back to article FBI and MI5 bosses: China cheats and steals at massive scale

The directors of the UK Military Intelligence, Section 5 (MI5) and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday shared a public platform for the first time and warned of China's increased espionage activity on UK and US intellectual property. Speaking to an audience of business and academic leaders, MI5 director general …


  1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    US & UK Governments

    If China is such a threat, then simply forbid your multinationals from doing business in China.

    China benefits from them too, you know.

    The multinationals will surely wail that their profit margins will fall and that they will only make $200 profit rather than $500 profit on an iPhone, you know what to tell them.

    It will also be nice, for a change, to see some films with Chinese people as the bad guys or possibly even criticising the Chinese government.

  2. Pseudonymous Clown Art

    "China cheats and steals at massive scale"

    LLoyd Christmas: No way?!

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Clarification Please .....

    .... Lest Ambiguity Presents and Promotes Piss Poor Preparations Planning Pathetic Performances

    "And if you have, or are trying for, a presence in the Chinese market, you'll be subject to more attention than you might think," he added.

    Is that a Wild Wacky Wicked threat from the West or an Exotic Erotic Ethereal treat from the East?

    With a novel engaging market in the sum of billions, in both reward and persons, a presence in the Chinese market is a no-brainer for any entrepreneurial enterprise delivering a leading advantage over both hostile opposition and subversive competition alike.

    There is one simple way to try and prevent the brain drain of anything worthy of the Chinese billions ...... and that is surely the most generous of home team purchases of such enterprises .... with the tacit agreement from proprietary intellectual property sources to not deliver leading advantage to foreign forces first .... unless and until the advantage be abused and misused to create a perverse inequality and corrupt inequity ....... which always delivers an unwelcome disruptive and mutually assured destructive conflict and thus is gravely to be regarded and always best avoided and prevented.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "painting China as a threat with false accusations"

    There's a laundry list of Chinese nationals caught stealing secrets red-handed that says that those accusations are not entirely false.

    1. FILE_ID.DIZ

      Re: "painting China as a threat with false accusations"

      China, like all the super powers, states anytime they get caught red-handed, that the accusations are false, so no surprise here. (That same doubt should be assumed for your home country's statements.)

      However, it is known that these tears from Chinese officials are really crocodile tears. China still gets third-world shipping cost preferences due to UPU (Universal Postal Union) rulings, but they're literally the second biggest economy in the world today (by a considerable margin).

      While what I posit may represent a tenuous relationship between shipping costs and espionage, I see that China has no problem still trying to paint themselves as some agrarian Nation, which they are clearly not (anymore).

  5. deevee

    The USA spy agencies hate competition, same as the US navy & Military do.

    So hypocritical that the USA whinges when China says it might establish some bases in the Pacific, when the USA has HUNDREDS of bases already scattered around the Pacific!

  6. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Isn't that US flag 60 years out of date?

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Probably because UK is just an unincorporated territory to the US.

      1. SundogUK Silver badge

        He means it only has 48 stars, therefore it's missing Alaska and Hawaii who joined in 1959

  7. Trigun Silver badge

    Colour me surprised

    This has been known of and said for two decades, particularly by the IT and electronics industries, with the red alert sirens going off for the last decade.

    Not that I blame China: They are doing what everyone else is doing and succeeding.

    I do have issues with our governments and companies who turned a blind eye to all of this then looked and sounded shocked and horrified when finally, FINALLY, they woke up to the fact that they'd actively empowered a competitor to build up to the point of a economic and military threat who's dominating political system & culture is antithetical to the west. Stupid.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Colour me surprised

      At the same time as building up the competitor, they've also been building up DOMESTIC groups whose dominating political systems and culture are antithetical to the West

      Part of the problem is that unlike most of the rest of the world the USA didn't actively seek to denazify its locals after WW2 and just before it entered the war it actually had more members of its Nazi party than Germany did (complete with swastika flags and Nuremberg-style rallies at Madison Square Gardens)

      American fascists simply rebranded as "anticommunists" after WW2 and Dwight Eisenhower's 1963 warning that America was on the verge of letting the military-industrial tail wag the civilian dog was ignored. Today that tail is very large and sweeps a lot before it

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Bigger Picture

    But today is the first time the Heads of the FBI and MI5 have shared a public platform. ..... I’ll lead off; then hand over to Director Wray; [Director of the FBI] ...... And then there’s Cyber. ..... I’ll leave Chris to say more on cyber; his teams have led the way in taking the fight to those behind the keyboards. ......

