, with the FBI opening about two new counterintelligence investigations every day. The Wall Street Journal reports.
“Today is the first time the heads of the FBI and MI5 have shared a public platform,” said MI5’s McCallum. “We’re doing this to send the clearest signal we can on a huge shared challenge: China.” He added that the threat is “real and urgent” and that it could be “the most groundbreaking challenge we face”.
In terms of specific examples, MI5’s McCallum cited the case of a British aviation expert who was offered a job by a company that was actually a front for Chinese intelligence officers seeking technical information about military aircraft, BBC news reports† Another engineering firm was close to signing a deal with a Chinese company before its technology was acquired and the deal was called off. The incident forced the company into bankruptcy.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, denied the allegations. against the tell Associated Press in a statement that the country’s government “firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber-attacks” and “will never encourage, support or endorse them”. The Chinese government insists that it will not meddle in other countries’ affairs, but will defend itself against cyber-attacks. The statement criticized “US politicians who tarnish China’s image and portray China as a threat with false accusations”. Wall Street Journal reports.