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‘Brazen’ Chinese Espionage Against US ‘Felt Across the Country’: FBI Director Wray

Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: February 1, 2022
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FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, January 31, 2022. (Image: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The harm wrought by Communist China’s hacking, espionage, and other “unrestricted warfare” activities affecting the U.S. are “felt across the country in a whole range of industries,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told an audience in California in the evening of Monday, Jan. 31. 

In a speech given on the eve of the lunar new year at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Wray described how incidents of espionage by the communist regime have been happening “literally every day” and with the help of “every tool in their arsenal” to steal U.S. technology in areas where China is deficient. 

In particular, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aims at replacing the United States as the world’s chief innovator and producer of cutting-edge electronics — a plan embodied by its “Made in China 2025” program. 

Every 12 hours, the FBI opens a new case involving Chinese spying and other intelligence operations. 

Wray highlighted the long-term threat that rampant Chinese espionage poses to the U.S, and stressed that the CCP’s activity had become even “more brazen” than before. 

‘They push our companies and workers behind’

“Chinese government hackers have stolen more of our personal and corporate data than every other nation combined. The harm from the Chinese government’s economic espionage isn’t just that its companies pull ahead based on illegally gotten technology. While they pull ahead, they push our companies and workers behind.”

According to Wray, the CCP’s intelligence operations far exceed those of any other foreign entity. He noted that there are currently 2,000 open investigations into Beijing’s efforts to “steal our information or technology.” 

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“There’s just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation, and economic security than China,” Wray said.”

The U.S. has stepped up its efforts to counter Chinese spying in recent years, particularly since late 2017 when the Trump administration designated China a “strategic competitor.” Those efforts were beefed up over the following years, with administration officials levying tariffs on the People’s Republic of China (PRC), sanctioning Chinese state- and military-linked companies, and deporting or trying suspected Chinese spies. 

In 2018, the U.S. Justice Department launched its China Initiative, a program that has scrutinized academics whose financial ties to the PRC are obscured or problematic. 

The Initiative has come under criticism since the Biden administration took office. Detractors point to a handful of dropped cases and the fact that most of those targeted by the Initiative are ethnically Chinese. 
Proponents of the effort note the “all-of-country” nature of the CCP’s campaign to infiltrate U.S. institutions and society; in 2017, PRC authorities passed a law that requires all Chinese citizens and companies at home and abroad to aid Beijing’s intelligence gathering.