    Here's a link for those who want to hear/read/see what Chris said ......

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously, every country does this, so the whataboutism is irrelevant.

    The big question is why are the US telling you this?

    My guess is Russia has proven to be awful at projecting a technical threat, and China is so much better a target.

    It also will help legitimise the next global proxy war after Ukraine, Taiwan.

    Politics is a dirty game, but someone has to do it!

    1. Blank Reg Silver badge

      I think china's goals for Taiwan went up in smoke with the invasion of Ukraine. They now see the real possibility of significant sanctions should they try anything. Sure the rest of the world would have to make due with not upgrading their phone every year but once the manufacturing moves out of China it's gone for good. And then the communist party will collapse as massive unemployment and starvation hit.

      1. Pete B Silver badge

        Re: Regional data centres

        "And then the communist party will collapse as massive unemployment and starvation hit."

        No - that's probably when WW3 kicks off.

      2. Zolko Silver badge

        China it's gone for good. And then the communist party will collapse

        that was also the master plan with sanctions against Russia. Oil and gaz embargo and the like. If Ukraine is indeed an example, China knows that the US will not dare moving a little finger to defend Taiwan. Big mouth and all this.

        And if in 5 month the Republicans win the elections, then the US politics is going to be paralyzed making the move even easier. Add to that the cold winter in Europe without Russian gaz, and it's going to be a walk in the park for them. If they're smart enough to sabotage TSMC before, then Taiwan will be left alone cold in the dark by "the west ".

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    There's nothing new, China spies for decades, and so do the Five Eyes through Echelon.

    If the FBI and MI5 could provide examples, they could be more convincing.

  11. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Pot, Kettle, etc

    Let's not forget how both Britain and the USA came to be business/industrial superpowers in the first place

    China's simply demonostrating it can follow the example seat by the leading lights

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Pot, Kettle, etc

      Let's not forget how both Britain and the USA came to be business/industrial superpowers in the first place ....... Alan Brown

      Britain and the USA appear to be unable to replicate the process in order to be recognised and respected as a much more advanced intelligent superpower than was ever considered possible before and with its advanced intelligence superpowers constantly growing and progressing.

      Such then renders them at a distinct debilitating disadvantage and as prey and carrion to the vultures and business angels who can and do.

  12. Clausewitz4.0

    Thief Crying Thief

    Some spying agencies and the FBI complaining about [ Insert any country here that is getting better than them in the game ] ?


  13. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Hip Hip Hooray ....... Three Cheers for El Reg.

    I would just like to say how nice it is to see the return of the date and time stamp for posts on El Reg. It is a valuable aid in so many a subtle and stealthy way ...... :-) which will probably have some, who really should know better nowadays, thinking of ways to both either well use or badly abuse it.

    But how very strange that it can then so easily not appear again shortly after, as has here just been the case. Is that real actual spooky stuff, if not nonsense ? :-)

    1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      I would just like to say how nice it is …

      … to see the return of the date and time stamp for posts on El Reg.

      I’d like to see the times of articles restored next to their dates on the home page.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lol nobody gets the big picture

    this isn't stealing data to gain wealth, it is and has been for war/concurring the world.

    Xi has worked his life for this. The word China literally means middle kingdom, as in the kingdom of the world in it's center.

    This is what the world is dealing with, and if what they have done to the Uigers is any indication of what he will do to others, can't wait to see what they do to non-asians globally. White, brown, black, - don't think any of us will be in history books in 100 years.

    for the record, I don't think they will be stopped.

  15. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Hello Mr Pot

    Hello Mr Kettle

    Are we the same?

    I think we are

    Should we hate eachother?


