During a Tuesday briefing, U.S. intelligence officials warned Congress that China is using a variety of methods to gain access to sensitive American technology.
Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who presented an annual briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Chinese companies linked to the Beijing government are employing tactics such as cyber attacks and acquisitions of American companies to gain access to cutting edge technological information.
Countering the ability of the Chinese to access U.S. technology remains a top priority of intelligence agencies, Coats said.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, Coats supports congressional legislation currently pending in the House and Senate aimed at strengthening the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that reviews foreign acquisitions of American firms and assesses them for national security risks.
“The Chinese are pervasive on this,” Coats said, “and we’ve seen it happen throughout both the public and the private sector.”
Coats noted that China has covertly and overtly attempted to obtain from the U.S. “proprietary technology and early-stage ideas through cyber enabled means.”
Other methods utilized by the Chinese include the use of semi-legitimate, legal transfers and relationships “to gain access to research fields, experts, and key enabling industrial processes that could, over time, erode America’s long-term competitive advantages,” Coats said.
In order to address the threat, Coats recommended closer cooperation between government agencies and the U.S. private sector, and the implementation of government-wide, coordinated security efforts.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that the bureau refers to Chinese intelligence activities and technology acquisition as “the China threat.”
During remarks made on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn, R.-Texas, also warned about the threat from Beijing.
“China has weaponized investment in an attempt to vacuum up our advanced technologies and simultaneously undermine our defense industrial base,” said Cornyn.
“As it acquires U.S. firms, and technology, and intellectual property, as well as the know-how to put it to use, the risk is that the Chinese government, which has its tentacles not just in state-owned Chinese companies, but also in so-called private Chinese firms, that it will get its hands on these capabilities and use them against us.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., echoed Cornyn’s remarks.
“The biggest issue of our time, in my view and, I think, in the view of most of the members of this committee and I would venture to guess, most of the members of this panel, is China and the risk they pose,” Rubio said. “I’m not sure in the 240-some-odd-year history of this nation we’ve ever faced a competitor and potential adversary of this scale, scope, and capacity.”
According to Rubio, China is “carrying out a well-orchestrated, well-executed, very patient long-term strategy to replace the United States as the most powerful and influential nation on earth. The tools they use are everything from hacking into companies and critical infrastructure and defense contractors to using our immigration system against us, to even our universities.”
In response, Coats said, “There’s no question that what you have just articulated is what’s happening with China,” adding that the Chinese subversion is being perpetrated in a “very smart way” and a “very effective way.”
“It’s clear that they have a long-term strategic objective to become a world power, and they are executing, throughout the whole of government, ways in which they can accomplish that,” Coats said.
The Trump administration is preparing to impose sanctions on one of China’s largest conglomerates, HNA Group Co., that has invested more than $16 billion in purchasing U.S. companies. According to U.S. officials, HNA misled the CFIS during two reviews of proposed purchases of American companies by not fully disclosing that the company, worth an estimated $100 billion, is partially owned by members of the Communist Party of China, some of whom are Chinese government officials.