U.S. intelligence leaders warned Congress Tuesday that China poses a major security threat by stealing and buying sensitive American technology.
Chinese companies linked to the Beijing government are using a variety of methods, including cyber attacks and acquisitions of American companies to gain access to cutting edge know-how, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Daniel Coats said during an annual threat briefing for the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Coats said countering covert Chinese technology acquisition remains a top priority of intelligence agencies and addressing the problem will require greater efforts than in the past.
He also supports congressional legislation now pending in both the Senate and House that would strengthen the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that reviews foreign acquisitions of American firms with an eye to the national security risks.
"The Chinese are pervasive on this," Coats said, "and we've seen it happen throughout both the public and the private sector."
In his prepared statement to the committee, Coats singled out China for covert and overt efforts to obtain "proprietary technology and early-stage ideas through cyber enabled means."
Other methods include the use of semi-legitimate, legal transfers and relationships "to gain access to research fields, experts, and key enabling industrial processes that could, over time, erode America’s long-term competitive advantages," the statement said.
[Related: How a Chinese company bought access to admissions officers at top U.S. colleges]