The director of the FBI Christopher Wray says that China remains one of the biggest threats to the US. Wray sees China as a governmental and societal threat to the US. The US has regularly expressed these sentiments saying that the ascension of China as a global superpower has more often than not been through unfair and unconventional means. Wray was speaking in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee alongside other intelligence officials in the country.
There is a genuine fear among lawmakers sitting in the committee that China is determined to overtake the US as a global superpower. For instance, Senator Marco Rubio sought to understand what the Asian economic giant has been doing to claim its place as a global power. The response from the intelligence chiefs couldn’t be more honest.
FBI Director Wray said that the FBI, and by extension the intelligence community, was looking at China as a threat beyond government institutions. Wray noted that in its efforts to become a global superpower, China wasn’t just relying on established government institutions. The entire Chinese society appears to be in sync with government aspirations. There is a genuine push among ordinary Chinese citizens to play a part in the ascension of China as a global superpower.
Wray added that countering this threat will require an equally smart and collective response. It’s not only the job of the intelligence agencies any more. Ordinary American citizens too must take part in countering the threat. These sentiments were also echoed by Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.
China’s infiltration in the US society is concerning. Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that it was the unconventional nature of this infiltration that made it more difficult to counter and more dangerous. For example, the FBI says that Chinese intelligence agencies are gathering information through unconventional sources in American universities.
Director Wray said that because the US has long offered an open research and development environment, Chinese government institutions have fully taken advantage of this offer to gather information in the US. A recent report released by the Institute of International Education in 2016 provided a glimpse of the scale in which Chinese citizens had infiltrated the US academic sector.
In 2018, for example, 1 million international students are expected to be admitted into US universities and more than a third of them are from China. The FBI sees this as a source of soft power for the Asian country.
The intelligence chiefs were also keen to observe the rising threat of cybersecurity breaches by China. A report by the World Wide Assessment of the US Intelligence Community on cyber threats revealed that China has progressively improved its cyber attack capabilities.
The report also says that most Chinese cyber-attacks have usually targeted private companies. Defense contractors and private IT companies have been a top target. The intelligence community noted that there was a need to improve counterintelligence in cybersecurity. Wray also thinks that many facets of American society are under threat from China and it would take a collective societal response to address this issue.