In their first joint appearance, the intelligence chiefs warned that China "poses the biggest long-term threat" to economic and national security for the UK, the US and their allies.

The intelligence heads warned business leaders that Beijing is determined to steal their technology for competitive gain.
The intelligence heads warned business leaders that Beijing is determined to steal their technology for competitive gain. (PA / AP)

The heads of the United Kingdom and the United States' intelligence agencies MI5 and FBI have warned of the growing long-term threat posed by China to UK and US interests. 

Speaking at MI5 headquarters in London on Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the Chinese government "poses the biggest long-term threat" to economic and national security, for the UK, the US and allies in Europe and elsewhere.

"The Chinese government is trying to shape the world by interfering in our politics (and those of our allies, I should add)," Wray said.

Wray warned that the Chinese government "poses an even more serious threat to Western businesses than even many sophisticated businesspeople realise," and is "set on stealing your technology." 

The Chinese government's hacking program is "bigger than that of every other major country combined," according to Wray.

MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said the service has already "more than doubled our previously-constrained effort against Chinese activity of concern," adding it was running seven times as many investigations as in 2018.

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China says 'stop spreading lies'

On Thursday, China lashed out at the US, British intelligence services over the accusations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that “facts have fully proven that the US is the biggest threat to world peace, stability and development". 

“We urge this US official to have the right perspective, see China’s developments in an objective and reasonable manner and stop spreading lies and stop making irresponsible remarks."

'The most game-changing challenge'

Over the past year, the UK has shared intelligence with 37 countries to help them defend against cyber espionage, McCallum said, adding that in May they had disrupted a sophisticated threat targeting critical aerospace companies.

The Chinese government and its “covert pressure across the globe” amounts to “the most game-changing challenge we face,” McCallum said.

Speaking about Taiwan, which China regards as a province, Wray said that China may try to forcibly take it over and if that were to happen, "it would represent one of the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen."

Under Xi Jinping, president and head of the ruling Communist Party, China has assumed an increasingly aggressive foreign policy, joining with Russia in seeking to undermine the influence of the US and its allies.

Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's offensive in Ukrainenwhile condemning Western sanctions against Moscow and accusing Washington and NATO of provoking the conflict.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies