China Is Turning America’s Technology Against Us

( Several current and former defense officials claim that industrial espionage has shaved decades off of China’s technological learning curve and that Beijing’s massive theft of American intellectual property threatens to upend America’s political, military, and economic dominance.


Suppose the United States, its allies, and China engage in armed conflict over Taiwan. In that case, the United States can be on the receiving end of technologies that it produces, such as hypersonic missiles, stealth aircraft and bombers, and artificial intelligence.


China has acquired global economic and diplomatic influence, enabling covert operations that extend well beyond traditional intelligence gathering. They are growing in scale and threaten to overwhelm Western security agencies.


The U.S. and British domestic intelligence chiefs — the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, and the MI5 director general, Ken McCallum — signaled rising concern over this with an unprecedented joint news conference in July to warn of, as Mr. Wray put it, a “breathtaking” Chinese effort to steal technology and economic intelligence and to influence foreign politics in Beijing’s favor. They said the pace was quickening, with the number of MI5 investigations into suspected Chinese activity having increased sevenfold since 2018.


The culture of the Chinese Communist Party has always had a clandestine nature. But as the party has become an even more dominant force in China since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago, this has metastasized in state institutions. China can best be described as an intelligence state. The party views the business of acquiring and protecting secrets as an all-of-nation undertaking, to the point that rewards are offered to citizens for identifying possible spies, and even schoolchildren are taught to recognize threats.

The West cannot fight fire with fire. Mobilizing government, society and economic and academic systems around competition with foreign foes the way China does would betray Western values. But leaders of democracies need to internalize the sea change that has taken place in China and ensure that engagement with Beijing is tempered by a hardheaded sense of reality. The Soviets posed the last state intelligence threat of comparable magnitudes. But the Soviet Union was isolated and impoverished. On the other hand, China’s economy is a key engine of global growth, vastly increasing Beijing’s reach.

Barely visible on the world stage 30 years ago, China’s intelligence agencies are now powerful and well-resourced. They are adept at exploiting the vulnerabilities of open societies and growing dependence on China’s economy to collect vast volumes of intelligence and data.


With their proficient intelligence gathering, China may very well turn America’s superior technology against us.