U.S. Counterintelligence Center Warns China Could Gain Edge With Developments in AI Tech

U.S. officials are concerned about China's advancements with artificial intelligence and other technologies that could give China a military advantage and health care lead.

National Counterintelligence and Security Center Acting Director Michael Orlando said on Thursday that the U.S. "can't afford to lose" ground to China in several key areas, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

The center gave a rare briefing Thursday, warning business executives, academics, and government officials about the risks of accepting Chinese expertise and investments.

Edward You, the center's officer for emerging and disruptive technologies also noted China's investment in the U.S. and European pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

China has the greatest access to medical data of any country. With its data collection and its advancements in technology, Beijing could one day be dominant in health care and leave the U.S. wholly dependent on China, You said.

National security agencies are making an aggressive push against China under President Joe Biden's administration, while simultaneously attempting to ease some tension with the nation and seek common ground on social issues of climate trade and trade.

The counterintelligence center is trying to encourage efforts to control intellectual proprietary and implement security measures and does not intend to tell officials to reject Chinese investment

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

U.S. warns of China's tech advantages
U.S. officials are concerned about China’s advancements with artificial intelligence and other technologies that could give China a military advantage and health care lead. Above, an American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem during a welcome ceremony for visiting U.S. officials on November 9, 2017. Andy Wong/Associated Press

Beijing has repeatedly accused Washington of fear-mongering about its intentions and attacked U.S. intelligence for its assessments of China, including allegations that Chinese leaders have withheld critical information about the coronavirus pandemic.

Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has stated its goals to create profitable technologies in robotics and other fields in plans known as "Made in China 2025." The Justice Department in recent years has returned several indictments alleging theft of sensitive U.S. information on behalf of China, including vaccine research and autonomous vehicle technology.

Orlando noted that Chinese businesses and academics are beholden to the Chinese Communist Party and are required to serve the party's interests.

"Although we've been saying this for year after year, people are not digesting this," he said.

Orlando declined to say whether the U.S. should enact tougher restrictions or outright bans on Chinese investment in certain sectors, saying his role was not to suggest policy.

But the counterintelligence center holds regular briefings with private industry and academia while recognizing that industries and universities may still want to seek students, experts and investors from China, Orlando said. He would not name companies with which the center has met.

WuXi Biologics has since 2019 built a vaccine manufacturing facility in Ireland, announced plans for a production facility in Massachusetts and acquired a Bayer plant in Germany. Officials did not disclose any information linking those acquisitions to Beijing's influence but said they were part of a broader pattern by Chinese medical companies.

Chinese companies have also offered COVID-19 testing kits and genetic testing in the U.S., meeting federal privacy standards and other regulations, You said. But the data collected by companies with ties to China could ultimately end up in the hands of Beijing, You said.

"If you're President Xi," he said, "that's the gift that keeps on giving."