FBI director Christopher Wray said that although Russia continues to engage in "malign influence operations" against the United States to "sow discord and divisiveness," China may really be the biggest long-term threat.
"I think China from a counterintelligence perspective in many ways represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country," Wray said, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum.
"I say that because for them it is a whole of state effort," the FBI head explained. "It is economic espionage as well as traditional espionage. It is non-traditional collectors, as well as traditional intelligence operatives. It's human sources as well as cyber-means. We have economic espionage investigations in all 50 states that trace back to China. It covers everything from corn seeds in Iowa to wind turbines in Massachusetts and everything in between. The volume of it, the pervasiveness of it, the significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate."
Wray also said that China was "a different kind of threat."
Wray noted that dealing with the Chinese "threat" was more difficult because much of it often involves private economic actors, but emphasized that US companies and the FBI have a shared security and economic interest in cracking down on things like intellectual property theft.
The FBI director's remarks come on the heels of President Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. The president has been caught up in a political and media firestorm at home for appearing to suggest that he did not agree with the US intelligence community's conclusions that Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential elections. Trump backpedaled on his remarks the following day, sparking a new round of criticism.