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China’s Goal? To Become the World’s Dominant Superpower, FBI Boss Warns

Beware China's ambition.

Amy Hess, boss of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's cyber division, warned a room of business executives about the various threats China poses to American interests on stage at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo., on Wednesday. Her team is responsible for pursuing criminals and nation state actors who are targeting—and pilfering—American companies and citizens.

"China's goal is, clearly, to become the world's dominant superpower," Hess said. "To do that they're willing to steal information, to steal intellectual property, to steal PII [personally identifiable information], to steal military secrets, government secrets, academic secrets, and R&D."

Hess described China's siphoning of American trade secrets as unfair and imbalanced. China "can get information that American companies and American ingenuity has taken years to develop," she said. "They get it for free, they get it quickly, and it positions them to achieve their goal" of international supremacy.

Beyond corporate espionage and state spycraft, China's position in the global economy creates other hazards, Amy said. The country's status as a manufacturing powerhouse and ubiquitous supplier of parts for multinational supply chains lends it leverage over peers. The nation's increasing investments in overseas concerns grants it power, too.

"All of those things create risk," Hess said.

Hess described the FBI's goal as one of enforcement. "Our main goal is accountability," Hess said. "Whether through indictments or criminal charges, that's our role."

Hess urged the private sector to cooperate with the government. If a company experiences a breach or detects suspicious activity, "we are highly encouraging them to contact us," she said.

Hess noted that the government is at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting talent. "The government will never be able to compete with the private sector when it comes to salary," she said.

"What we hope can compete on is mission," she added.

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