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China is biggest ‘game-changing challenge’, MI5 and FBI heads warn

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The heads of MI5 and the FBI have used an unprecedented joint speech to warn that China is their biggest “game-changing challenge”, with the UK doubling efforts to combat Chinese threats.

Christopher Wray, the director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Beijing is drawing lessons from Russia‘s war in Ukraine.

Talking about the Chinese threat to Taiwan, he said the Chinese government was looking for ways to protect its economy against any potential, future sanctions.

“We call that kind of behaviour a clue,” Mr Wray said, sharing a platform with MI5 director-general Ken McCallum on a visit to the UK Security Service’s headquarters in London.

Western allies used sweeping sanctions to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

Despite Russia posing a significant threat, the two security chiefs chose to focus on the Chinese Communist Party and its covert operations against their countries, allies and the wider world.

They accused Beijing of a vast, enduring effort to steal Western advances in technology, research and other sectors as well as to use the West’s democratic, media and legal systems to their own advantage.

“The most game-changing challenge we face comes from the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr McCallum said, speaking to an audience of executives from technology companies and other officials invited to the joint talk at Thames House on Wednesday.

“It’s covertly applying pressure across the globe. This might feel abstract. But it’s real and it’s pressing. We need to talk about it. We need to act.”

The Chinese Communist Party pictured meeting in Beijing in November 2021. Image: AP
Image:
The Chinese Communist Party meeting in Beijing in November 2021. Image: AP

Mr McCallum said MI5 had more than doubled what he described as his service’s “previously constrained effort” against “Chinese activity of concern” since 2018 and is running seven times as many investigations.

“We plan to grow as much again, while also maintaining significant effort against Russian and Iranian covert threats,” he said.

He added later that the doubling would take place in the next “handful of years”.

Read more:
Xi and Putin agree to deepen ties during ‘warm and friendly’ phone call
Fate of Ukraine matters because ‘China is watching’

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