  16. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Aren't all those college scientists with their book-lerning all commies anyway?

    At least Britain has come up with an innovative Brexit plan to stop foreigners stealing British scientific research.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why MI5 and FBI?

    Those are internal security agencies. Those are the ones charged with trying to stop the Chinese spying on US/UK companies.

    It would be interesting to hear the point of view of MI6/CIA, whose job is to spy on Chinese companies. :)

    I've worked with the Chinese. It's true that they gather up as much info as they can at all levels, and they're pretty casual about it. But we also need access to their production capacity[1] and increasingly, technological know-how. Otherwise we wouldn't be having manufacturing and research facilities in China in the first place.

    [1] amongst other things to conveniently delocalise our pollution and artificially make our environmental footprint look good, as the impact is recorded where the goods are produced not where they're consumed.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quite common.

    Let me think..

    Me and several colleagues got our burner work laptops cloned at the us border, the french stopped ej200 engines and spied hard on the whole project, etc etc.

    Yes,the Chinese are traditionally worse that the us, but not by that much if military or truly important issues are at hand.

    Also, patent trolling is mostly a us generated problem, same as software patents and many other ip stuff imposed by the us.

    And do remember that the us created its industry on not respecting mostly British ip.

  19. Persona Silver badge


    China cheats and steals at massive scale

    Of course. It's the pragmatic way of recovering from the damage inflicted by decades of Mao Zedong's policies that kept China as a peasant nation for decades.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Me old China

    The Chinese simply don’t lose at doing business.

    No matter.

    Ride the tiger at your own risk.

  21. ChoHag Silver badge

    News at 11?

    Why do we need to pay these organisations to tell us that water is wet?

  22. plrndl
    Big Brother

    Pot? Kettle?

    How does that differ from what MI6 and the CIA have been doing since inception?

  23. Arc_Light

    My own personal experience...

    Hi folks,

    While I absolutely agree that the US has done and continues to do lots of questionable things around the world, here I would ask all those inclined to immediately start talking about pots, kettles and moral equivalency to set aside those instincts for a moment, understandable as they may be, and consider the following story.

    Some years back, my research group was funded by a large and well-known multinational whose products you have all heard of and purchased because of the work we were doing related to anti-corrosion coatings. My main point of contact was the subject matter expert (SME) on such coatings at said company. We were super excited to be working with them, things started off very well, but after some time, it got a bit...odd.

    After months of reporting with no issues, all of a sudden she was super unhappy with our work (though as far as I could tell, we were entirely on track), but could not explain what the specific problem was or why what we were doing wasn't OK. She wanted to talk directly to the technical staff doing the work, get copies of their notebooks, etc. This was an important contract given the stature of the company, but I also knew what my organization would and would not tolerate from a legal standpoint, so I had to explain that we're happy to improve or do things differently and just needed to understand the nature of her concerns better - *but*, sorry, I'm not allows to let anyone outside of my organization interact with or manage my staff or directly access their lab notebooks, the contract is between our organizations, the points of contact are defined as such, etc.

    This did *NOT* go over well.

    Long story short, I had to escalate this to the leadership of my organization. They knew that I had a lot of experience with such contracts and was not one to cause trouble, so when this contact of mine threatened to cancel our contract because we were not living up to the terms, they fully backed me up in saying that, sorry, we are, and if you don't agree, put your complaints in writing like it says in the contract of p*ss off. Of course, they were much more diplomatic than that, but that was the message. Our head of research admin indicated that she'd never dealt with someone so difficult / nasty in 30+ years of doing the job. The dispute went all the way to the top of the research side of my organization, but they were eventually able to get this very nasty contact of mine replaced on the corporate side. We finished out the contract in peace and delivered what we promised, but it was impossible to raise my new contact on the phone or via e-mail - it became pretty clear after some time that he was dodging me, which was really frustrating, because I felt we had done a good job and had some nice technology to speak about in this context - as effective as existing solutions but addressing a critical issue of consumer concern.

