FBI Director Christopher Wray joined his British counterpart to warn U.K. business leaders that China will use any trick of the trade to dominate the world’s economy.
The speech on Wednesday took place at the London headquarters of MI5, the United Kingdom’s domestic intelligence agency. Mr. Wray was joined by Ken McCallum, the British agency’s director general.
“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,” Mr. Wray said. “They’re set on using every tool at their disposal to do it.”
He denounced Beijing’s practice of industrial espionage and computer hacking in order to control Western businesses, large and small. China‘s economic targets include aviation technology firms and pharmaceutical companies, he said.
“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,” Mr. Wray said.
Beijing often uses intelligence officers to target private sector information and then directs people who may not be government employees to assist the operation by providing cover and communications and helping to steal the secrets, the FBI director said.
“We’ve seen the regional bureaus of China‘s MSS — their Ministry of State Security — key in specifically on the innovation of certain western companies it wants to ransack,” Mr. Wray said.
China also views cyber attacks as a pathway to steal valuable information on a massive scale. Last spring, Chinese hackers installed more than 10,000 back doors on U.S. software networks, giving them “persistent access” to the data on the systems, he warned.
Mr. Wray also accused Beijing of establishing partnerships with Western businesses, giving them unfettered access to valuable technology and lucrative company secrets. He said the Chinese government will use such “insidious tactics” to “walk through your front door and then rob you.”
Chinese businesses are either owned and operated outright by the government or are “effectively beholden” to government officials because of the state requirement that each company host a Communist Party cell in order to keep them in line, he said.
“When you deal with a Chinese company, know you’re also dealing with the Chinese government — that is the MSS and the [People’s Liberation Army] — too, almost like silent partners,” Mr. Wray said.
Beijing wasted almost no time in responding, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian telling reporters at a Thursday briefing that it was the United States that constituted a bigger threat to peace and global stability than China.
The FBI chief, Mr. Zhao charged when asked about the joint appearance in London, “has been playing up the so-called ‘China threat’ to smear and attack China.”
“Facts have fully proven that the U.S. is the biggest threat to world peace, stability and development,” Mr. Zhao said. “We urge this U.S. official to have the right perspective, see China‘s developments in an objective and reasonable manner and stop spreading lies and stop making irresponsible remarks.”