FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that nearly half of the FBI's 5,000 active counterintelligence cases now relate to China.
In remarks to the Hudson Institute, Wray said Chinese spying and attempts to steal American technology are growing so fast that the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case roughly every 10 hours.
"The greatest long-term threat to our nation's information and intellectual property and to our economic vitality is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China," Wray said, adding that China's actions are part of its effort to become the world's sole superpower by any means necessary.
The FBI director also said China's efforts to steal Americans secrets have not slowed during the worldwide pandemic.
"At this very moment, China is working to compromise American health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions conducting essential COVID-19 research," he said.
Wray has long been outspoken in criticizing Chinese efforts to steal American secrets, but these were his most detailed remarks to date. He said China also seeks to affect American policy through "a highly sophisticated campaign involving bribery, blackmail and covert deals" in an effort to influence government officials, journalists and academics.
In an attempt to stifle criticism of the Chinese government and Communist Party, Wray said, China targets Chinese nationals and dissidents living in other countries that it sees as threats, sending messages to their relatives that those critics "should either return promptly or commit suicide."
Asked whether China is targeting the 2020 presidential election, he said it "tries to target our policies 24/7" but is not specifically targeting the election.
Wray said the FBI's aggressive prosecution of economic espionage cases is getting results, and "they're starting to get the message." But he said it's hard to tell whether China is actually pulling back on its spying "or just hiding it better."