FBI Director Wray talks about the security of China, Taiwan, Russia and the United States

LONDON — In a rare joint appearance with his British counterpart, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray warned on Wednesday that the threat posed by the Chinese government to Western businesses is “getting worse” and suggested China could take steps measures to protect itself from economic repercussions if it invades Taiwan.

Speaking at the offices of MI5, Britain’s internal security service, Wray focused on the threat Western businesses and governments face from what he called a relentless and multifaceted effort by the China to compete unfairly in the global market. He also said the Russian invasion of Ukraine could hold important lessons for geopolitics in Asia.

“As you all know, there’s been a lot of talk about the potential that China might try to take over Taiwan by force,” Wray said. “If that happened, it would represent one of the most horrific trade disruptions the world has ever seen.”

He addressed a gathering of British business leaders, in what officials said was the first such event featuring the head of the FBI and the head of MI5.

Wray said he is convinced that China “is learning all kinds of lessons from what is happening with Russia and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. And you should too. We have seen China looking for ways to shield its economy from possible sanctions, trying to shield itself from harm if it does anything to draw the wrath of international behavior. In our world, we call this kind of behavior a clue.

Wray did not explain how the FBI inferred a connection between Chinese efforts to mitigate the effects of sanctions and any potential planning for an invasion of Taiwan. In the West, some cybersecurity experts have been calling for sanctions on China for more than a year for government-sponsored hacking campaigns against hundreds of companies.

The United States and its allies accuse China of hacking Microsoft and other companies

The FBI director noted that when Russia was hit with severe sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, “there were a lot of western companies that still had their fingers in their door when she slammed the door. gate”.

A similar type of sanctions against China, he warned, could harm the global economy “on a much larger scale”.

Wray’s remarks represent the latest in a series of public warnings he has given about the dangers posed by China to US and European economic interests. But Wednesday’s speech appeared designed to try to rally Britain’s business community to help tackle Chinese hacking, the theft of trade secrets and surreptitious lobbying on efforts ranging from human rights to opportunity – however slim be it – of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

The island has lived under military threat from Beijing since 1949, when Chinese Communist forces defeated the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War, prompting the Nationalists to flee to Taiwan and set up a rival government. For decades, there was an uneasy peace. But the invasion of Ukraine has rekindled fears that China is trying to follow Russia’s lead.

Taiwan officials warn war is not imminent, pointing to their government’s close relationship with the United States and the island’s strategic importance. In May, President Biden said the United States would militarily defend Taiwan if attacked by China, before the White House backtracked on its statement, maintaining a longstanding policy of ambiguity over the extent of American aid.

Speaking to reporters after the speech, Wray said he wasn’t sure if invading Ukraine increased the likelihood of China invading Taiwan. But he said China should see Russia’s experience in Ukraine – with the invasion triggering massive sanctions and a huge flood of aid to Kyiv from Western nations – as a warning.

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“I have no reason to think their interest in Taiwan has waned in any way,” Wray said. “But we certainly hope they learn some valuable lessons about what happens when you overplay your game like the Russians clearly did in Ukraine – bringing like-minded countries together in a pretty historic way.”

Also on Wednesday, the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center issued a bulletin warning state and local authorities to beware of possible surreptitious attempts by China to influence them.

The bulletin states that “as tensions between Beijing and Washington have increased… [the Chinese government] has increasingly sought to exploit these sub-national Sino-US relations to influence US policies and advance [Chinese government] interests. Leaders at the state, local, tribal, and territorial levels of the United States risk being manipulated into supporting [Chinese government] diaries. »

In London, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said his agency was carrying out seven times more China-related investigations than in 2018, and that China was “high” on the MI5 relationship agenda. information sharing between the United States. , Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, often referred to as the “five eyes”.

McCallum said his colleagues “badly need” new national security legislation to better address hacking and covert influence operations from China.

“The most revolutionary challenge we face comes from an increasingly authoritarian Chinese Communist Party that is exerting covert pressure across the world,” McCallum said. “It may sound abstract, but it’s real and it’s pressing. We need to talk about it. We need to act.

As war in Ukraine bogs down, US assessments come under scrutiny

The joint FBI-MI5 speech comes amid an effort by the Biden administration to enlist allies, particularly Europe and Japan, in an effort to contain what the US government is saying. are China’s worst abuses in hacking, espionage and influence operations.

A year ago, the United States, the European Union and NATO officially accused the Chinese government of a sophisticated attack on Microsoft’s widely used mail server – marking the first time that NATO, a alliance of 30 nations, was taking such a step.

This hack compromised more than 100,000 servers worldwide, and Microsoft alleged it was done by a Beijing-backed hacking group that exploited several previously unknown flaws in the software.

McCallum said his agency was changing to meet the growing threat, becoming “an organization focused as much on countering threats from the state as on our ever-vital role in the fight against terrorism.”

“Hostile activities are currently taking place on British soil,” he said. “We don’t need to build walls to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. We need to strengthen our awareness and make conscious choices to increase our resilience.

Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

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