FBI Director Christopher Wray recently addressed the threat China poses to the United States, claiming it to be “more brazen, more damaging than ever before.”
Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Monday, Wray claimed that the Chinese government’s “disregard for global leadership norms, ruthless hunger for economic superiority, and desire to influence American politics make it a threat to U.S. national security.” Wray also said that no other country poses more of a threat to the U.S. than China does. He specifically mentioned the more than 2,000 investigations the bureau has launched focusing on Beijing’s attempts at stealing U.S. technology and data.
“The Chinese government steals staggering volumes of information and causes deep, job-destroying damage across a wide range of industries — so much so that, as you heard, we’re constantly opening new cases to counter their intelligence operations, about every 12 hours or so,” the FBI director said.
He then accused the Chinese government of unleashing “a massive, sophisticated hacking program that is bigger than those of every other major nation combined” in the U.S. He also added that the hacking program, which operates “from pretty much every major city in China,” had allegedly received “a lot of funding and sophisticated tools” and usually collaborates with “cyber criminals, in effect, cyber mercenaries.”
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The FBI director gave a few examples of recent hacking incidents in the U.S., including one in which criminal hackers associated with the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) allegedly “stole terabytes of data from hundreds of companies.” He also explained that one terabyte is equivalent to about 70 million pages of data.
Another incident Wray presented in his speech involved Xu Yanjun, a Chinese MSS intelligence officer who was convicted of economic espionage in Cincinnati last year in November. According to NBC News, Xu allegedly tried to steal technology developed by GE Aviation that could produce jet engine fan blades using mixed materials.
Wray noted that aviation-related secrets compose one of the 10 technology areas “the Chinese government has prioritized for stealing.”
“Just using cyber means, Chinese government hackers have stolen more of our personal and corporate data than every other nation combined,” Wray added. “The harm from the Chinese government’s economic espionage isn’t just that its companies pull ahead based on illegally gotten technology. While they pull ahead, they push our companies and workers behind. And that harm — company failures, job losses — has been building for a decade to the crush that we feel today.”
Even though the Chinese government vowed to stop giving stolen U.S. technology to Chinese businesses back in 2015, Wray claimed that the alleged cyber theft activities are still “going strong.”
Aside from stealing data from overseas companies, Wray also accused the Chinese government of threatening the U.S. constitution and democratic norms. He said Beijing used Fox Hunt, a program Chinese President Xi Jinping authorized in 2014, to “target, capture and repatriate former Chinese citizens living overseas whom it sees as a political or financial threat… [then] bringing them back to China, where they can be imprisoned or controlled.”
Additionally, Wray claimed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) allegedly tried to corrupt American political leaders and “buy or intimidate acquiescence to their will.”
“The Chinese government understands that politicians in smaller roles today may rise to become more influential over time. So they look to cultivate talent early — often state and local officials — to ensure that politicians at all levels of government will be ready to take a call and advocate on behalf of Beijing’s agenda,” Wray said.
Wray clarified that he was only referring to the Chinese government and the CCP — and not the Chinese people or Chinese Americans — as a threat to the U.S..
“I do want to be clear that the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party pose the threat we’re focused on countering – not the Chinese people, and certainly not Chinese Americans, who are themselves frequently victims of the Chinese government’s lawless aggression,” he said. “Protecting them from the Chinese government is top of mind for us, too.”