The top spooks of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have all called for greater vigilance in the face of Chinese espionage.
They all got together on stage for apparently the first time ever to warn of the threat posed by Chinese industrial espionage, especially in key parts of the tech sector, which was compared to the 9/11 attacks in its severity. “We’re dealing with another unprecedented threat and there is no greater threat to innovation than the Chinese government,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“And it is a measure of how seriously the five of us and our services take that threat that we have chosen to come together to try to highlight that, raise awareness, raise resilience, and work closely with the private sector to try to build better protections for innovation, especially in a place like Northern California, but really across all five of our countries.”
The event was chaired by former US national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, who is now director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where the event was held. It coincided with a number of related matters, including a new round of sanctions by the US against the Chinese tech sector, and the start of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China.
Director General of the UK’s MI5, Ken McCallum, was keen to highlight the importance of everyone doing their bit in the name of national security, calling for “a different form of partnership” between governments and the private sector. “Our job is to look to protect what we see as the crucial advantages that our democratic nations enjoy today,” said McCallum.
To help with that, the Five Eyes launched five principles to underpin a new ‘secure innovation’ campaign, which you can see below. “Across all five of our countries we are seeing a sharp rise in aggressive attempts by other states to steal competitive advantage,” said McCallum in the associated announcement. “This contest is particularly acute on emerging technologies; states which lead the way in areas like artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology will have the power to shape all our futures.”
So while this is ostensibly about security and counter-espionage, McCullum repeatedly said the quiet part out loud, which is that the Five Eyes countries (and, it seems, their allies), want to retain what they see as their technological advantage over their main geopolitical rival, China. It’s great that they’re being so transparent about it, and the desire to do so is perfectly understandable, but hopefully they now won’t feel so compelled to sugar-coat such moves with a simplistic moralising veneer.
Here’s a video of the whole panel.