The espionage activities conducted by Communist China, which encompass the illicit acquisition of intellectual property within the realms of technology and other proprietary trade secrets, represent substantial menaces to Western nations and are deemed “unprecedented in human history,” as articulated by intelligence officials from the Five Eyes alliance during their interview with CBS News’s “60 Minutes” on October 22. This alliance, founded in the aftermath of World War II, consists of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand.
The intelligence leaders expressed their apprehensions regarding the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to democracies, underscoring that the Chinese regime constitutes “the defining threat of this generation.” FBI Director Christopher Wray emphasized that no other country presents a broader or more comprehensive peril to the principles, innovative capacities, economic security, and, ultimately, the national security of these nations. Wray went on to elucidate that the CCP’s espionage operations have infiltrated numerous sectors, including agriculture, aviation, biotechnology, healthcare, robotics, and academic research. Moreover, the purview of Beijing’s technological larceny extends beyond major corporations, encompassing smaller start-up enterprises.
In a candid disclosure, Wray revealed that the FBI is currently conducting approximately 2,000 active investigations related to the Chinese government’s attempts to purloin sensitive information. The Chinese regime employs an array of tools in its espionage efforts, including extensive hacking activities. Wray went on to emphasize that the CCP possesses “the largest hacking program globally, surpassing all other major nations combined.” The scale of data theft, both personal and corporate, undertaken by the CCP eclipses that of any other nation, whether large or small.
In a related development, the State Department disclosed in September that hackers affiliated with the CCP had surreptitiously breached numerous email accounts within U.S. government agencies, affecting high-ranking officials such as Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Kritenbrink.
Mike Burgess, the director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, underscored the unprecedented magnitude of the CCP’s espionage endeavors, remarking that the behavior exhibited goes far beyond traditional espionage. He asserted that the scale of theft perpetrated by the CCP is unparalleled in the annals of human history.
Canadian intelligence chief David Vigneault elaborated on the national security risks associated with Chinese entities purchasing land or properties in close proximity to sensitive and strategically significant areas in Canada for the purposes of espionage. Wray pointed out that Chinese businesses have similarly sought to acquire businesses, land, and critical infrastructure within the United States, thereby raising national security concerns.
One notable case that raised concerns was the acquisition of farmland by a Chinese agriculture company and its subsidiary with ties to the CCP in proximity to Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota in 2022. Similarly, Guanghui Energy Co. Ltd., owned by Chinese billionaire Sun Guangxin, reportedly linked to the CCP, began acquiring substantial tracts of land in Del Rio, a border town near Laughlin Air Force Base, commencing in 2016, ostensibly for the construction of wind turbines.
Ken McCallum, the director general of the UK’s intelligence agency MI5, elucidated that the CCP’s theft methodologies are multifaceted. Employees of entities targeted by Chinese spies are frequently manipulated without their knowledge. Notably, McCallum highlighted the usage of professional networking platforms for discreet outreach to individuals in the UK who possess security clearance or are involved in areas of technology. To date, there have been more than 20,000 instances of such covert approaches aimed at individuals in the UK whose information is of interest to the Chinese state.
The intelligence chiefs stressed that the threat posed by the CCP extends beyond espionage campaigns and encompasses the targeting of Chinese dissidents residing abroad. Wray cited an instance where the CCP sought to intimidate and suppress a U.S. congressional candidate who had criticized Beijing. This campaign involved efforts to uncover damaging information about the candidate, fabricating false allegations, and even discussions about causing harm to the candidate if other methods failed.
One such case was that of Xiong Yan, a U.S. Army veteran and congressional hopeful, who was targeted by the CCP due to his involvement as a student leader in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and his subsequent support of pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong. The U.S. Justice Department subsequently charged an alleged Chinese agent who had engaged a private investigator to manufacture a political scandal with the intent of undermining Xiong’s congressional campaign.
Wray also drew attention to the CCP’s “Operation Fox Hunt,” which is aimed at pursuing dissidents abroad through tactics involving harassment, intimidation, or threats to their family members in China, in an effort to coerce their return to China for prosecution. In June of the current year, a federal court in Brooklyn convicted
three individuals for intimidating a New Jersey family and pressuring them to return to China on behalf of the CCP.
Against the backdrop of mounting concerns regarding CCP-sponsored technology theft, senior intelligence officials from the Five Eyes alliance convened in California on October 17. They engaged in discussions with 15 Silicon Valley executives and Stanford University to address the imminent threat posed by the Chinese regime, with the objective of safeguarding the intellectual property of their respective companies.
Wray issued a stern warning, emphasizing that the Chinese espionage program represents a threat to the way of life in these nations. He pointed out that the theft of innovation and intellectual property carries repercussions that extend beyond Wall Street to affect the lives, jobs, and livelihoods of ordinary citizens. He concluded with a message to the Chinese regime, urging them to assume the responsibilities of a great nation in their conduct.