FBI Director Christopher Wray reaffirmed his longstanding concerns about China’s exposure of economic espionage and hacking operations, as well as the Chinese government’s attempts to suppress dissent abroad.
But his speech was notable because it took place at MI5’s London headquarters and alongside the agency’s director-general, Ken McCallum, in an intended show of Western solidarity.
The comments also showed the extent to which Wray and the FBI not only view the Chinese government as a challenge to law enforcement and intelligence, but are aligned with the foreign policy implications of Beijing’s actions.
“We consistently see that it is the Chinese government that poses the greatest 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,” Wray said.
McCallum said the Chinese government and its “secret pressure around the world” represents “the most groundbreaking challenge we face”.
“This may feel abstract. But it’s real and it’s urgent,” he said.
“We need to talk about it. We have to act.”
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, dismissed Western leaders’ allegations, saying in an emailed statement to The Associated Press that China “firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber-attacks” and the allegations are groundless. calls.
“We will never encourage, support or approve cyber-attacks,” the statement said.
In a nod to the current tensions between China and Taiwan, Wray also said during his speech that any forced takeover of Taipei by Beijing would be “one of the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen”.
Last week, Avril Haines, the director of the US government’s national intelligence agency, said at an event in Washington that there was no indication that Chinese President Xi Jinping was about to take Taiwan by military force. But she did say Xi “appeared to be pursuing the potential” for such action as part of the Chinese government’s broader goal to reunite Taiwan.
After performing with his British counterpart, Wray said he would leave to others whether an invasion of Taiwan was more or less likely after Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine. But he said: “I have no reason to believe that their interest in Taiwan has diminished in any way” and added that he hoped China had learned what happens “when you overplay your hand,” as he said. that the Russians have done. in Ukraine.
The FBI director said there are signs that the Chinese, perhaps drawing lessons from Russia’s experience since the war, have been looking for ways to “isolate their economy” from potential sanctions.
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“In our world, we call that behavior a cue,” said Wray, who during his speech urged caution among Western companies looking to do business in or with China. He said Western investment in China could collapse in the event of an invasion of Taiwan.
“As in Russia, Western investments built up over the years can become hostages, stranding capital (and) disrupting supply chains and relationships,” he said.
President Joe Biden said in May that the US would respond militarily if China invaded Taiwan, with one of the strongest White House statements in support of Taiwan’s self-government in decades.
The White House later tried to mitigate the impact of the statement, saying Biden was not outlining a change in US policy toward Taiwan, a self-governing island that China sees as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland.
The embassy spokesman said the Taiwan issue was “purely China’s internal affair” and said the country has “no room for compromise or concessions when it comes to issues over China’s territory and sovereignty”.
“We will pursue the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity and effort,” the statement said, although it noted that China “will retain the option to take all necessary measures in response to interference from foreign forces.”