The U.S. intelligence community is sounding the alarm about the national security threat posed by China, with two major recent intelligence assessments warning about aggressive actions the Communist Party takes to maintain and grow its power in the world.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an annual threat assessment on Tuesday ahead of a Worldwide Threats hearing scheduled for Wednesday, with the report leading off with a lengthy description of China’s military, economic, technological, diplomatic, cybertheft, and malign influence efforts to grow its power. This follows the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2040 report released last week, which laid out the long-term challenges posed by a rising China.
“The Chinese Communist Party will continue its whole-of-government efforts to spread China’s influence, undercut that of the United States, drive wedges between Washington and its allies and partners, and foster new international norms that favor the authoritarian Chinese system,” Tuesday’s intelligence assessment contended, adding that “China will maintain its major innovation and industrial policies because Chinese leaders see this strategy as necessary to reduce dependence on foreign technologies, enable military advances, and sustain economic growth, and thus ensure the CCP’s survival.”
The new ODNI report added: “Beijing sees increasingly competitive U.S.-China relations as part of an epochal geopolitical shift and views Washington’s economic measures against Beijing since 2018 as part of a broader U.S. effort to contain China’s rise. China is touting its success containing the COVID-19 pandemic as evidence of the superiority of its system. Beijing is increasingly combining its growing military power with its economic, technological, and diplomatic clout to preserve the CCP, secure what it views as its territory and regional preeminence, and pursue international cooperation at Washington’s expense.”
The warnings come amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China, including as the Trump administration declared and the Biden administration affirmed that the Chinese government’s human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang constitute genocide.
The spy agencies warned that “Beijing will press Taiwan authorities to move toward unification and will condemn what it views as increased U.S.-Taiwan engagement” as China “continues to increase military activity around the island.” The ODNI report also warned that China “will continue to intimidate rival claimants and will use growing numbers of air, naval, and maritime law enforcement platforms” in the South China Sea “to signal to Southeast Asian countries that China has effective control over contested areas,” noting China is using similar pressure against Japan in the East China Sea. The spy agencies also warned about continued Hong Kong power grabs and increased China-India border tensions following China occupying contested border areas.
“China will remain the top threat to U.S. technological competitiveness as the CCP targets key technology sectors and proprietary commercial and military technology from U.S. and allied companies and research institutions associated with defense, energy, finance, and other sectors. Beijing uses a variety of tools, from public investment to espionage and theft, to advance its technological capabilities,” the ODNI report warned. “China will continue pursuing its goals of becoming a great power.”
Officials from the Trump and Biden administrations have said the Chinese government worked to thwart an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, which has killed 2.95 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has criticized China for a lack of transparency at the start of the pandemic and condemned China for spreading baseless conspiracy theories about COVID-19 originating with the U.S. military.
The spy agencies warned about China’s growing economic and military cooperation with Russia, its Belt and Road Initiative aiming to increase its influence abroad, its efforts to expand the People’s Liberation Army’s footprint to project Chinese power, the rapid expansion and platform diversification of its nuclear arsenal, its continued deployment of sophisticated cyberattacks, and its work to surpass U.S. leadership in space.
“We expect a Chinese space station in low Earth orbit to be operational between 2022 and 2024. China also has conducted and plans to conduct additional lunar exploration missions, and it intends to establish a robotic research station on the Moon and later an intermittently crewed lunar base,” the ODNI report said, adding, “Counterspace operations will be integral to potential military campaigns by the PLA, and China has counterspace weapons capabilities intended to target U.S. and allied satellites.”
The U.S. has ramped up its efforts in recent years to confront China, including the Justice Department’s China Initiative, the blacklisting of Chinese telecommunication company Huawei and other CCP-linked entities as national security threats, and a crackdown on Confucius Institutes, the Thousand Talents Program, and other Chinese influence operations.
“China leads the world in applying surveillance systems and censorship to monitor its population and repress dissent, particularly among ethnic minorities, such as the Uyghurs,” the intelligence community concluded. “Beijing conducts cyber intrusions that affect U.S. and non-U.S. citizens beyond its borders — such as hacking journalists, stealing personal information, or attacking tools that allow free speech online — as part of its efforts to surveil perceived threats to CCP power and tailor influence efforts. Beijing is also using its assistance to global efforts to combat COVID-19 to export its surveillance tools and technologies.”
The National Intelligence Council assessed last week that the U.S.-China struggle will continue to dominate the future.
“The rivalry between the United States and China is likely to set the broad parameters for the geopolitical environment during the coming decades, forcing starker choices on other actors,” the council concluded, adding, “In China, the central tension is whether the Chinese Communist Party can maintain control by delivering a growing economy, public health, and safety, while repressing dissent. … Even under the most modest estimates, Beijing is poised to continue to make military, economic, and technological advancements that shift the geopolitical balance, particularly in Asia.”
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