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Why Intelligence Officials Say China Is Becoming The U.S.'s Biggest Security Threat46:54
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A poster displayed during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, shows two Chinese citizens suspected to be with the group APT 10 carrying out an extensive hacking campaign to steal data from U.S. companies. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
A poster displayed during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, shows two Chinese citizens suspected to be with the group APT 10 carrying out an extensive hacking campaign to steal data from U.S. companies. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The United States intelligence community is warning that China is ramping up its espionage and that the country could become the U.S.'s biggest security threat, more so than any other nation. We look at challenges posed to the U.S. in the new age of espionage.

Guests

Dustin Volz, cybersecurity and intelligence reporter for the Wall Street Journal. (@dnvolz)

Edward Lucas, vice president at the Center for European Policy Analysis. (@edwardlucas)

John McLaughlin, former CIA analyst, deputy CIA director and acting CIA director. Distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies. (@jmclaughlinSAIS)

From The Reading List

Foreign Policy: "The Spycraft Revolution" -- "The world of espionage is facing tremendous technological, political, legal, social, and commercial changes. The winners will be those who break the old rules of the spy game and work out new ones. They will need to be nimble and collaborative and—paradoxically—to shed much of the secrecy that has cloaked their trade since its inception.

"The balance of power in the spy world is shifting; closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world. Technical prowess is also shifting. Much like manned spaceflight, human-based intelligence is starting to look costly and anachronistic. Meanwhile, a gulf is growing between the cryptographic superpowers—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, China, and Russia—and everyone else. Technical expertise, rather than human sleuthing, will hold the key to future success.

"In another major change, the boundaries between public and private sector intelligence work are becoming increasingly blurred. Private contractors have become an essential part of the spy world. Today, intelligence officers regularly move into the private sector once they leave government. The old rule that you are 'either in or out' has become passé. That shift has allowed some ex-spies to get extremely rich, but it is also eroding the mystique—and the integrity—of the dark arts practiced in the service of the state.

"Finally, intelligence agencies in democratic countries no longer enjoy the legitimacy bequeathed on them in the past or the glamor that rubbed off from Hollywood and spy fiction."

The Wall Street Journal: "China’s Spying Poses Rising Threat to U.S." — "Chinese spies are increasingly recruiting U.S. intelligence officers as part of a widening, sustained campaign to shake loose government secrets.

"Senior U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have escalated their warnings characterizing Chinese espionage as the single most significant long-term strategic threat, encompassing both spycraft intended to steal government secrets and the sustained heist of intellectual property and research from the corporate and academic worlds.

"While the Trump administration has sought to emphasize the damage of Beijing’s economic espionage—an area of focus in bilateral trade talks—current and former U.S. officials say China has also grown bolder and more successful in traditional spy games, including targeting less conventional recruits.

"The effort is being abetted by an ocean of hacked personal data that may help pinpoint who is vulnerable to inducements."

NPR: "Visas Are The Newest Weapon In U.S.-China Rivalry" — "Wang Wen proudly says that he has been to over 20 U.S. states. He flies between the U.S. and China every few months for his job as director of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, a university think tank in Beijing.

"At least he did until a few weeks ago, when he received an email from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. His 10-year U.S. business visa had been abruptly canceled with no explanation. He was told he could apply for a single-entry business visa instead, if he was able to list his last 15 years of travel history.

" 'It was too much personal information to American government, so I rejected having to apply again,' Wang tells NPR.

"Visas are the latest weapon in a growing rivalry between the U.S. and China. This year, the U.S. canceled visas for a number of prominent Chinese scholars with government links over concerns that such exchanges are conduits for peddling influence and for espionage."

Stefano Kotsonis produced this segment for broadcast.

This program aired on May 6, 2019.

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