Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday, 3 December 2020


U.S. Spy Chief Calls China Greatest Threat Since World War II

  • Ratcliffe says intelligence resources being shifted as result
  • Departing Trump administration moves to lock in China views
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe Photographer: Doug Mills/The New York Times/Bloomberg

China poses the greatest threat to the U.S. and democracy around the world since Nazi Germany, and policy makers must be prepared for a prolonged period of confrontation with Beijing, according to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.

The top U.S. spy chief said he’s already shifting resources inside the $85 billion intelligence budget to place more emphasis on China and to ensure America’s intelligence community has “the resources it needs to give policy makers unvarnished insights into China’s intentions and activities.”

“The People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom world-wide since World War Two,” Ratcliffe wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday by the Wall Street Journal. “The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically.”

Ratcliffe’s warning follows similar comments by other top Trump administration officials including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr. The stark assessment from the overseer of the U.S. intelligence community, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump, comes as the administration tries to lock in its policies and posture toward China partly to box in President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in on Jan. 20.

The statement also reflects the preeminent role China has taken in the departing administration’s view of U.S. national security strategy, surpassing Russia.

“China should be America’s primary national security focus going forward,” Ratcliffe said.

Echoing another key administration priority, Ratcliffe said he’s told U.S. allies that using Chinese-owned technology, such as 5G telecommunications systems, “will severely limit America’s ability to share vital intelligence with them.”

Ratcliffe also said that China has been ramping up operations to influence U.S. lawmakers and policy makers. He said he’s briefed lawmakers that China is targeting members of Congress “with six times the frequency of Russia and 12 times the frequency of Iran.”

William Evanina, the head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at an event on Wednesday that the U.S. has seen evidence of China directing more of its influence operations toward the incoming Biden administration.

“Beijing is preparing for an open-ended period of confrontation with the U.S.,” Ratcliffe said. “This generation will be judged by its response to China’s effort to reshape the world in its own image and replace America as the dominant superpower. The intelligence is clear. Our response must be as well.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying this week urged the U.S. to scale back its actions toward Beijing, saying “we hope people in the U.S. will adopt a common rational view toward China and give up their hatred and abnormal mindset toward the CCP,” referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

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