At a hearing on Nov. 5 before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on security threats facing the United States, FBI Director Christopher Wray said China poses a pervasive and persistent threat to American innovation, reported Fox News.
He referred to the Chinese regime’s expat recruitment plan, titled The Thousand Talents Plan, which has raised national security concerns in the United States due to its role in the theft of U.S. intellectual property and other technology-related secrets.
“We see the Chinese government encouraging and assisting the abuse of incentive plans, like the so-called Thousand Talents program,” Wray testified.
The Thousand Talents Plan focuses on bringing Chinese students and researchers working abroad back to China. It has recruited at least 6,000 people since 2008.
Wray described this kind of activity as “a threat to economic security and to national security.”
“It is also a threat to American jobs, businesses, and big cities alike,” he added.
A 2018 report by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), said the aims of the program fit with the Chinese regime’s model of tech development, which Assistant Attorney General John Demers summarized is to “rob, replicate, replace.”
In the report, NIH expressed concerns that Thousand Talents recruits had access to American intellectual property and that they transfer key data—produced using U.S. federal research money—to China.
The NIH report gave several examples of alleged IP theft via Thousand Talents, including the case of Ruopeng Liu, a Chinese-American who worked at Duke University. Liu stole data from his professor’s project to create an “invisibility cloak” and brought it back to China to begin his own startup.
U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan told The Epoch Times on Dec. 20, 2018: “Most of the recruits of the Thousand Talents Program are naturalized Americans, [meaning that] they betray their own country by stealing advanced and unique American technologies and giving them China, a rival of the United States. Then they use these technologies in Chinese industry and sell the products overseas.
Tang said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hacks and steals technology from all around the world as a form of legal robbery, as well as forcing the transfer of technology from foreign companies operating in China. Thousand Talents gives the CCP a roundabout method of acquiring advanced know-how.
Wray told the hearing there has been a surge in FBI investigations—and around 1,000 currently—involving China’s involvement in the theft of U.S. technology.
“It is a significant uptick from a few years ago,” Wray testified.
Wray said the FBI has largely shifted its focus from intrusion to detection, Fox News reported.
“It is great to put locks and cameras and lights around the outside of your house,” Wray said. “But if the guy has already managed to pay off somebody to get inside your basement and is just hanging out there, all the stuff on the outside is not going to do a lot.”
Wray’s moments come after FBI’s top counterintelligence official, FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap, told senators on Dec. 12 he believes the cyber espionage threat from China is “the most severe counterintelligence threat facing our nation today.”
“What hangs in the balance is not just the future of the United States, but the future of the world,” he said.
This week, the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Director of National Intelligence (DNI), FBI, National Security Agency (NSA) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also released a joint statement on 2020 election security.
The statement warns that “Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions.”
“Adversaries may try to accomplish their goals through a variety of means, including social media campaigns, directing disinformation operations, or conducting disruptive or destructive cyberattacks on state and local infrastructure,” the statement read.
While the statement added that presently there is no evidence of interference to election infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes, the organizations said they will “vigilantly monitor” any threats to U.S. elections.
Nicole Hao contributed to this report.