(L–R) Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Director-General
Mike Burgess, Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director David
Vigneault, FBI Director Christopher Wray, New Zealand Security
Intelligence Service Director-General of Security and Chief Executive
Andrew Hampton, and MI5 Director General Ken McCallum pose for a group
photo during the Emerging Technology and Securing Innovation Summit in
Palo Alto, Calif, on Oct. 16, 2023. (FBI/Handout via PA0)
Communist China's espionage operations, including theft of intellectual property in technology and other trade secrets, pose significant threats to the West and is "unprecedented in human history," intelligence chiefs from the Five Eyes alliance warned.
The Five Eyes alliance was founded after World War II as an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand.
The Chinese regime "is the defining threat of this generation. ... There is no country that presents a broader, more comprehensive threat to our ideas, our innovation, our economic security, and ultimately our national security," FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
The FBI chief said that the CCP's spying operations could be seen in many fields, including agriculture, aviation, biotech, health care, robotics, and academic research. Furthermore, Beijing's tech theft is not limited to big businesses, like Fortune 100 companies, but extends to smaller startup firms.
'Unprecedented in Human History'The Chinese regime deploys many tools for its espionage operations, including hacking. Mr. Wray said the CCP has "the biggest hacking program in the world by far, bigger than ever other major nation combined ... stolen more of our personal and corporate data than every nation, big or small, combined."
Mike Burgess, the director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, emphasized that the scale of the CCP's espionage efforts is "unprecedented."
"All countries spy. Our countries spy. All governments have a need to be covertly informed. All countries seek strategic advantage," Mr. Burgess said. "But the behavior we're talking about here goes well beyond traditional espionage. This scale of the theft is unprecedented in human history. And that's why we're calling it out."
Canadian intelligence chief David Vigneault told "60 Minutes" about the national security risks associated with Chinese companies purchasing land or properties near sensitive and strategic areas in Canada for spying operations.
Mr. Wray said Chinese businesses have also attempted to “acquire businesses, land, infrastructure ... in the United States in a way that presents national security concerns.”
According to Ken McCallum, the director general of the UK's intelligence agency MI5, theft by the CCP occurs through various means. Employees of companies targeted by Chinese spies are frequently manipulated without their knowledge.
"We have seen, for example, the use of professional networking sites to reach out in sort of masked, disguised ways to people in the UK, either who have security clearance or who are working in interesting areas of technology," Mr. McCallum said.
Transnational RepressionThe intelligence chiefs said that the CCP's threat is not just spy campaigns but also involves targeting Chinese dissidents living overseas. Mr. Wray cited an example of the CCP's effort to intimidate and suppress a U.S. congressional candidate who criticized Beijing.
"The efforts were initially to try to see if they could come up with dirt on the candidate to derail his candidacy. And then to try to concoct dirt, just fiction, about the candidate. And then, if that didn't work, there was even discussion about the candidate befalling a horrible accident," Mr. Wray said.
That was the case of Xiong Yan, a U.S. Army veteran and congressional hopeful in New York City, who was targeted by the CCP in March last year when he sought the Democratic nomination to run for Congress representing a district in Long Island. He had long been a target of the CCP for his participation as a student leader in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and for his later support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
'Threat to Our Way of Life'Amid the increasing concern over the CCP's technology theft, senior intelligence officials from the Five Eyes alliance convened in California on Oct. 17. They held discussions with 15 Silicon Valley executives and Stanford University to address the imminent threat posed by the Chinese regime, with the aim of safeguarding the intellectual property of their respective companies.
The Chinese espionage program "is a threat to our way of life in a number of ways," Mr. Wray warned.
"The first is that when people talk about stealing innovation or intellectual property, that's not just a Wall Street problem. That's a Main Street problem. That means American jobs, American families, American livelihoods, and the same thing for every one of our five countries directly impacted by that theft. It's not some abstract concept. It has flesh and blood, kitchen-table consequences."
Mr. Wray has a message to the Chinese regime that if it wants "to be a great nation, it's time for them to start acting like one."