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FBI says 2,000 ongoing China investigations, and a new one every 10 hours

Director Christopher Wray spoke at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance Summit in Washington (Federal Bureau of Investigation/Flickr)
June 26, 2020

There is a new investigation that ties back to China beginning every ten hours and there are more than 2,000 investigations into the rival nation currently ongoing, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

In an interview that aired on Wednesday with Brett Baier, Wray elaborated on foreign threats to the nation, arguing that China poses the biggest threat to the United States. There have been several cases in the United States of espionage and Chinese propaganda peculating its way to mainstream academia and media.

“There’s no country that presents a broader, more comprehensive threat to America’s innovation, to our economic security, and to our democratic ideas than China does,” Wray said during the interview.

The FBI has increased its number of investigations into China since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. Trump has been a staunch opponent of China’s intellectual property theft and manipulation of then-current trade laws. Since he took office, Trump has waged a trade war on China in order to limit the damage the nation does on U.S. industry.

“The FBI has over 2,000 active investigations that trace back to the government in China,” Wray said. He added that the cases represent “about a 1300% increase in terms of economic espionage investigations with a Chinese nexus from about a decade ago.”

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The FBI is “opening a new counterintelligence investigation that ties back to China every 10 hours,” Wray added.

One case mentioned in the interview involved Charles Lieber, the chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard, who was arrested on Jan. 28 for lying to the FBI about his connection with the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan. China’s Thousand Talents Plan is an elaborate system to recruit overseas researchers to send their skills back to China.

Lieber also allegedly admitted that Harvard lacks the ability to track very large donations, which has been a point of contention under the Trump Administration. The donation, the Department of Education has previously said, buys the influence of the universities.

The Chinese government is “pursuing a campaign of intellectual property theft, economic espionage, cyber intrusions that target businesses — big and small — all across the country, and our academic research institutions,” Wray said, adding that Beijing operates “not just through traditional government officials, which they certainly do, but also through what we sometimes call nontraditional collectors — which can be businessmen, high-level scientists, high-level academics … all of whom are in different ways incentivized to steal American innovation and confidential information and take it back to China.”

China’s propaganda has also extended into the media, as the nation has recently been able to influence outlets like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. A report from the Department of Justice showed that the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post received $6 million and $4.6 million, respectively, since 2016 to run the ads in their newspapers. The report is a part of an ongoing effort by the DOJ to stymie Chinese propaganda in the country.