FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators that China is engaging in a sweeping effort to steal its way to economic dominance, with more than 1,000 investigations underway on intellectual property theft “almost all leading back to China.”
“There is no country that poses a more severe counterintelligence threat to this country right now than China,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. China is trying to “steal their way up the economic ladder at our expense,” he said.
“It is a threat that’s deep and diverse and wide and vexing,” Wray said. “It affects basically every industry in this country.”
China has rebuffed U.S. complaints of intellectual property theft and counterintelligence operations aimed at American companies, portraying the allegations as tools in President Donald Trump’s trade war with Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Wednesday dismissed Wray’s comments as “baseless” accusations. “We do not steal, rob or lie,” Hua said, paraphrasing a comment U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo used earlier this year to describe his tenure as CIA chief.
Wray said Chinese companies aren’t independent of the Chinese Communist Party, and that the country uses both legal and illegal means including hacking, getting information from Chinese graduate students at American universities and partnerships with American companies.
He said some major universities have essentially created a “pipeline” of intellectual property heading back to China.
“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do business with the Chinese,” Wray said, but that business leaders, universities and others need to be “clear-eyed” about the risks.
Wray also warned senators about Russia, saying it’s probably the second-biggest counterintelligence threat.
“The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere” with U.S. elections, he said despite U.S. efforts to combat a repeat of interference in the 2016 presidential election. “Until they stop they haven’t been deterred enough.”