According to the head of the domestic counter-intelligence service MI5, Ken McCallum, China has approached more than 20,000 people in the UK covertly online in an attempt to steal industrial and technological secrets. McCallum made these remarks at a California summit of the intelligence chiefs from the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance – the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. He expressed concern about the scale of industrial espionage and warned that approximately 10,000 UK businesses are at risk of having their trade secrets stolen.
McCallum identified artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and synthetic biology as particularly vulnerable areas, as Beijing appears to be seeking innovative knowledge in these fields. He noted that the alleged espionage is not only targeting government or military secrets but also promising start-ups operating at the cutting edge of technology. In his words, “If you’re working today at the cutting edge of technology, then geopolitics is interested in you, even if you’re not interested in geopolitics.”
The MI5 director general revealed that Beijing has been adopting a key strategy of posing as recruitment experts on social networks like LinkedIn. He stated that there have been more than 20,000 cases where Chinese spies have made initial approaches online through such sites, although he did not specify the time frame for these figures.
It is important to note that China has consistently denied allegations of espionage and other forms of spying. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray, also speaking at the ‘Five Eyes’ conference, accused Beijing of making economic espionage and stealing others’ work and ideas a central component of its national strategy. Wray further claimed that the threat of Chinese espionage has become increasingly dangerous and insidious, and the FBI is currently conducting over 2,000 active investigations into alleged Chinese espionage in the US.
Mike Burgess, Australia’s intelligence chief, acknowledged that all nations engage in spying, but he argued that the behavior displayed by China in this regard goes far beyond traditional espionage.
In response to these allegations, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in London dismissed the reports as baseless, stating that the claim of China stealing British intelligence is purely fabricated and a malicious slander. The spokesperson urged relevant parties in the UK to stop their anti-China political manipulation and refrain from creating such self-staged political farces.
The issue of Chinese espionage and its impact on national security and intellectual property has become a growing concern for countries worldwide. The ‘Five Eyes’ alliance aims to strengthen intelligence cooperation to counter emerging security threats, including those posed by Beijing’s alleged espionage activities. As technological advancements continue to drive innovation and economic growth, the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets has become crucial to maintaining a competitive edge in the global arena.