FBI, MI5 warn Western business leaders about Chinese espionage

    The FBI Director Christopher Wray and his UK counterpart Ken McCallum have raised the alarm on the Chinese government's efforts to steal Western technology.

    The heads of the FBI and the British domestic intelligence agency MI5 appeared together at the latter's London headquarters on Wednesday to raise alarms about the extent to which Chinese espionage poses a threat to Western nations' economic and national security.

    FBI Director Christopher Wray and MI5 Director General Ken McCallum warned business leaders about Beijing's widespread theft of Western technology.

    It is the first time the two heads of the domestic investigations agencies delivered a public speech together.

    Why are FBI and MI5 chief appearing together?

    Wray's appearance beside McCallum was a signal of unity between London and Washington as they mull the scope and ramifications of Chinese espionage.

    MacCallum urged a "whole-of-system response" to tackle the challenges posed to both the public and private sector by the threat.

    The UK official warned there was "covert pressure across the globe'," and it was "the most game-changing challenge we face.''

    In turn, FBI chief Wray restated his warnings about the Chinese Communist Party's hacking efforts as well as its concerted campaign against dissent abroad.

    "We consistently see that it's the Chinese government that poses the biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security, and by 'our,' I mean both of our nations, along with our allies in Europe and elsewhere."

    While the problem is a challenge to both law enforcement and intelligence, there are also serious foreign policy implications, Wray said.

    What was the message to business leaders?

    Wray said if Beijing were to invade Taiwan, the effect "would represent one of the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen."

    Last week, the US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said while Chinese leader Xi Jinping is preparing for an effort to reunify China with Taiwan, there was not an imminent threat of military action against the democratically governed island. Beijing sees the island as a part of China, a view officially shared by the US with its "One China" policy, but Washington has recently signaled it was ready to use military force to defend the island.

    On Wednesday, Wray would not weigh in and assess the likelihood of mainland China acting against Taiwan. However, he noted it was possible that Beijing was seeking ways to "insulate its economy" against potential sanctions similar to the ones currently faced by Russia over the attack on Ukraine.

    "In our world, we call that behavior a clue," Wray said.

    He also offered warnings to business leaders about their dealings in China, offering that should China decide to invade Taiwan, investments made in China could fall apart.

    Wray said, "Just as in Russia, Western investments built over years could become hostages, capital stranded, supply chains and relationships disrupted."

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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