Heads of the FBI and the MI5, the United Kingdom-equivalent, joined together on Wednesday to warn business leaders of espionage from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) subverting the Western economy and national security.
FBI Director Christopher Wray and MI5 Director General Ken McCallum alarmed world-leading technology, research, and commercial business owners about the Chinese government’s long-term threat to Western investments’ economic and national security. They emphasized, however, that the Chinese people — at home and abroad — are victims of the Chinese government themselves.
“I’ll start with what this danger looks like,” Wray said. “The Chinese government is set on stealing your technology—whatever it is that makes your industry tick—and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market.”
“And they’re set on using every tool at their disposal to do it,” he added.
McCallum echoed the statement, calling on leaders to act while the CCP covertly applies pressure across the globe.
“By volume, most of what is at risk from Chinese Communist Party aggression is not, so to speak, my stuff,” McCallum said. “It’s yours — and others like you.”
Wray said the CCP uses intelligence officers to target the private sector by using “co-optees,” that know intelligence operations, how to recruit sources, and steal secrets from businesses everywhere.
“We’ve even caught people affiliated with Chinese companies out in the U.S. heartland, sneaking into fields to dig up proprietary, genetically modified seeds, which would have cost them nearly a decade and billions in research to develop themselves,” he said.
Wray said CCP operatives use cyber warfare, cheating, and stealing on a massive scale.
He noted last year Microsoft reported that Chinese government-backed hackers installed more than 10,000 backdoors on U.S. networks, allowing them to access data.
Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, denied the “groundless” allegations from MI5 and the FBI to the Associated Press, adding that China “firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks.”
“We will never encourage, support, or condone cyber attacks,” the statement said.
Still, the FBI and MI5 leaders say otherwise.
The FBI director said the Chinese government steals valuable technology from American businesses right through the front door. MI5’s General McCallum added that CCP operatives “slowly” cultivate friendships only to obtain commercially unavailable information and use it to promote national interest.
“The aim of these tactics is to create a debt of obligation on the part of the target, who will eventually find it difficult to refuse inevitable requests for favors in return,” McCallum said.
Wray warned of conducting business with Chinese companies because the CCP owns them.
“When you deal with a Chinese company, know you’re also dealing with the Chinese government,” he said
McCallum and Wray shifted from the complex danger China poses to companies to forecasting “the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen” if China forcibly took over Taiwan.
“We’ve seen China looking for ways to insulate their economy against potential sanctions, trying to cushion themselves from harm if they do anything to draw the ire of the international community,” Wray said. “In our world, we call that kind of behavior a clue.”
Compared to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its effect on Western investments — which have built over the years in both countries — between sanctions and Chinese law forbidding compliance, businesses could see the same impact but on a much larger scale.
“That’s not just geopolitics,” said Wray. “It’s business forecasting . . . but while the threat is immense, that doesn’t mean harm is inevitable.”
President Joe Biden in May signaled that the U.S Military would respond if China invaded Taiwan, though the White House quickly clarified the president’s remarks by saying U.S. policy toward Taiwan has not changed.
The Associated Press reported a Chinese embassy spokesman said the Taiwan issue was “purely China’s internal affair” with “no room for compromise or concession” regarding questions of China’s territory and sovereignty.
“We will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts,” the statement said. It noted, however, that China will “reserve the option of taking all necessary measures in response to the interference of foreign forces.”