The Five Eyes intelligence agency heads only rarely meet, so the scale of spying must have scaled-up drastically.
The head of the British Intelligence Agency MI5 warns that more than 20,000 people in the United Kingdom (UK) have now been approached covertly online by Chinese spies, indicating the scale of spying is ‘epic’.
Ken McCallum was speaking to the BBC at an unprecedented public appearance of the security chiefs of the Five Eyes alliance in California.
The heads of US, UK, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand security agencies appeared together.
They did so for the first time to warn of commercial secrets being obtained by China.
Stanford University in California was chosen as the venue for the first public meeting because it lies in the heart of Silicon Valley. In both public statements and a closed session with entrepreneurs and investors, security chiefs warned that cutting-edge research is being stolen.
“We have seen a sustained campaign on a pretty epic scale,” Mr McCallum told the BBC in an interview during the event.
McCallum reported that Chinese agents approached through sites like LinkedIn to try and recruit or gain sensitive information from workers across Britain in the tech sector.
He also cited 20 instances of Chinese companies trying to gain access to “sensitive” technology developments at British companies and universities through investments or other means, usually hiding involvement through “obfuscated investment, imaginative company structures,” according to the BBC.
One such acquisition focused on a company linked to British military supply chains as well as supply chains for a number of “major Western commercial companies.”
“These technologies are at a historic moment where they are beginning to change our world in some pretty fundamental ways,” McCallum told the BBC. “And we know that authoritarian states are laser-focused on the opportunities that these technologies may present for them.”
During the meeting, FBI Director Christopher Wray asserted that China has made “economic espionage and stealing others’ work and ideas a central component of its national strategy” and positioned that strategy as happening “at the expense of innovators in all five of our countries.”
The Five Eyes heads only rarely meet, so the scale of the espionage activity must have scaled-up drastically, to the point the allied spy agencies forcefully targeted the vast amount of intellectual properly theft China has conducted.
U.S. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the “unprecedented” joint call was meant to confront the “unprecedented threat” China poses to innovation across the world.
From quantum technology and robotics to biotechnology and artificial intelligence, China was stealing secrets in various sectors, the officials said.
“China has long targeted businesses with a web of techniques all at once: cyber intrusions, human intelligence operations, seemingly innocuous corporate investments and transactions,” Wray said. “Every strand of that web had become more brazen, and more dangerous.”
I must admit, it is refreshing to see Wray target actual spies, rather than Trump supporters, Catholics, and concerned parents.
What are the reasons for the China’s espionage gambit? Following the money is a good start.
China’s real estate market is in decline. Debt deflation hangs in the air. The country’s workforce is shrinking and GDP growth is trending downwards. No wonder the International Monetary Fund at its recent shindig in Marrakech warned of slowing economic growth in the People’s Republic, raising the prospect of “Japanisation” – the prolonged economic and financial malaise that afflicted its once high-flying neighbour after an asset bubble imploded three decades ago.
The trouble is that China’s economic imbalances are far worse than Japan’s in 1990. And that’s before considering the ruinous economic consequences of President Xi Jinping’s autocratic rule.
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