Despite America’s focus on Russia’s ongoing efforts to exert influence over the American people, FBI Director Christopher Wray made a point not to lose sight of what many consider to be a far more significant threat to America’s long-term security: China. While Russia’s use of hybrid warfare and disinformation tactics against the American people can have a real and lasting effect on the security of the nation, few players on the global stage represent such a direct threat to America’s military and diplomatic efforts around the globe than China.
“I think China, from a counterintelligence perspective, in many ways, represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country,” Wray said at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday. “And I say that because for them it is a whole of state effort. It is economic espionage as well as traditional espionage; it is nontraditional collectors as well as traditional intelligence operatives; it’s human sources as well as cyber means. ”
China’s use of espionage is not only broad and far-reaching, but it has also manifested in their defense initiatives in occasionally blatant forms. China gained access to the Lockheed Martin’s plans for the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by 2014 from Chinese national Su Bin, who is now serving a four-year sentence in prison for the crime. Those plans led directly to China’s subsequent J-20 and J-31 programs, both of which bear such a striking resemblance to the American aircraft they copied that it almost seems like China wanted the U.S. to know what they’d done.
Last month, Chinese hackers infiltrated another unnamed defense contractor, making off with over 600 gigabytes worth of classified information pertaining to the U.S. Navy’s undersea warfare efforts. While much of what was stolen remains classified at large, one result of the hack was the revelation of a previously classified anti-ship weapon the Navy had been developing under the shroud of secrecy. Although, as Wray pointed out, China’s espionage efforts extend well beyond the defense sector.