Attorney General William Barr denounced China’s theft of intellectual property as “stealing the future” from the next generation of Americans.
Attorney General William Barr offered a searing assessment Thursday of China’s effort to unseat the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower, accusing the country of “unlawful tactics” in pursuit of global supremacy.
Barr denounced China’s theft of intellectual property as “stealing the future” from the next generation of Americans. In an address at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Michigan, he also said Beijing was “engaged in an economic blitzkrieg.”
“For American companies in the global marketplace, free and fair competition with China has long been a fantasy,” he said.
President Donald Trump has hammered at Beijing for what the administration frames as a secretive response to the coronavirus. The U.S. and China have also been locked in an ongoing trade war.
Trump and congressional Republicans have made criticism of China a major campaign theme for the Nov. 3 election.
This week, Trump signed an executive order revoking a decades-old special trade status reserved for Hong Kong and approved bipartisan legislation to impose sanctions on Chinese officials believed to be undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy. China has threatened retaliation.
Barr’s remarks were the administration’s latest broadside.
“To tilt the playing field to its advantage, China’s communist government has perfected a wide array of predatory and often unlawful tactics: currency manipulation, tariffs, quotas, state-led strategic investment and acquisitions, theft and forced transfer of intellectual property, state subsidies, dumping, cyberattacks, and espionage,” Barr said.
Barr said hackers linked to the Chinese government have targeted American universities and firms in “a bid to steal (intellectual property) related to coronavirus treatments and vaccines.”
“Having been caught covering up the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing is desperate for a public relations coup, and may hope that it will be able to claim credit for any medical breakthroughs,” he said.
Earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray also warned that China’s potential harm to American businesses “almost defies calculation.” In June, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said China’s theft of intellectual property had “eviscerated” parts of American industry.
With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also expected to make his own address, the administration’s China policy has so far resembled a game of one-upsmanship –with officials escalating their rhetoric in every speech.
Barr said as much Thursday, when he said that Wray’s speech had been criticized by a Chinese official as “disgusting.”
“I was going to aim to be despicable,” Barr said as he launched into his remarks.
On Thursday, Barr claimed American businesses, including Hollywood, have “succumbed” to Chinese influence campaigns, “even at the expense of freedom and openness in the United States.”
“If what happened in China stayed in China, that would all be bad enough,” Barr said. “But instead of America changing China, China is leveraging its economic power to change America.
“Take Hollywood,” Barr said. “Hollywood actors, producers, and directors pride themselves on celebrating freedom and the human spirit. And every year at the Academy Awards, Americans are lectured about how this country falls short of Hollywood’s ideals of social justice.”
Barr claimed that Hollywood censors its own movies to appease the Chinese Communist Party, the world’s most powerful violator of human rights.”
The Motion Picture Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The attorney general specifically referred to the 2016 movie “Dr. Strange,” asserting that filmmakers “changed the nationality of a major character known as the ‘Ancient One,’ a Tibetan monk in the comic books, from Tibetan to Celtic.”
“The story of the film industry’s submission to the (Chinese Communist Party) is a familiar one,” he said. “In the past two decades, China has emerged as the world’s largest box office.”
The attorney general also said tech giants, including Apple, have “shown themselves all too willing to collaborate with the CCP.”
“For example, Apple recently removed the news app Quartz from its app store in China, after the Chinese government complained about coverage of the Hong Kong democracy protests,” Barr said.
Apple referred to past statements regarding its Chinese operations.
“Our products help our Chinese customers communicate, learn, express their creativity, and exercise their ingenuity,” the company said. “We believe in the critical importance of an open society in which information flows freely, and are convinced the best way we can continue to promote openness is to remain engaged even where we may disagree with a country’s laws.”
China remains the central antagonist of Trump’s trade policies, leading to a series of escalating tariffs. The president announced a “phase one” trade agreement with Beijing in January and has said that agreement remains “intact” despite the fact that the country is falling short of its goals to purchase U.S. goods.
But Trump has also spoken favorably of his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, even as he has criticized China for its response to the virus. Until recently, Trump appeared hesitant to criticize China’s crackdown on Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region where pro-democracy protests have roiled the city for months.