China’s spying game sparks high-tech backlash

FBI and MI5 chiefs warn of the threat posed by Beijing after accusing Xi’s government of ‘stealing technology’

This is a 21st Century version of Casino Royale, where the chips are semiconductors. 

Author Ian Fleming’s first James Bond thriller in 1953 dressed up the Cold War in a veneer of glitz and glamor amid the gray post-World War II era.

Today, the spying game revolves around high-tech, state-sponsored espionage and the rise of China.

During an unprecedented joint appearance in London, the heads of the FBI and Britain’s MI5 warned of the “immense” and “game-changing” dangers posed by the ruling Communist Party.

“When you deal with a Chinese company, know you’re also dealing with the Chinese government – that is the MSS [Ministry of State Security] and the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] – too, almost like silent partners,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

The risks and challenges were also put into sharp focus by MI5 Director General Ken McCallum as he addressed Beijing’s deep-state security apparatus. 

“We’re not crying wolf. China is the most game-changing of all the threats in the sense that it pervades so many aspects of our national life,” he said.

Intelligence report:

  • Wray accused President Xi Jinping’s administration of “stealing technology.”
  • China has also mounted a campaign to destabilize the United States and its allies.
  • “The Chinese government is trying to shape the world,” Wray said.
  • They have been doing this “by interfering in our politics and those of our allies,” Wray stressed.
  • McCallum then went on to destroy China’s “democracy” myth.
  • “The widespread Western assumption that growing prosperity within China and connectivity with the West would lead to greater political freedom has been shown to be wrong,” he said.

The US has tried every possible means to suppress China’s technology.

Global Times

Between the lines: Security chiefs Wray and McCallum outlined the menace facing democratic nations to an audience peppered with businessmen and academics at MI5 HQ in Thames House.

Delve deeper: “The United Kingdom overtly signing on to the American approach is new, and it’s a sign of how badly [ties] have crumbled since the ‘golden era’ of Chinese-UK relations was promised in the distant year of 2015,” Foreign Policy’s China Brief pointed out.

Alternative view: “Some US politicians have been tarnishing China’s image and painting China as a threat with false accusations. We resolutely oppose their comments,” a Chinese embassy spokesperson in Washington said as reported by the Financial Times.

Cold War: “The allegations against China by [the] US and [the] UK intelligence officials are completely groundless,” a Chinese embassy spokesperson in London said, adding that they should “abandon” this “Cold War mentality.”

State of play: “The US has tried every possible means to suppress China’s technology. [But] the problem is that the US has little political credibility left after frequent bullying,” state-run Global Times said in a commentary.

China Factor comment: Back in 2020, William Evanina, the then director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center, estimated that theft of technology and trade secrets had cost the country up to “US$600 billion” a year. Today, the stakes are even higher.