The United States and its allies vowed this week to do more to counter Chinese theft of technology, warning at an unusual gathering of intelligence leaders that Beijing’s espionage is increasingly trained not on the hulking federal buildings of Washington but the shiny office complexes of Silicon Valley.
The intelligence chiefs sought to engage private industry in combating what one official called an “unprecedented threat” as they discussed how to better protect new technologies and help Western countries keep their edge over China.
The choice of meeting venue — Stanford University, in Silicon Valley — was strategic. While Washington is often considered the key espionage battleground in the United States, F.B.I. officials estimate that more than half of Chinese espionage focused on stealing American technology takes place in the Bay Area.
It was the first time the heads of the F.B.I. and Britain’s MI5 and their counterparts from Australia, Canada and New Zealand had gathered for a public discussion of intelligence threats. It was, in effect, a summit of the spy hunters, the counterintelligence agencies whose job it is to detect and stop efforts by China to steal allied secrets.
The warnings come as the United States and China engage in an intense, and expanding, spy-versus-spy contest, and as U.S. officials say that China’s espionage efforts have reached across every facet of national security, diplomacy and advanced commercial technology in the United States and partner nations.
The intelligence chiefs said they were making the case to private industry that the security interests of the West were aligned with their business interests. No one profits if China steals intellectual property, they argued.
The spy chiefs said China is intensely interested in Western artificial intelligence, a technology that will allow countries to improve their intelligence collection and analysis and is set to be a driver of economic gains for years.
Just before the spy chiefs met, the Biden administration announced that it was limiting the sale of advanced semiconductors to China, a restriction that could curb China’s development of artificial intelligence.
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