Washington: China and the US are set to take action against each other as tensions escalate over trade, cyber hacking and espionage as senior American law enforcement officials identified Beijing as the most serious threat to Washington's national security, officials said.
China's methods of non-traditional espionage, including their use of ordinary Chinese expatriates instead of spies at universities and businesses, and intellectual property theft, were explained by the officials from the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security who briefed US lawmakers on Wednesday, CNN reported.
"As the US proceeds a whole of society response to this threat, we must address the vulnerabilities within our system while preserving our values and the open, free and fair principles that have made us thrive," E.W. Priestap, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Assistant Director of Counter-intelligence told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"What hangs in the balance is not just the future of the US, but the future of the world."
The Department of Justice's (DOJ) top national security official told lawmakers on Wednesday the administration was reacting to China's "steadily increasing" economic espionage activity, which costs the US an estimated $225 billion a year.
From 2011 to 2018, more than 90 per cent of the DOJ's cases alleging economic espionage by a state have involved China, and more than two-thirds of trade secret thefts have a nexus to China, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.
"From underwater drones and autonomous vehicles to critical chemical compounds and inbred corn seeds, China has targeted advanced technology across sectors that align with China's publicly announced strategic goals," Demers said. "The play book is simple: rob, replicate and replace."
Priestap and his colleagues testified hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in an interview with Fox News that the US believes Beijing was behind the massive cyber-attack on the Marriott hotel chain, CNN reported.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the assault was part of a broader Chinese operation that also targeted health insurers and the security clearance files of millions of Americans.
Those disclosures came a day after President Donald Trump said that he would be willing to use Huawei's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou who was arrested in Canada for violating US sanctions on Iran as a bargaining chip in his trade war with Beijing, which for now is in a 90-day pause.
A Canadian judge on Tuesday night granted Meng a $7.5 million bail, while she awaits extradition to the US.
US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng's arrest.