The head of the FBI and the leader of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency on Wednesday sounded new alarms about the Chinese government and warned business leaders that Beijing was determined to steal their technology for competitive gain.
Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, reaffirmed the long-standing concerns about the condemnation of economic espionage and burglary operations by China, as well as the Chinese government’s efforts to stifle discord abroad. But his speech was striking because it took place at MI5’s London headquarters and with the agency’s director general, Ken McCallum, in a planned show of Western solidarity.
The remarks also showed the extent to which Wray and the FBI viewed the Chinese government as not only a law enforcement and intelligence challenge, but also focused on the implications of Beijing’s foreign policy actions.
“We consistently see that it is the Chinese government that poses the greatest long-term threat to our economic and national security, and by ‘us’ I mean both our nations, along with our allies in Europe and elsewhere,” Wray said.
McCallum said the Chinese government and its “sheltered pressure around the world” amounted to “the most game-changing challenge we face.”
“It may feel abstract, but it’s real and it’s pressure,” he said. “We need to talk about it. We need to act.”
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, denied the allegations made by Western leaders, saying in an email to The Associated Press that China “strongly opposes and combats all forms of cyber-attacks” and the accusations. called unfounded.
“We will never encourage, support or condone cyberattacks,” the statement said.
In a nod to the current tensions between China and Taiwan, Wray also said during his speech that any forced takeover of Taipei by Beijing “would represent one of the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen.”
Last week, the U.S. government’s director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, said at an event in Washington that there was no indication that Chinese President Xi Jinping was ready to take over Taiwan with military force. But she said Xi was apparently “chasing the potential” for such an action as part of a broader Chinese government’s goal of reuniting Taiwan.
Wray said after the appearance with his British counterpart that he would leave the question to others whether an invasion of Taiwan was more or less likely after Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine. But he said: “I have no reason to think their interest in Taiwan has diminished in any way,” adding that he hopes China has learned what happens “when you overplay your hand,” as he said the Russians did. in Ukraine.
The FBI director said there were signs that the Chinese, who may have learned lessons from Russia’s experience since the war, were looking for ways to isolate their economy from possible sanctions.
“In our world, we call that behavior a clue,” said Wray, who throughout his speech urged caution from Western companies looking to do business in or with China. He said Western investment in China could collapse in the event of an invasion of Taiwan.
“Just like in Russia, Western investments built over years can become hostages, disrupt capital (and) supply chains and relationships,” he said.
President Joe Biden said in May that the US would respond militarily if China invaded Taiwan, offering one of the most powerful White House statements in support of Taiwan’s self-government in decades. The White House later sought to mitigate the impact of the statement, saying Biden was not outlining a change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan, a self-governing island that China considers a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland.
The embassy spokesman said the Taiwan issue was “purely China’s internal matter” and said when it came to questions about China’s territory and sovereignty, the country had “no room for compromise or concession.”
“We will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity and efforts,” the statement said, although it noted that China “will reserve the option to take all necessary measures in response to the interference of foreign forces.”