    The last contact I had with this very nasty person was a phone call where I first asked (since I knew my legal obligations) if she would be OK with me recording it. She agreed, then proceeded to chew me out for just generally not doing a good job. I challenged her on this point, professionally but firmly, and said, look, we did our job as described, if you have a problem, fine, but tell me what it is or, again, please kindly p*ss off, because I've had enough of your sh*t. OK, again, not the language I've used, I am always professional with clients, but that was the message. She was clearly *not* always professional with clients, because I got an earful of some of the nastiest attitude I've ever had to deal with before she simply hung up on me (in spite of the fact that she had been informed that I was recording the call, OMG :)

    I won't bore you with the details of what happened since then, but here's the final result:

    My dear friend is going to federal prison for 14 years for corporate espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.

    Now, here's the point: Yes, yes, the US does sh*tty things. Nonetheless, I challenge anyone here to find a case like this going in the opposite direction, where some American is caught in China trying to steal secrets from companies over there. In materials research, this simply does not happen, and if it *did*, you can be damn sure that the Chinese government would be raising holy hell about it, the American(s) in question would be all over Chinese state media, there'd be a whole international incident, etc., etc. They would NOT be shy about this, because this would be an absolute wet dream of a PR coup - "Look, the Americans always talk about us, but see what we caught them doing!", etc., etc. The fact that you have never in your life heard such a story tells you what you need to know - this is not a symmetric relationship by any means.

    Now, let me be really clear: I have colleagues and friends in the research community who are Chinese and who are working in China. I have advised numerous Chinese PhD students, and while not all of them came to my group with the right safety culture - this is not their fault, they simply were not trained as I was - to be honest, I cannot think of a single truly bad one, and I had plenty of really good ones. I have enjoyed their company, helped them find jobs, and done my best to assist them in kick-starting their careers. I worked for several years to rescue one from an incredibly sh*tty immigration situation that occurred as a direct result of the election of Mayor McTreason (or whatever we're calling him these days) as president and the changes in policy he pushed for at the US State Department that ended up screwing a *ton* of Chinese STEM grad students all over the country (you didn't hear about this nearly as much as all of the racist anti-China sentiment he stirred up in other ways, but it was a total disaster for many, many people). These people were not the problem, and they did not deserve to be treated that way.

    The problem is very simple: In China, the underlying social contract is that the Chinese government keeps the economy going like gangbusters and the population puts up with a lot of BS in exchange for improvements in their standard of living (which, let's be fair, have been real and substantial). Labor costs rising and making China less competitive? That's OK, just grab this minority we don't like anyway and force them to make stuff for free. Don't have anything for those folks to make that the world wants to buy? That's OK, just "acquire" the technology by any means necessary and undercut everyone else on the production side until you dominate the market. Look at solar, this is exactly what happened - a good friend no longer works in that industry because of exactly this strategy. Creative trade and monetary policies, well-hidden subsidies, etc., etc. - whatever it takes to realize this outcome, it's been done and is being done as much as possible. In some sense, they have no choice, because the moment the Chinese economy tanks and they have a billion people out of work and seeing their living standard drop, it's "up against the wall, motherf*ckers" time - the people will not stand for it, and that'll be the end of the current system and everyone who runs it. It will NOT be pretty, and they know this. This is going to happen eventually; the sorts of shenanigans we're speaking about are simply delaying the date such that the current leadership "gets theirs" and can kick the can down the road. That's all it is.

    Coming back to my own situation, I was pretty angry when I found out - we spent a year and a half with more than one FTE dedicated to that work, and I don't appreciate being lied to or having my ideas stolen. If this person would've been less of a total *sshole about it, they might've actually gotten away with it, but lucky for us, she was absolutely world-class in this regard, and clearly not so careful either. Very, very glad to see that disdain and disrespect get exactly the sort of treatment it deserves. Point is, this happens more often than we hear about, because not everyone tasked with such a mission is so "special".

    In any case, just wanted to share that as a reminder - anti-US cynicism develops for legitimate reasons, and I definitely have my share of stones to throw (as an American expat, I am so disappointed with and worried about my country these days), but here I can say from first-hand experience that there really is a difference.

  24. Ashto5

    Sounds like jealousy to me

    Jealous much ?


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