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MI5, FBI chiefs warn over China in rare joint address

The heads of MI5 and the FBI warned Wednesday about China’s commercial espionage thrust in the West.

China is on a major military modernisation drive, including the development of aircraft carriers for its navy
China is on a major military modernisation drive, including the development of aircraft carriers for its navy - Copyright AFP/File WANG ZHAO
China is on a major military modernisation drive, including the development of aircraft carriers for its navy - Copyright AFP/File WANG ZHAO

The heads of MI5 and the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned Wednesday about China’s commercial espionage thrust in the West, in a rare joint address at the British intelligence service’s London headquarters.

Speaking to an audience of officials and business executives in Thames House, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum and FBI Director Chris Wray said the threat from Chinese spies is paramount in both countries and only continues to grow.

McCallum said MI5, the British domestic intelligence service, had sharply expanded its China-focused operations.

“Today we’re running seven times as many investigations as we were in 2018,” he said.

“We plan to grow as much again, while also maintaining significant effort against Russian and Iranian covert threats.”

He said Chinese intelligence takes a slow and patient approach to developing sources and gaining access to information, and few of those targeted recognized themselves as such.

“Hostile activity is happening on UK soil right now,” he said.

“By volume, most of what is at risk from Chinese Communist Party aggression is not, so to speak, my stuff. It’s yours — the world-leading expertise, technology, research and commercial advantage developed and held by people in this room, and others like you,” he said.

Ken McCallum, director general of MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence agency.

Ken McCallum, director general of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. – Copyright AFP Daniel LEAL

Wray said China’s threat was a “complex, enduring and pervasive danger” to both the United States and Britain, as well as other allies.

China 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,” Wray said.

The two also warned that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which Beijing views as a breakaway province, would be a massive disruption of global commerce and industry.

They urged businesses to stay alert and report possible threats.

“The Chinese Communist Party is interested in our democratic, media and legal systems. Not to emulate them, sadly, but to use them for its gain,” said McCallum.

AFP
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