FBI director Christopher Wray said Monday that newly disclosed charges against Chinese intelligence officers are the latest example of China's efforts to gain an unfair economic advantage over U.S. companies, particularly in the technology sphere.
Two Chinese intelligence officers are accused of attempting to "obstruct, influence, and impede a criminal prosecution" of a China-based global telecommunications company, U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland said during a news conference Monday. The company was not identified. The complaint against the two intelligence officers was unsealed Monday in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, Garland said.
The Washington Post reported that the complaint's details mirror those of a case previously brought against Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei. The federal government has for several years increased restrictions on sales and use of Huawei tech inside the U.S. and the company was indicted in 2020 on accusations of conspiring to steal trade secrets from U.S. businesses.
During the news conference, Wray called the case further evidence of "the Chinese government's flagrant violation of international laws, as they work to project their authoritarian view around the world, including within our own borders."
In this case and "thousands of others," China's government has been found working to "undermine U.S. economic security and fundamental human rights, including those of Americans," Wray said.
"We also see a coordinated effort across the Chinese government to lie, cheat, and steal their way into unfairly dominating entire technology sectors, putting competing U.S. companies out of business," he added. "Their economic assault and their rights violations are part of the same problem. They both flout the rule of law. And one of the purposes of the Chinese government's repression is to make it easier to steal our innovation."
For instance, he said, the Chinese government has repeatedly tried to "silence anyone who fights back against their theft." The case disclosed Monday is another example of this tactic by China as it showed an "attempted obstruction of an independent judicial process to give underhanded help to one of their companies accused of breaking our intellectual property laws," Wray said.
In July, Wray warned U.S. businesses about the threat from China's hacking program, which he said is "bigger than that of every other major country combined." At the time he described the Chinese government as "set on stealing your technology — whatever it is that makes your industry tick."
During the news conference Monday, Wray cited a statement he'd made previously that the FBI is opening a new case related to Chinese intelligence roughly every 12 hours.
The newly disclosed case comes amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China, including around access to technology. The U.S. earlier this month introduced export controls meant to prevent China from acquiring technology related to advanced chips.
One cybersecurity expert has predicted the chip technology blockade would lead to an increase in retaliatory hacking by the Chinese government aimed at IP theft.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that technologies that could be used in quantum computing, along with artificial intelligence software, might be the Biden administration’s next targets for export controls.