The embrace between China’s intelligence services and Chinese businesses has gotten tighter, U.S. officials say. In 2017, under Xi’s intensifying authoritarianism, Beijing promulgated a new national intelligence law that compels Chinese businesses to work with Chinese intelligence and security agencies whenever they are requested to do so — a move that codified “what was pretty much what was going on for many years before, though corruption had tempered it” previously, a former senior CIA official said.
In the final years of the Obama administration, national security officials had directed U.S. spy agencies to step up their intelligence collection on the relationship between the Chinese state and China’s private industrial behemoths. By the advent of the Trump era, this effort had borne fruit, with the U.S. intelligence community piecing together voluminous evidence on coordination — including back-and-forth data transfers — between ostensibly private Chinese companies and that country’s intelligence services, according to current and former U.S. officials. There was evidence of close public-private cooperation occurring on “a daily basis,” according to a former Trump-era national security official. “Those commercial entities are the commercial wing of the party,” the source said. “They of course cooperate with intelligence services to achieve the party’s goals.”
Beijing’s access to, and ability to sift through, troves of pilfered and otherwise obtained data “gives [China] vast opportunities to target people in foreign governments, private industries, and other sectors around the world — in order to collect additional information they want, such as research, technology, trade secrets, or classified information,” said William Evanina, the United States’ top counterintelligence official. “Chinese technology companies play a key role in processing this bulk data and making it useful for China’s intelligence services,” he said.