The FBI director said on Wednesday that China is learning from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is looking for ways to protect its economy from the threat of international sanctions in the event of a standoff over Taiwan, “evidence” of Beijing’s view of what the future holds.
Western sanctions due to war and Russian retaliation have cost Western companies billions of dollars in Russia, and they could fall into a similar but larger and more dangerous scenario if China invades Taiwan, said Christopher Ray, the director.
He said China was seeking to insulate its economy from potential sanctions, “in an effort to protect themselves from harm if they did anything to provoke the international community.” “In our world, we call this kind of behavior evidence.”
Western business is being invested more deeply in China, which is trying to make it more difficult for foreign companies operating there to cooperate with international sanctions. Ray said that if China invaded Taiwan, companies from the United States and its allies would find themselves trapped.
“Just as in Russia, Western investments built over years can become hostages and stranded capital, supply chains and relationships disrupted.” He said. Companies are caught between sanctions and Chinese law that prohibits compliance with those sanctions. This isn’t just geopolitics, it’s business expectations.”
The comments came during an unusual joint speech in London by Mr Ray and Ken McCallum, director general of MI5, Britain’s security service, warning of threats from China to US, British and Western companies.
While the Biden administration has watered down some of the Trump administration’s efforts to counter Chinese espionage, Mr. Ray has continued to speak regularly about the threat posed by China, which sends proxies, makes strategic investments and conducts cyber attacks aimed at stealing intellectual property and know-how of companies and universities abroad.
In a question-and-answer session after the speech, Mr. Ray said the Chinese government is pressuring Western companies more aggressively than ever before not to criticize Beijing or its policies, but declined to say whether the invasion of Taiwan had become more or less. likely that.
“I will say that I have no reason to believe that their interest in Taiwan has diminished in any way,” he said. “We certainly hope they learn valuable lessons for what happens when you overuse your hand the way the Russians clearly did in Ukraine.”
Some US officials argued that failure to take a tough stance against Russia’s war on Ukraine would tempt Beijing to act against Taiwan.
A better understanding of the Russo-Ukrainian war
During the Trump administration, Mr. Wray was one of a series of senior national security officials Giving speeches describing China as a growing threat. But his latest speech comes as the Biden administration has focused on the immediate threat of Russia and its invasion of Ukraine and taken steps to alter some of the Trump administration’s programs to counter China.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department revised a Trump-era initiative to combat Chinese espionage, treating many cases of academics’ failure to disclose ties or funding from China as civil abuses rather than crimes. While some trials resulted in convictions, others resulted in acquittals or dismissals. Officials in China viewed the initiative as an example of US hypocrisy and systematic discrimination against ethnic minorities.
On Wednesday, Mr. Ray largely distanced himself from Chinese efforts to take intellectual property from US universities, focusing instead on the ways Beijing uses cyber espionage and human assets to steal information and technology from Western companies and funnel it to Chinese competitors.
“The Chinese government poses a more serious threat to Western companies than even many seasoned businessmen realize,” Ray said.
McCallum, director general of MI5, spoke on similar topics, but highlighted how China is using the patient approach, conducting coordinated impact campaigns that can last for decades.
“The biggest challenge we face comes from the Chinese Communist Party,” said Mr. McCallum. She secretly applies pressure all over the world. This may sound abstract, but it is real and urgent.”
While US law enforcement and intelligence officials have been warning of the problem for years, it is a much more recent phenomenon for British security officials, who until last year made some public comments about the Chinese threat.
McCallum said MI5 is conducting seven times more investigations into Chinese espionage than it did in 2018, and plans to double the current number in the coming years.
Beijing has strongly backed away from US warnings about the Chinese threat, calling such comments political lies that repurpose old Cold War-era tropes as part of a broader effort to contain and suppress China’s rise. Chinese officials have sought to portray the economic and trade relations between the United States and China as mutually beneficial, with the deputy foreign minister saying as recently as last November that of the more than 70,000 American companies operating in China, 97 percent are making profits.
Mr. Ray argued that China posed a broader threat to Western politics as well as business. Some US intelligence agencies have argued that China is not trying to sow chaos and discord, or disrupt the democratic process on a large scale, as Russia did in the recent elections, but other officials say it is important not to view China’s actions too narrowly.
Warri said on Wednesday that many of China’s efforts take the form of malign campaigns to influence US politics, political candidates and public opinion, unlike election swings. But he also referred to the recent case of Chinese government agents accused of trying to influence a congressional race in New York by derailing the candidacy of a former Tiananmen Square protester. In this case, federal prosecutors assert that China attempted to create a fake argument with a sex worker, and then considered arranging to hit the candidate with a car.
Ray said the plot took the threat “to a whole other level.”
Also on Wednesday, the US Government’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center Issue a new warning to government and business leaders About Chinese efforts to manipulate them to support “hidden agendas”.
Chinese officials have questioned the idea that Beijing is trying to interfere in American affairs, calling these accusations baseless and an attempt to use China as a scapegoat and a distraction from the United States’ domestic problems. Officials held the view that China supports “non-interference” in the internal affairs of sovereign countries, including elections, as a matter of principle.
While neither Mr. Ray nor Mr. McCallum directly compare the threat of influence from China to that of Russia, both have made clear that Beijing operates over the long term, educating local officials over decades.
“It’s not always about trying to influence a national leader or someone at the cabinet level,” said Mr. McCallum. “They are willing to invest in the development of people at the local government level at the beginning of their political career. I think that in itself actually demonstrates the breadth and patience of this threat.”
Amy Chen In Taipei, Taiwan contributed reporting.