‘Partner and friend’? Expert says US should be careful trusting China.

Nov 21, 2023, 4:00 PM

China spy expert...

FILE - A man walks by a booth selling foods and beverages displaying planet-shaped flags of China and the U.S. during a spring carnival in Beijing on May 13, 2023. (Andy Wong / Associated Press)

(Andy Wong / Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — A former FBI supervisor and counterintelligence expert says the United States would be wise to focus on the deeds — not the words — of China.

Here are the words in question:  “China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States. The fundamental principles that we follow in handling China-U.S. relations are mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi received a standing ovation for taking the stage before he said a word at a gathering of American business executives in San Francisco last week as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Standing ovations aside, whether China is “ready to be a partner and friend” of the United States must stand beside another reality — the cost of Chinese espionage. The cost is estimated to be between $20 and $30 billion from cyber espionage and as much as $600 billion from more traditional espionage.

The U.S. must focus on actions, not words

Retired FBI supervisor and counterintelligence expert Karl Schmae told KSL NewsRadio that it’s important to focus on what the Chinese government does, not what it says while also remembering that the U.S. and China need each other economically. 


“We’ve seen economic espionage cases with a link to China increase by approximately 1,300 percent,” FBI Director Chris Wray said in a speech in 2020.

Schmae said the Chinese theft is on such a large global scale that the U.S. has found help. The nation has partnered with the Five Eyes, composed of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

He added that Wray gathered last month for the first time with the directors of the security services from those countries in Silicon Valley to advise the tech companies of the threat that China poses.

China is an asymmetric threat, says expert

The United States spies for national security reasons, and China does the same. But Schmae said Beijing takes espionage a step further.

“Everything is fair game (for China.) They also focus on stealing economic secrets. And that is something the U.S. does not do,” Schmae said. “The CIA is not going to send people overseas to steal electric-car research to bring that back to the U.S.

“You’re not going to put government employees’ lives on the line for that.”

Schmae said China is what the FBI calls an asymmetric threat.

“Traditionally, espionage is conducted by what we call intelligence officers — more commonly called spies. These are trained professionals that work out of embassies or maybe they’re working covertly, and they go abroad.

“China has those, but they also have a huge cadre of civilians. These are business people. These are academics, researchers, graduate students that come to us and get jobs here. They study in our universities, and they get access to our precious R&D. They take that back to China,” Schmae said.



Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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‘Partner and friend’? Expert says US should be careful trusting China.