The director of the FBI has said that the Chinese government’s acts of espionage and theft constitute the “greatest long-term threat” to the future of the United States.
Speaking to the Hudson Institute in Washington, Christopher Wray described a multi-faceted disruption campaign.
He said China had started targeting Chinese nationals living abroad, forcing their return, and was working to jeopardize US research on coronaviruses.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said Wray.
“China is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to become the only global superpower by any means necessary,” he added.
In an almost hour-long speech on Tuesday, the FBI director described a bleak picture of Chinese interference, a massive campaign of economic espionage, data and money theft and illegal political activity using corruption and blackmail to influence American politics.
“We have now reached a point where the FBI is now opening a new China-linked counterintelligence case every 10 hours,” said Mr. Wray. “Of the roughly 5,000 cases of counterintelligence going on in the country, almost half are linked to China. ”
The FBI director said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had run a program called “Fox Hunt”, aimed at Chinese nationals living abroad who are considered threats to the Chinese government.
“We are talking about political rivals, dissidents and critics seeking to expose the massive human rights violations in China,” he said. “The Chinese government wants to force them to return to China, and the Chinese tactics to do so are shocking. ”
He continued, “When it was unable to locate a Fox Hunt target, the Chinese government sent an envoy to visit the target’s family here in the United States. The message they said to convey? The target had two options: quickly return to China or commit suicide. ”
Washington now sees Beijing as a candidate for global leadership
Analysis by Zhaoyin Feng, BBC News Chinese, Washington
It is not the first time that FBI director Christopher Wray has ranked China among the “top intelligence threats” to the United States, but on Tuesday he intensified criticism by focusing on “efforts to the “state” of Beijing to become the only superpower in the world.
This clearly indicates that Washington now sees Beijing not only as an aggressive adversary, but also as an ambitious candidate for world leadership.
Since the Covid-19 epidemic in the United States, the Trump administration has sparked anger at China since its initial response to the coronavirus, an economic spy on Hong Kong’s new national security law. Wray’s remarks are part of a series of hard-hitting speeches by senior American officials on the subject.
Trump administration says now is the time to wake up from 40 years of political failure over China, while critics see it as an attempt to divert attention from the president’s failures and increase his chances of winning a re-election.
What is certain is that the power dynamics between China and the United States have fundamentally changed, and whoever the next US president is, the tense tensions in Sino-US relations will inevitably continue.
At this unusual address, Mr. Wray asked people of Chinese descent living in the United States to contact the FBI if Chinese authorities targeted them to request their return.
The Chinese government has championed the program in the past, claiming it was part of a legitimate anti-corruption effort.
The threat posed by China will also be addressed by the US Attorney General and Secretary of State in the coming weeks, said Wray.
The speech comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and China.
President Donald Trump sharply criticized China amid the coronavirus epidemic, repeatedly accusing the country of the global pandemic. In another move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that the administration plans to ban Chinese apps, including the popular TikTok.
The applications “serve as appendages to the surveillance state of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.