Inside the FBI: The China Threat

On this episode of Inside the FBI, we’ll discuss some recent criminal charges that demonstrate the lengths the Chinese government will go to to threaten the economic well-being, national security, and democratic values of the United States.

Video Transcript


Michael Kulstad: Through tactics like systematic theft of intellectual property, transnational repression, and brazen cyber intrusions—just to name a few—the Chinese government is seeking to have great power and influence on the world stage.

And no one is immune from these threats: from businesses to academic institutions, to lawmakers or the general public.   

On this episode of Inside the FBI, we’ll discuss some recent criminal charges that demonstrate the lengths the Chinese government will go to to threaten the economic well-being, national security, and democratic values of the United States. 

I’m Michael Kulstad, and this is Inside the FBI. 

We wanted to start out by talking about charges that were just announced Monday out of New York.  

Those complaints outline a number of ways the Chinese government, both in China and here on American soil, is looking to infiltrate groups in America, to spy on those who may have information helpful to China or generally harass those who may disagree with the Chinese government. 

For example, in one complaint unsealed Monday, two New York men are charged with operating an illegal, overseas police station on behalf of China’s Ministry of Public Security in lower Manhattan.

The charges say the two men—“Harry” Lu Jianwang, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, of Manhattan—worked together to establish the police station in an office building in Chinatown in lower Manhattan.

U.S. officials call the illegal police station an example of China’s effort to quote, “export repression and subvert our rule of law.” The two suspects allegedly destroyed evidence of their communications with Chinese officials last year when they learned of the FBI’s investigation into their operation.

They were arrested the morning of April 17.  

Now, in separate charges, 40 officers of China’s national police are accused of creating and operating thousands of fake social media accounts specifically to harass, intimidate, and silence Chinese dissidents living abroad, including in New York. Nearly all of those charged reside in China.  

And another complaint alleges suspects working on behalf of the Chinese government conspired to censor individuals living in the U.S. and elsewhere. In one case, the subject—Julien Jin—allegedly disrupted online meetings and video chats when the conversations veered into topics sensitive to China, like the Tiananmen Square protests from 1989. 

With those charges as a backdrop, we wanted to have a larger discussion about what the intelligence community calls "the China Threat."

Now, I wanna take you back to earlier this April. That’s when FBI Director Christopher Wray was at Texas A&M.  

Now, in a speech at the University, Director Wray addressed the issue head-on regarding the threats posed by the Chinese government and how their tactics directly impact us all. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray: And as I’ve said before, there is no doubt that the greatest long-term threat to our nation’s ideas, our economic security, and our national security is that posed by the Chinese Communist government. 

And to be clear—that threat stems from the Chinese government, not the Chinese people themselves, and certainly not Chinese Americans. 

The Chinese regime, the current Chinese regime, will stop at nothing to steal what they can’t create and to silence the messages they don’t want to hear—all in an effort to surpass us as a global superpower and to shape to a world order more friendly to their decidedly authoritarian vision. 

What makes China’s economic espionage program so insidious is that they’re set on using every tool at their disposal to steal American technology, undercut our businesses, and dominate the market. 

They use human intelligence to target our most precious information, multiplying their efforts by working extensively through scores of “co-optees”—which are basically people who aren’t technically Chinese government officials but assist in intelligence operations—doing things like spotting and assessing sources to recruit, providing cover and communications, and helping steal secrets in other ways. 

And the PRC combines those efforts with a cyber hacking program that’s bigger than that of every other major nation combined, and they use cyber as the pathway to steal on a massive scale.

The result of all of this theft is lost American leadership in key industries, lost American jobs, and lost opportunities.

Kulstad: If you'll recall earlier in the podcast, we talked about how—as explained in the criminal charges—defendants were accused of setting up “police stations” in lower Manhattan.  

Now, we’re not talking about an actual police station—where you would see a police squad room or a dispatch center—but rather, they're alleged to have been facilities set up with the guise of “helping” people —specifically those from China or with ties to China—when, in fact, they weren't there to help at all.  

So, let's now go to Capitol Hill. Specifically, a hearing in November.  

At that hearing, Director Wray spoke more about how and why these so-called “police stations” are set up: 

Director Christopher Wray: We are aware of the existence of these stations. I have to be careful about discussing our specific investigative work, but, to me, it is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop, you know, in New York, let’s say, without proper coordination.

It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial law enforcement cooperation processes. And the reason this is so important is because we have seen a clear pattern of the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, exporting their trans-, their repression right here into the U.S.

And we’ve had now a number of indictments that you may have seen of the Chinese engaging in uncoordinated quote-unquote “law enforcement” action right here in the United States—harassing, stalking, surveilling, blackmailing people who they just don't like or who disagree with the Xi regime. 

And so, it’s a real problem, and it’s something that we’re talking with our foreign partners about, as well, because we’re not the only country where this is, has occurred.

Kulstad: What the Director speaks to here is known as transnational repression. It’s a tactic that foreign governments use to stalk, intimidate, or harass people in the United States—and it’s illegal. Now these can be people like political and human rights activists, dissidents, journalists, or political opponents, as well as religious or ethnic minority groups. 

Now remember, if you are in the U.S.—including a U.S. territory—your freedom of speech is protected, regardless of your citizenship. Again, Director Wray: 

Director Wray: It's important that Chinese-Americans and Chinese dissidents who are here know to call the FBI to report when they think they may have been targeted.

Kulstad: So if you or someone you know is being threatened, contact the FBI at or 1-800-CALL-FBI. You can also reach out to your local FBI field office, and find that information at

Finally, this begs the question: why? What is the Chinese government after? 

Well, let’s go back to the testimony in front of the Senate in November. Whether it’s identity theft, exploiting social media platforms, or trying to recruit spies—the FBI Director said it’s all about gathering information. And that, he says, is powerful: 

Director Wray: If you look at the Chinese government’s gobbling-up of information and data, and then the use of AI and other tools—ultimately supercomputing, things like that—to marshal all that data to conduct targeting for espionage, targeting for IP [intellectual property] theft, targeting for the all the things that I and others on this panel have been calling out about the Chinese government, data’s the coin of the realm.

Those who have the best information have the power. And that’s what that enables them to do. You just have to look at the Equifax hack, where they essentially stole the PII [personally identifiable information] of half the population of the United States. That’s one Chinese government operation.

Kulstad: But this just scratches the surface.  

For more on the criminal charges we discussed in this episode, including the related court documents, visit  

Now, you can read more about the counterintelligence and economic espionage efforts of the Chinese government at   

And finally, if you have any information on threats from the Chinese government, contact your nearest FBI field office or report it at
This has been another production of Inside the FBI. You can follow us on your favorite podcast player, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. You can also subscribe to email alerts about new episodes at     
I’m Michael Kulstad from the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs. Thanks for tuning in.  


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