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Heads of MI5, FBI give joint warning of alleged major threat from China

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
FBI Director Christopher Wray (R) and MI5 Director-General Ken McCallum

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the British Security Service, MI5, have raised alarms about alleged economic and security threats posed by China to the West.

FBI Director Christopher Wray and MI5 Director-General Ken McCallum warned of alleged dangers posed to governments and businesses alike by Beijing, in their first ever joint appearance at MI5 headquarters in Thames House, London, on Wednesday.

“We consistently see that it’s the Chinese government that poses the biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security, and by ‘our,’ I mean both of our nations, along with our allies in Europe and elsewhere,” Wray said.

He said China was “trying to shape the world by interfering” in US, UK, and allied politics.

The FBI director further warned Western firms that China was “set on stealing” their technology to undercut businesses and dominate the market, stressing that Beijing “poses an even more serious threat to Western businesses than even many sophisticated businesspeople realize.”

He alleged that the Chinese government had a hacking program that was “bigger than that of every other major country combined.”

McCallum echoed the allegations alongside his US counterpart, saying the Chinese government’s “covert pressure across the globe” amounted to “the most game-changing challenge we face.”

“This might feel abstract, but it’s real, and it’s pressing. We need to talk about it. We need to act,” he said.

McCallum said the UK had shared intelligence with 37 countries to help them defend against cyber espionage over the past year, adding that in May, they had disrupted a sophisticated threat targeting critical aerospace companies.

He said the MI5 had sharply expanded its China-focused operations and was running seven times as many investigations as it had been four years ago and planned to “grow as much again” to tackle the alleged widespread attempts at inference that pervade “so many aspects of our national life.”

China immediately rejected the accusations as “groundless,” labeling them an attempt to “smear” its political system.

“The allegations against China by US and UK intelligence officials are completely groundless and the so-called cases they listed are pure shadow chasing,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the UK told Reuters.

The spokesperson said China had urged both countries to “have a clear understanding of the trend of the time, abandon the Cold War mentality which has long gone out of date, stop spreading ‘China threat,’ and stop creating confrontation and conflicts.”

Beijing has repeatedly warned that Western countries, particularly the United States, have been carrying out a smear campaign against China. Relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorated sharply when former US President Donald Trump launched a trade war against China in 2018.

The two countries are also at odds over a range of issues, including alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, Hong Kong, China’s territorial claims on Chinese Taipei and most of the South China Sea, and the origin of the coronavirus.

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