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Chinese Security Threats Prompt Joint MI5/FBI Appearance in the UK

What’s happening?

This week, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum and FBI Director Christopher Wray made a joint speech in London to discuss Chinese security threats. Officials described the joint appearance as a first, marking a significant display of Western solidarity.

During the speech, Wray described China as the “biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security.” The speech also acknowledged that MI5 is now opening seven times as many investigations related to China compared to 2018.

The leaders focused on China’s attempts to steal Western technology intel and interfere in elections as primary threats. In recent months and years, China has raised several other red flags for Western governments:

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Wray also stated that signs point to China insulating its economy from potential sanctions in the event of war and warned Western companies to exercise caution with Chinese business. While the US is monitoring China closely for signs of an attack against Taiwan, there are currently no imminent signs of an invasion. Some also argue that a successful military campaign against an island nation with ample western military resources would require a scale of assault that seems unlikely anytime soon.

In a June 2022 meeting with US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, China’s Defence Minister stated that “the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost” if anyone attempts to split Taiwan and China.

What’s the impact?

Continued espionage attempts from China have several effects on its targets. Intellectual property loss from the theft of trade secrets, R&D intelligence, and other assets has significant economic impacts. IP loss can erode industries, minimize job opportunities, and cause trade imbalances. In 2018, the estimated cost of Chinese economic espionage in the US was $320 billion.

Secondly, leaked intelligence minimizes military technological advantage, including space capabilities, of target countries like the US. These national security threats have geopolitical consequences. For China, gaining a military advantage would likely mean continued territorial aggression in regions of interest to the US like the South China Sea.

Back in May, President Biden also stated that a Chinese attack against Taiwan would provoke military support from the US. According to Taipai’s top trade negotiator, a Chinese military attack would also impact global trade and supply chains at a greater scale than the Ukraine war. Wray described the potential fallout as “one of the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen.”

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How can OSINT help?

According to a CSIS expert on China, “a more comprehensive understanding of the spaces in which China is investing [and] where China is upgrading its military” are key to developing countermeasures. 

Open-source intelligence (OSINT), which offers insights from public sources like social media, gives intelligence teams a more comprehensive picture of Chinese activities and information environments. For example, public social media content can help analysts:

  • Monitor Chinese military activities, technological developments, and media narratives.
  • Understand public sentiment from populations in China and other regions of interest.
  • Investigate warning signs for significant geopolitical events, like military action.

Gathering this information requires access to a variety of data sources, including mainstream social media, APAC networks, and defense forums. To learn more about OSINT solutions and data sources to support defense intelligence, book a call with Echosec Systems.