China seeks preemptive sanctions in case of Taiwan clash, says FBI chief

LONDON — Drawing lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China is looking for ways to protect its economy from the threat of internat...


LONDON — Drawing lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China is looking for ways to protect its economy from the threat of international sanctions in the event of a confrontation in Taiwan, “a clue” to Beijing’s view on this. the future holds, the FBI director said Wednesday.

Western sanctions against Russian war and retaliation have cost Western businesses in Russia billions of dollars, and they could be caught in a similar but far bigger and more dangerous scenario if China invades Taiwan, said director Christopher A.Wray.

China is seeking to protect its economy from possible sanctions, “trying to protect itself from harm if it does anything to draw the wrath of the international community”, he said. “In our world, we call that kind of behavior a clue.”

Western companies are much more deeply invested in China, which tries to make it harder for foreign companies operating there to cooperate with international sanctions. If China invades Taiwan, Mr. Wray said, companies from the United States and its allies would find themselves taken.

“Just like in Russia, Western investments built over years could become hostages, stranded capital, disrupted supply chains and relationships.” he said. “Companies caught between sanctions and Chinese law prohibiting compliance with these sanctions. It’s not just geopolitics, it’s business forecasting.

The remarks came during an unusual joint speech in London by Mr Wray and Ken McCallum, director general of MI5, Britain’s security service, warning of China’s threats to US, UK and Western businesses.

While the Biden administration has tempered some of the Trump administration’s efforts to counter Chinese espionage, Mr. Wray has continued to speak regularly about the threat posed by China, as it sends agents, makes investments strategies and launches cyberattacks aimed at stealing the intellectual property and know-how of foreign companies and universities.

In a question-and-answer session after the speech, Mr Wray said the Chinese government was pressuring Western companies as aggressively as ever not to criticize Beijing or its policies, but he declined to say whether an invasion of Taiwan had become more or less likely.

“I will say that I have no reason to believe that their interest in Taiwan has waned in any way,” he said. “We certainly hope they learn some valuable lessons about what happens when you overplay your hand in a way the Russians clearly have in Ukraine”

Some U.S. officials have argued that failing to take a tough stance against Russia’s war on Ukraine would spur Beijing to act against Taiwan.

Under the Trump administration, Mr. Wray was among a string of senior national security officials giving speeches portraying China as a growing threat. But his latest speech comes as the Biden administration has focused on the immediate threat from Russia and its invasion of Ukraine and moved to alter some of the Trump administration’s programs to counter China.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice amended a Trump-era initiative to combat Chinese espionage, treat many cases of scholars not disclosing their ties or funding from China as civil violations, not crimes. While some prosecutions have resulted in convictions, others have resulted in an acquittal or dismissal. Chinese authorities have held up the initiative as an example of US hypocrisy and systemic discrimination against ethnic minorities.

Mr. Wray on Wednesday largely avoided Chinese efforts to take intellectual property from American universities, focusing instead on the ways in which Beijing is using cyber espionage and human resources to steal information and technology from Western companies and funnel it to Chinese competitors.

“The Chinese government poses an even more serious threat to Western businesses than even many sophisticated businessmen realize,” Wray said.

Mr McCallum, the director general of MI5, touched on similar themes, but highlighted how China uses a patient approach, waging coordinated influence campaigns that can last decades.

“The most revolutionary challenge we face comes from the Communist Party of China,” McCallum said. “He is secretly applying pressure across the world. It may sound abstract, but it’s real and it’s pressing.

While US law enforcement and intelligence services have been warning about the problem for years, it is a much more recent phenomenon for UK security officials, who until last year have makes few public comments on the Chinese threat.

MI5 is carrying out seven times more Chinese espionage investigations than in 2018, and plans to double the current number in the coming years, McCallum said.

Beijing has forcefully pushed back against US warnings of a Chinese threat, calling such comments political lies that recycled old Cold War-era tropes as part of a broader attempt to contain and quell the rise of China. Chinese officials have sought to portray U.S.-China economic and trade ties as mutually beneficial, with a deputy foreign minister saying last November that of the more than 70,000 U.S. companies doing business in China, 97% were making a profit.

Mr. Wray argued that China poses a broader threat to Western politics as well as business. Some US intelligence agencies have argued that China is not trying to sow chaos and dissension, or broadly disrupt the democratic process, as Russia did in recent elections, but other officials say It’s important not to view China’s actions too narrowly.

On Wednesday, Wray said many of China’s efforts take the form of malicious campaigns to influence US politics, political candidates and public opinion, as opposed to chaotic elections. But he also noted the recent case of Chinese government agents accused of trying to influencing a congressional race in New York by derailing the candidacy of a former Tiananmen Square protester. In this case, federal prosecutors allege China tried to fabricate a fake controversy with a sex worker and then considered having the contestant hit by a vehicle.

This plot, Mr Wray said, took the threat “to a whole new level”.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. government’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center issued a new warning to government and business leaders about Chinese efforts to manipulate them to support “hidden agendas.”

Chinese officials have disputed the notion that Beijing is trying to meddle in US affairs, calling the accusations baseless and an attempt to use China as a scapegoat and distraction from the United States’ own domestic issues. Officials have held firmly to the line that China supports “non-interference” in the internal affairs of sovereign countries, including elections, as a matter of principle.

Although neither Mr. Wray nor Mr. McCallum directly compared the threat of influence from China to that of Russia, both argued that Beijing is working for the long haul, cultivating local officials for decades.

“It’s not always the case to seek to influence a national leader or someone at the cabinet level,” McCallum said. “They are ready to invest in training people at the local government level, potentially at the start of their political careers. And I think that in itself actually illustrates the scale and patience of this threat.

Amy Qin contributed reporting from Taipei, Taiwan.

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Newsrust - US Top News: China seeks preemptive sanctions in case of Taiwan clash, says FBI chief
China seeks preemptive sanctions in case of Taiwan clash, says FBI chief
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