The FBI and MI5 have warned that Chinese industrial espionage poses a growing threat to Western companies, as the heads of U.S. and British intelligence agencies used an unprecedented joint London appearance to urge business leaders to be more vigilant about China.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a speech at the Office of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, that companies need to become more aware of the many ways China is spying. He said Beijing was using an “orchestrated shell game” to disguise its espionage, adding that it even made use of Spacs or special-purpose collection tools.
“The Chinese government poses an even greater threat to Western businesses than many sophisticated businessmen realize,” Wray told business leaders at an event with MI5 counterpart Ken McCallum. “I want to encourage you to take a long-term view when assessing threats.”
Intelligence chiefs held their first public event between the two agencies, a move Wray stressed underscores the need to address the growing challenge of espionage from Beijing.
McCallum said MI5’s China-related investigations have increased sevenfold since 2018, doubling its capacity to handle those investigations in the past three years and likely in the next “years” Double it again.
On average, FBI field offices across the United States open an investigation into Chinese espionage every 12 hours, Wray said.
“We’re not shouting wolves,” McCallum said. “China is the most game-changer of all threats because it pervades every aspect of our national life.”
Wray said Beijing was using “every tool” at its disposal to steal Western technology to eventually cripple non-Chinese companies and dominate their markets — even stealing genetically modified seeds from U.S. farmland.
He added that the Ministry of State Security, which oversees Chinese espionage abroad, is keeping a close eye on Western companies that want to “loot” to help gain access to corporate secrets. At the same time, assessing risks from Chinese counterparts has become more difficult because Beijing has restricted access to data needed for due diligence, he said.
Both leaders stressed that China often employs people with no direct ties to its intelligence services to target Western companies — a group Ray dubs “co-optees.”
They said companies must be more aware that their dealings with Chinese companies could be linked to intelligence from Beijing, which McCallum described as “hidden manipulation.”
“When you’re dealing with a Chinese company, know that you’re also dealing with the Chinese government — that is, the MSS and the PLA — like silent partners,” Wray said.
Both chiefs urged the company to strengthen cooperation with the FBI and MI5, noting China’s ability to conduct large-scale espionage across a broad spectrum of operations and take a long-term view — to the extent that it will curry favor Politicians who have just started espionage. cause.
McCallum and Wray insist they want companies to be more vigilant, not disconnected from China.
“The goal here is not to be cut off from China. We want a UK that is both connected and resilient,” McCallum said.
He called the 150,000 Chinese students studying at UK universities “good for them and good for us”. But he said the review led to the departure of 50 of those with military ties.
Wray also said companies should think more about the implications of China’s threat to Taiwan following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stressing that Western companies have been caught up in sanctions against Moscow and economic chaos.
“When the door slammed shut, there were a lot of Western companies’ fingers still there,” he said. “If China did invade Taiwan, we might see the same thing again, and on a much larger scale. Like in Russia. Likewise, the investment that the West has accumulated over the years could be held hostage.”