MI5 Director General Ken McCallum and FBI Director Chris Wray have warned of the growing threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party to UK and US interests.
The two spoke to an audience of business and academic leaders at an unprecedented joint address at Thames House today.
The Director General said:
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming. It's a pleasure to welcome you all. I'm Ken McCallum, Director General of MI5; this is my friend and colleague Chris Wray, Director of the FBI.
Our two organisations, born within a year of each other more than a century ago, have long been closely partnered. The FBI office in London opened in 1942 and our teams work tirelessly together every day to keep our two nations, and our allies, safe. But today is the first time the Heads of the FBI and MI5 have shared a public platform.
We're doing so to send the clearest signal we can on a massive shared challenge: China.
We'll describe the challenge.
We'll talk about the whole-of-system response that we need: partnership not just between us, but with all of you, if we're to protect our economies, our institutions, our democratic values.
And we'll say what you can do, starting today, to protect yourselves.
I'll lead off; then hand over to Director Wray; then after a brief pause, we'll take questions together.
In 2022, MI5 is having to stretch itself as never before - in multiple different directions. Front and centre of our minds is of course Ukraine where the human costs are horrifying. The long-term implications of Putin's actions are a subject for another day. But while our countries strain every sinew to support Ukraine in resisting appalling overt aggression, we're also working to safeguard our homelands from covert threats from the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, MI5's counter-terrorist work remains intense. Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan continue to generate threats. Our most immediate UK challenge is lone terrorists - Islamist extremist and right-wing extremist - radicalised online, acting at pace, in unpredictable ways.
Our subject for today lies right at the opposite end of the spectrum. Rather than lone actors, a coordinated campaign on a grand scale. Rather than lightning pace, a strategic contest across decades. Rather than the actions of volatile individuals, we see planned, professional activity:
The most game-changing challenge we face comes from the Chinese Communist Party. It's covertly applying pressure across the globe. This might feel abstract. But it's real and it's pressing. We need to talk about it. We need to act.
I want to be really clear up front on a couple of points:
- First, the aim here is not to cut off from China - one fifth of humanity, with immense talent. China is central to global issues: economic growth, public health, climate change. Having, for example, almost 150,000 Chinese students in the UK's universities is, in almost all cases, good for them and good for us. The UK wants to engage with China wherever it's consistent with our national security and our values. There are situations where the risks are sharper - and you'd expect the head of MI5 to focus on those. But even then, our aim is to make conscious choices on issues that are rarely binary. We want a UK which is both connected and resilient.
- My second point is we're talking today about the activities of the Chinese Communist Party and certain parts of the Chinese State [I'll mostly use the shorthand CCP']. We're not talking about Chinese people - in whom there is so much to admire. We wholeheartedly welcome the Chinese diaspora's hugely positive contribution to UK life. Responding confidently to specific covert activities is just us doing our job. If my remarks today elicit accusations of Sinophobia, from an authoritarian CCP, I trust you'll see the irony.
My main messages to you today are:
- By volume, most of what is at risk from Chinese Communist Party aggression is not, so to speak, my stuff. It's yours. The world-leading expertise, technology, research and commercial advantage developed and held by people in this room, and others like you.
- There is plenty you can do to protect yourself. Proportionately. Without making your organisation, your start-up or your university a fortress; while still engaging with the world, including China.
- We're stronger together. The CCP adopts a whole-of-state approach in which businesses and individuals are forced by law to co-operate with the Party. In our free societies, we can do better. By building trusted partnerships - across our national systems, and, as symbolised today, internationally.