China is a growing threat, but internal issues could hamper its rise, senior US intelligence officials say

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But “it should be noted that her economic, environmental and demographic vulnerabilities all threaten to complicate her ability to manage the transition to the dominant role she aspires to in decades to come,” she added.

Haines’ comments on the challenges presented by China have been echoed by a alphabet soup of U.S. intelligence agencies, including executives from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). ).

“I don’t think there is a country that poses a more serious threat to our innovation, our economic security and our democratic ideals – and the tools in their toolbox to influence our businesses, our academic institutions, our governments to all levels are deep and broad and persevering, ”said Christopher Wray, director of the FBI.

Wray cited the example of an indictment last fall regarding China’s “Operation Fox Hunt” that allegedly involved illegal Chinese law enforcement activities on American soil aimed at threatening, intimidate and harass members of the Chinese diaspora.

“It is an indication and an illustration of the difficulty and the diversity of this particular threat,” he said.

The FBI has around 2,000 investigations related to the Chinese government, he said. He now opens a new China investigation every 10 hours on average and has seen economic espionage investigations increase by 1,300% in recent years, he added.

Wednesday’s testimony came as senators worked on a bipartisan bill aimed at countering Beijing’s influence and its attempt at technological supremacy.

“Competition and technology are at the heart of our rivalry with an increasingly confrontational Chinese Communist Party and Chinese leadership,” said William Burns, director of the CIA, adding that a third of the agency’s workforce is now focused primarily on technology and cybersecurity issues. , a reflection of its importance.

Analysts said many points made about China as a growing military and geopolitical threat can be found in previous reports and testimony. What is remarkable is the larger context, some said.

“What is really interesting about this report is that it is the US government speaking with one voice,” said Jeffrey Moon, head of China Moon Strategies and former head of the National Security Council. “For the past four years, everyone knows that Trump has not supported the intelligence community because he wanted to pursue his own agenda.”

The disconnect, especially over Russian and Moscow interference in the US elections, was underscored by the fact that the Trump administration did not release a threat assessment report last year and was unwilling to see her director of national intelligence testify about threats to Congress.

Speakers from Haines to Virginia Democrat Senator Mark R. Warner, chairman of the committee, referred to the importance of “standards and institutions” and the need for a more systemic approach to US intelligence – an implicit reference to the sometimes rambling approach of the Trump era.

And although the threat from China is unprecedented, several speakers pointed out that their concerns were directed at the Communist Party and Beijing policies, not the Chinese people or the Chinese Americans, who have suffered a sharp increase in incidents of hatred as the tension between the United States and China increased. and the pandemic raged.

While China poses the main threat to the national security of the United States, senior intelligence officials have said, it is on a long list of risks facing the country.

Others include hostile Russian cyber campaigns, the North Korean nuclear threat, Iran, extremist and racist national groups plaguing democracies, and transnational threats such as Covid-19, with a focus on “where, when and how ”it was transmitted to humans.

Chinese officials in Beijing on Wednesday rejected the US assessment that it is a threat, including in space, and that it is not interested in restricting its nuclear expansion.

“This is just another example of how the United States subscribes to the Cold War mentality, stirs up rivalries between the great powers and sidetracks its own responsibilities,” Foreign Ministry spokesman said. , Zhao Lijian. “Our capabilities pose no threat to anyone.”

Some of China’s weaknesses, which are often overlooked in Washington’s singular focus on threats, include its reliance on foreign chips and other technologies and the often weak state of its local capabilities, seen in the questionable effectiveness of his Sinovac. Covid-19 vaccine, analysts said.

Others include its aging population, rising debt levels, minority tensions, erosion of international reputation, with many of its best friends – like Russia and North Korea – global outcasts, a Moon said.

“There is more and more perspective on his authoritarian attitude,” he added.

Additional reporting by Robert Delaney and Jacob Fromer

This article was originally published in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most official voice reporting on China and Asia for over a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP application or visit the SCMP Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2021 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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