For the first time in their respective histories, the heads of two nations’ intelligence agencies shared a platform to address a common threat.
British General Ken McCallum, MI5 Director, and FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a joint warning Wednesday on the shared challenge posed by China. The British intelligence agency head first acknowledged the significant contributions of China and its people, but specifically identified the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as an aggressor towards the business and academic interests of both the US and UK.
McCallum outlined the Chinese state’s ambition in going after the exclusive business and research of other nations and individuals. Covert theft, tech transfer, exploiting research, and information advantage comprise just a few of the methods by which China seeks to gain an advantage on the world stage. The British director further described “sophisticated interference efforts” employed by China “to bend our economy, our society, our attitudes to suit the Chinese Communist Party’s interests.”
The joint warning was directed at an audience of business and academic leaders, whom he cautioned to protect their innovations. “By volume, most of what is at risk from Chinese Communist Party aggression is not, so to speak, my stuff. It’s yours,” McCallum said. “The world-leading expertise, technology, research, and commercial advantage developed and held by people in this room, and others like you.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray emphasized the importance of partnership between the US and UK to address a shared threat, according to the FBI’s website. “We’re not just in the business of articulating problems, we’re doing something about them, together with MI5, with the private sector itself, with other government partners.” He additionally described China as the biggest “long-term threat” to the West and its allies.
China Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested the US’s remarks reflected a “Cold War zero-sum mentality and ideological prejudice,” accusing Wray of “spreading lies” and “making irresponsible marks.” Lijan likewise urged British intelligence to “cast away imagined demons” and to “stop creating imagined enemies.”
The cost of counterfeit goods, pirated software, and theft of trade secrets is estimated to exceed $225 billion, possibly as high as $600 billion annually to the United States, according to one 2017 report.