FBI Director Christopher Wray and MI5 Director-General Ken McCallum spoke at a joint event at MI5’s London headquarters to warn businesses of the threats posed by the Chinese government’s espionage operations that may be looking to steal western technologies.
The two heads, sharing a public platform for the first time, spoke in front of an audience consisting of CEOs and prominent University figures to send out the “clearest signal” they could on the shared threat that the Chinese government is turning out to be.
According to Wray, the Chinese government is set on stealing western technology. He also added that sometimes, the benefits of keeping technology confidential might outweigh accessing the Chinese market. McCallum added that the threat is, in fact, real and pressing and that it can turn out to be the “most game-changing challenge” the two agencies face.
The heads alleged that China is running a large-scale, coordinated operation as a “strategic contest across decades” instead of a fast-paced operation as usually seen with non-state threat actors.
MI5’s McCallum also shared some individual examples, including a case where a British aviation expert was offered a job by a company which was a front for Chinese intelligence officers.
Another case was of Smith’s Harlow, a UK-based precision engineering firm which made a deal with a Chinese firm Futures Aerospace in 2017. The deal consisted of three technology transfers where Futures would pay £3 million for quality control procedures and training courses. However, after further sharing intellectual property, Futures abandoned the deal, eventually sending Smith’s Harlow into administration in 2020.
Both Wray and McCallum also emphasised that the Chinese Communist Party is the threat here, not the Chinese people or Chinese immigrants in the west.
As for the Chinese side of the story, speaking to The Guardian, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, clearly denied the allegations. According to Pengyu’s statement, the Chinese government strictly opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks and that it would never interfere with another country’s affairs.
The statement also criticised US politicians tarnishing China’s image and labelling the country as a threat with false accusations.
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