Heads of UK and US security services have made a joint appearance that has never been the subject of ‘immense’ threat from China.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said China was “a major long-term threat to our economic and national security” and interfered in politics, including the recent elections.
MI5 head Ken McCallum said his ministry has doubled its anti-Chinese activity over the past three years and will double it.
The MI5 now conducts seven times more investigations related to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party compared to 2018, he added.
The FBI’s Wray has warned that if China forcibly takes Taiwan “it will represent the worst business disruption ever in the world”.
The first public appearance co-hosted by two directors arrived at the MI5 headquarters in Thames House, London.
McCallum also said the challenge posed by the Chinese Communist Party was “changing the game”, while Whray called it “big” and “breathtaking”.
Wray warned the audience – including senior business executives and senior university officials – that the Chinese government was “determined to steal your technology” using a number of tools.
He said this posed a “greater threat to Western businesses than many high-profile businessmen were aware of”. He cited instances where people linked to Chinese companies in rural areas of the United States dug up genetically modified seeds that would cost billions of dollars and nearly ten years to improve themselves.
He also said that China had sent cyber intelligence “fraud and theft on a large scale”, with a larger criminal system than all the other major states combined.
The head of MI5 said intelligence on cyber threats was shared with 37 countries and that in May a complex threat against aerospace was disrupted.
Both men have warned that China is learning lessons from the Russian invasion of Ukraine
McCallum also pointed to a series of examples linked to China. These included a British airline specialist who had found a way online and was offered an attractive employment opportunity. He twice traveled to China to be “eaten up and eaten up” before being asked for technical information on a military plane by a company that was actually in front of Chinese intelligence officials.
“That’s where we intervened,” McCallum said. He also said that another engineering company was approached by a Chinese company which led to the withdrawal of its technology before the contract was terminated and forced the company, Smith’s Harlow, to operate in 2020.
He also pointed to a disruptive warning issued by Parliament in January regarding the activities of Christine Lee. He said these types of operations were intended to amplify the voices of the Chinese-backed Communist Party and to silence those who question its authority. “It needs to be challenged,” said the head of MI5.
In the US, the FBI director said the Chinese government had directly intervened in the New York congressional election this spring because they did not want a former critic and protester elected in Tiananmen Square.
They did this, he said, by hiring an independent investigator to dig up defamatory information. When they did not find anything, he said there had been an attempt to create an argument through a prostitute before he suggested a car accident.
Wray said China is taking “all sorts of lessons” into the Ukrainian conflict. This includes trying to defend oneself from any impending sanctions of the kind that have struck Russia. If China were to invade Taiwan, the economic downturn would be even greater than it saw this year, he said, with western investment in China becoming “hostage” and disrupting the supply of goods.
“I have no reason to think that their interest in Taiwan has diminished in any way,” an FBI director told reporters after the speech.
The head of MI5 said the new law would help address this threat but the UK also needs to be a “critical target” by ensuring that all sections of the public are more aware of the risks. He said the reform of the visa system had seen more than 50 students linked to Chinese forces leave the UK.
“China has long calculated that it will be second to none,” Wray said, adding: “They are no longer under the radar.”