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FBI Director Wray: “There is just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, our innovation, and our economic security than China.”

Two weeks ago, FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California about countering Chinese economic espionage.

Countering Threats Posed by the Chinese Government Inside the U.S.

I found his remarks timely not just because of the exponentially growing theft of trade secrets by the Chinese, but it seems for the last few months the public has lost some of its focus on China’s IP theft behavior.

I have reprinted excerpts from Director Wray’s remarks and have intermittingly embedded links to posts I have published on my blog or other sources that bring context to some issues he raised.

His remarks are in italics.

“Russia Wants to Conquer the World—China Wants to Own the World,”– IP Probe Blog, April 23, 2020:

Today, we in the United States and the Western world find ourselves in a very different struggle against another global adversary—the Chinese Communist Party. Now, there are some surface-level similarities between the threat posed by the Chinese government and the historical threat of the Soviet Union: The Chinese government also rejects the fundamental freedoms, basic human rights, and democratic norms we value as Americans.

Does China Threaten—Students, Researchers, Scientists—Working or Studying in the U.S. to Bring Back IP or Their Families Are Put in Jeopardy? IP Probe Blog, June 29, 2019

But the Soviet Union didn’t make much that anyone in America wanted to buy. We didn’t invest in each other’s economies or send huge numbers of students to study in each other’s universities. The U.S. and today’s China are far more interconnected than the U.S. and the old U.S.S.R. ever were, and China is an economic power on a level the Soviets could never have dreamed of being.

“Chinese State-Sponsored Espionage (a.k.a. IP Theft) Survey,”– IP Probe Blog, August 12, 2021

The complexity of the threat posed by the Chinese government flows from those new realities, because China’s government has the global reach and presence of a great nation, but it refuses to act the part and too often uses its capabilities to steal and threaten, rather than to cooperate and build. That theft, those threats, are happening right here in America, literally every day.

The Chinese government steals staggering volumes of information and causes deep, job-destroying damage across a wide range of industries—so much so that, as you heard, we’re constantly opening new cases to counter their intelligence operations, about every 12 hours or so.

So… What is the China-Espionage “Thousand Grains of Sand” Theory? IP Probe Blog, June 19, 2020

What makes the Chinese government’s strategy so insidious is the way it exploits multiple avenues at once, often in seemingly innocuous ways. They identify key technologies to target. Their “Made in China 2025” plan, for example, lists 10 broad ones—the keys to economic success in the coming century—spanning industries like robotics, green energy production and vehicles, aerospace, biopharma, and so on. And then—and then, they throw every tool in their arsenal at stealing that “technology to succeed in those areas.

“New and Improved: Hybrid Chinese IP Theft Model–IP Probe Blog, October 21, 2021

Here in the U.S., they unleash a massive, sophisticated hacking program that is bigger than those of every other major nation combined. Operating from pretty much every major city in China, with a lot of funding and sophisticated tools, and often joining forces with cyber criminals, in effect, cyber mercenaries.

Arsenal Employed by Chinese State IP Thieves Have No Moral Limits—IP Probe Blog, September 27, 2021

A recent case from Ohio is a great illustration of the Chinese government’s multiprong strategy for stealing our valuable secrets. This past November, a Chinese intelligence officer named Xu Yanjun was convicted of economic espionage in Cincinnati. He was part of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, which is one of their spy services, and he was in a unit responsible for stealing aviation-related secrets.

Xu was targeting an advanced engine made by GE and a foreign joint venture partner—an engine that Chinese state-owned enterprises were openly working to copy. He corrupted insiders with access to sensitive company data and access to company IT infrastructures, so Xu could help MSS hackers, in cyber units back in China, target the same data at the same time. Xu used one of his recruits, or co-optees—this one a senior company IT official—to help him plant malware on a joint venture company laptop.

He kept in touch with the MSS hackers in China to make sure that they could access the implant that he’d uploaded. And then, to steal a particular composite fan blade technology that only GE possesses, he used another co-optee—this one an official at a prominent Chinese university—to contact a GE engineer through LinkedIn.

U.S. Educated Chinese Students–Abuse U.S. Temporary Work Program—IP Probe Blog, October 4, 2019

Now, as an aside, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that we see an awful lot of Chinese intelligence outreach on social media, especially on LinkedIn.

Josh Mayers – Sinovel Wind Turbine, Trade Secret Theft-FBI Case File Review with Jerri Williams: December 1, 2021

I’ll give you an example. Several years ago, a Chinese government-owned corporation called Sinovel stole the proprietary source code for controlling wind turbines from a U.S. company in Massachusetts, causing that U.S. company, American Superconductor, to plummet from being a $1.6 billion company to a $200 million company, and from 900 employees to only 300 employees. That’s 600 people who lost their livelihoods. And while those people were trying to figure out how to cope with catastrophe, Sinovel was adding insult to injury, using the source code they’d stolen to sell wind turbines—right here in the United States.

Book Review: The Scientist and the Spy. Review by Russell Atkinson-IP Probe Blog: July 8, 2020

Whatever makes an industry tick, they target: source code from software companies, testing data and chemical designs from pharma firms, engineering designs from manufacturers, personal data from hospitals, credit bureaus, and banks. They’ve even sent people to sneak into agribusinesses’ fields and dig up advanced seeds out of the ground.

U.S. Private Investigator—Former Law Enforcement Officer—Arrested for Conspiring with Chinese Foreign Agents in an illegal Chinese “Fox Hunt” operation—IP Probe Blog, November 2, 2020

One egregious example is a thing called Fox Hunt, which is a program that President Xi Jinping claimed in 2014 was created to stamp out corruption. But in reality—in reality, it targets, captures, and repatriates former Chinese citizens living overseas whom it sees as a political or financial threat. Over the past eight years, the Chinese government has hauled home more than 9,000 people worldwide, bringing them back to China, where they can be imprisoned or controlled.

For decades, the Chinese Communist Party has targeted, threatened, and harassed U.S.-based Tibetans and Uyghurs, Falun Gong members, pro-democracy advocates, and really any others who question their legitimacy or authority.

But China may be the first government to combine authoritarian ambitions with cutting edge technical capability. It’s like the surveillance nightmare of East Germany combined with the tech of Silicon Valley.


The December conviction of Dr. Charles Lieber (formerly the chairperson of Harvard’s chemistry and chemical biology department) for his failure to disclose his participation in China’s “Thousand Talents Program,” captures the depth of China’s IP theft commitment. It is one hideous example of what FBI Director Wray is talking about.

DisclaimerIPProbe.Global is a service to the professional IP community. While every effort has been made to check information in this blog, we provide no guarantees or warranties, express or implied, regarding the content provided in IPProbe.Global. We disclaim all liability and responsibility for the qualification or accuracy of representations made by the contributors or for any disputes that may arise. It is the responsibility of the readers to independently investigate and verify the credentials of such persons and the accuracy and validity of the information provided by them. This blog is for general information only and not intended to provide legal or other professional advice.

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Ron Alvarez is an IP investigations and protection consultant and writer in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron has since coordinated the private investigation of international fraud and money laundering cases, as well as IP-related investigations and research involving the four pillars of IP: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has written a number of articles for various investigative publications, as well as published "The World of Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Investigations" in November 2021.

1 comment on “FBI Director Wray: “There is just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, our innovation, and our economic security than China.”


    I hope my Former colleagues are up to the task of counteracting the worst possible
    effort on the part of Sino Criminal Activity
    Tom Manley Special Agent FBI-Retired

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