Attorney General Bill Barr delivered an ominous warning about China’s geopolitical intentions during a speech in Washington on Thursday, relaying a story from his college days to make his point about the country's ambitions.
As Barr recalled, a fellow student once told him Russia wanted to conquer the world and the United States could deal with that. But China, the student said at the time, wanted to own the world and that was a bit more difficult.
“There was a certain truth in that," Barr told the audience Thursday.
Barr made his remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, reminding his audience that the Communist Party remains in control of the Chinese economy and is “authoritarian through and through.”
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“Their goal is the eventual demise of capitalism,” the attorney general said.
The United States has long accused China of intellectual property theft on a grand scale. “It has been estimated that the annual cost to the U.S. economy could be $600 billion,” Barr said.
U.S. officials are also worried that China is threatening to become the dominant world force in the race to transition to 5G.
Aside from serving as the attorney general once before, Barr also spent several years in the telecom industry and used that experience to sound another dire warning.
The attorney general called the impending jump to 5G “a quantum leap” which will have major economic implications. The Chinese telecom giant Huawei “is the leading supplier of 5G on every continent except North America,” Barr said, adding that the U.S. market needed to “pick a horse” to back in the race for domestic 5G influence.
"The Chinese are using every lever of power to expand their 5G market share around the globe," he said.
Barr named the companies Nokia and Ericsson as possibilities in the American market.
“As a dictatorship, China can marshal an all of country approach,“ warned Barr, adding that the U.S. public and private sectors would need to work together to compete.
U.S. officials say Chinese leaders are working toward being the geopolitical, economic and military world leader by the year 2049, the 100th anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China.
“China wants the fruits of America’s brainpower to harvest the seeds of its planned economic dominance,” said John Demers, the assistant attorney general for the National Security Division.
FBI Director Chris Wray also spoke at the event, telling the audience that as he spoke the FBI had at least 1,000 open investigations of Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property.
“This is not about Chinese Americans,” Wray said. “It’s about the Chinese government and the Communist Party... They are willing to steal their way up the ladder, at our expense.”