FBI Director Wray: 1,000 Open Investigations into Chinese Intellectual Property Theft

F.B.I director Christopher Wray is shown before speaking to reporters during a dedication ceremony for the new Atlanta Field Office building Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, in Atlanta, (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AP Photo/John Bazemore

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday his agency has almost a thousand open investigations into intellectual property theft, almost all of them “leading back to China.”

“There is no country that poses a more severe counterintelligence threat to this country right now than China,” Wray said.

“It is a threat that’s deep and diverse and wide and vexing. It affects basically every industry in this country,” he said of Chinese intellectual property theft.

“And so, we’re working extremely hard with all of our partners to combat it,” he assured the Senate Judiciary Committee. “But make no mistake, this is a high priority for all of us.”

Voice of America News summarized some key points from Wray’s testimony:

U.S. businesses targeted by China run the gamut both in size and industry type, ranging from small high-tech startups to agriculture companies, Wray said.

Last year, two Chinese rice researchers were charged in a conspiracy to steal highly proprietary rice seeds developed by Colorado-based Ventria Bioscience.

[…] Increasingly, China uses what the FBI calls “nontraditional collectors” such as businessmen, scientists, academics and graduate students to gather intelligence, Wray said. With the Communist Party of China spreading its tentacles throughout Chinese society, the traditional lines between public and private sector actors have been blurred, if not eliminated, complicating counterespionage efforts. 

“The difference between the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party, not really a difference,” the FBI director said. “The difference between the Chinese government and its private sector is not really a difference.” 

Wray expressed particular concern about Chinese economic espionage “pipelines” established at U.S. universities, warning that American taxpayers are “essentially funding [China’s] economic resurgence through grants.”

The FBI director stressed that “this is not about the Chinese people as a whole and it is certainly not about Chinese-Americans in this country.” He also said the FBI is not warning Americans to completely avoid doing business with China, but advised them to be “clear-eyed” about the espionage risks.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry was nevertheless infuriated by his testimony, denouncing his allegations as “baseless” on Wednesday.

“China is different from the United States. China’s ideas and practices are totally different. We don’t steal, we don’t rob, and we don’t lie,” insisted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

“We have achieved our remarkable achievements on our own wisdom and sweat. If China is fighting a war, it is a just war to defend its legitimate rights and interests,” she said.

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