The Chinese government’s danger to the West is “more blatant” and devastating than it has ever been, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray, who accused Beijing of stealing American ideas and invention and initiating major cyber operations.
Just days before Beijing is due to take the world spotlight by hosting the Winter Olympics, the address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was a harsh condemnation of the Chinese leadership. It made apparent that, even as Russia-Ukraine tensions dominate American foreign policy, the United States continues to see China as the greatest danger to its long-term economic stability.
According to a copy of Wray’s speech provided by the FBI, “when we tally up what we see in our investigations, over 2,000 of which are focused on the Chinese government trying to steal our information or technology, there’s just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation, and economic security than China.”
Every 12 hours or so, Wray said, the bureau is launching new investigations to fight Chinese intelligence operations, with Chinese government hackers stealing more personal and business data than all other countries combined.
“The cost of China’s economic espionage isn’t merely that its enterprises gain an advantage by using illegally obtained technology. While they are gaining ground, they are lagging behind our businesses and employees,” Wray explained. “The damage — firm failures, job losses — has been mounting for a decade, culminating in the crushing we are seeing now. It’s causing harm to employees across the country in a variety of businesses.”
The spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington said in July that Americans had “made groundless assaults” and malicious smears about Chinese cyberattacks, and Chinese government officials have frequently denied the claims. China was regarded as a “stalwart defender of cybersecurity” in the statement.
The threat from China isn’t new, but it hasn’t gone away in the previous decade.
“Since I became director in 2017, I’ve talked a lot about this threat,” Wray added. “But I want to focus on it here today because it’s reached a new level — more brazen, more devastating than ever before — and it’s critical — critical — that we all work together to address that danger.”
Five Chinese military officials were charged by the Justice Department in 2014 on allegations of hacking into major American firms. A year later, at the White House, the United States and China struck a pact not to steal each other’s intellectual property or trade secrets for commercial advantage.
However, in the years afterwards, the United States has continued to accuse China of hacking and spying. It has accused Chinese hackers of hacking into businesses manufacturing coronavirus vaccines and waging a huge digital attack on Microsoft Exchange email server software, as well as blacklisting a number of Chinese corporations.
Wray used the instance of a Chinese intelligence operative who was convicted of economic espionage last November for targeting a GE advanced engine that Chinese state-owned firms were seeking to duplicate as an example in his lecture.
However, there have been some hiccups. Despite the fact that the FBI director stated Monday night that the bureau was trying to defend academic research and innovation at American colleges and institutions, he did not mention the widely panned China Initiative.
Although that Justice Department program was established in 2018 to combat economic espionage and defend against research theft, opponents have accused investigators of scrutinizing academics and professors based on ethnicity and stifling academic collaboration. Prosecutors abandoned a fraud prosecution against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor earlier this month, claiming they couldn’t fulfill their burden of proof.
The government is now evaluating the fate of the China Initiative and plans to release its findings soon.