Chinese espionage in the U.S. is so extensive that the FBI is currently launching an average of two counterintelligence investigations a day to keep up with the onslaught, FBI Director Christopher Wray reported this week.
What are the details?
In an interview with NBC News, Wray noted that when he became the director in 2017, he was stunned by the sheer amount of Chinese spying that was already under way in the U.S.
“This one blew me away. And I’m not the kind of guy that uses words like ‘blown away’ easily," he recalled.
Things have apparently not slowed down since then. Wray said the FBI opens a new China-related counterintelligence investigation approximately every 12 hours. The bureau currently has over 2,000 such cases ongoing.
"There is no country that presents a broader, more severe threat to our innovation, our ideas, and our economic security than China does," he said, adding that "the scale of their hacking program, and the amount of personal and corporate data that their hackers have stolen, is greater than every other country combined."
What makes China's espionage so threatening, according to Wray, is that it couples "that kind of authoritarian ambition with cutting-edge technical capability," something the world has never before seen.
"It’s like the surveillance nightmare of East Germany combined with the tech of Silicon Valley," he reportedly remarked.
To be clear, Wray noted that he was in no way calling out the Chinese people for the spy tactics, but was solely placing blame on the Chinese Communist Party.
In a Monday speech at the Reagan Library in California, Wray warned that China’s pursuit of American business secrets has become "more brazen, more damaging than ever before."
Wray's comments regarding China matched the tone and substance of former Attorney General Bill Barr.
In 2020, Barr similarly noted that China was far and away America's biggest geopolitical threat. He also warned that China was "engaged in a full-court blitzkrieg" against the U.S., actively "stealing American technology, trying to influence our political system, trying to steal secrets at our research universities and so forth."
Around that time, the Department of Justice launched a new national security program called the China Initiative, which aimed to confront Chinese espionage within American universities and businesses.
Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government has denied that any such activity takes place. But NBC News noted that "the FBI has accused Chinese spies of targeting a wide range of U.S. innovations — including Covid vaccines, computer chips, nuclear power plants, wind turbines, and smartphones, for example."
Early on in the pandemic, it was reported that China's "most skilled hackers and spies" were actively working to steal critical COVID-19 research conducted by American scientists.
China's dedication to long-term spying was perhaps best exemplified by suspected foreign agent Fang Fang, who targeted up-and-coming politicians in the California Bay Area during the Obama administration. Fang eventually got so close to Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) that federal investigators had to step in to alert him.