On Tuesday, at a hearing on her nomination for Director of National Intelligence before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Avril Haines stated that President-elect Joe Biden wants his administration to view the Chinese Communist Party not as an adversary, but a “global competitor.”
After Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) had called the Chinese Communist Party an “adversary,” the ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), said, “I want to start by building on what the chairman said in his opening comments, that for I would argue a number of decades, we had a bipartisan consensus about China, that the more they came into the world order, the closer they would move to some level of international norms.”
Warner admitted he had been wrong about that supposition, then continued, “We see them move aggressively militarily; we see them move aggressively economically … we’ve seen them use tools from stealing intellectual property to treating their own people extraordinarily poorly … so I think it is important that we are clear-eyed about China. … I just want to ask you straight out: Ms. Haines, is China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party an adversary of the United States?”
“I couldn’t agree more with the priority that you’re attaching to China and the need, I think, for the intelligence community to focus on this issue,” Haines answered. “I think in the context of China, China is adversarial and an adversary on some issues, and in other issues we try to cooperate with them whether in the context of climate change or other things. And ultimately, the frame that the president-elect has identified for thinking about this is as a global competitor.”
“But I think that doesn’t, to your point, in any way mitigate the fact that when it comes to espionage or a variety of areas I’ll be focused on if I’m confirmed as Director of National Intelligence, is they are an adversary and we have to work on those issues in particular, countering their illegal, unfair, aggressive actions in these spaces,” Haines added.
Rubio had confronted Haines by commenting:
One of the areas we’ve talked about in our conversation is the Chinese Communist Party. And as we’ve seen, it’s a multi-faceted challenge without, I think, precedent, given it touches virtually every aspect of American life: commerce, trade, academia, immigration, obviously military, finance sector and the like. But one of the areas that’s of concern is their long-standing and increasingly developing a robust influence operations to target American political figures for cultivation from the local level all the way up. They’re very patient in that effort; they’ll view someone who might be a mayor or even a council member that might one day be a member of a committee. In essence, what they’re trying to do is create a stable of American policymakers and influencers who share or will promote China’s narrative of events around the world.
As you think about — and some of these touch into areas, frankly, because they’re domestic, are not entirely within the intelligence community purview. … Have you thought about, or what do you view, in light of that, in light of those influence efforts, have you given thought to what the intelligence community’s role can be in providing counterintelligence support such as awareness training to state and local governments and other sectors of our country so that people sort of understand that when you’re being approached by someone who does business in China or is here under the guise of academia or the like , they’re not James Bond, but they operate in a way that is trying to influence you toward narratives that are favorable to China that ultimately will influence public policy. Have you given some thought to what the intelligence community’s role would be in countering and confronting that?
Obviously the counterintelligence challenge with China is a very important kind of priority, and something I will need to focus on. I haven’t had the chance to get the kind of in-depth classified briefing that I’d like to on these issues to provide you with a more considered opinion, but I absolutely agree with your overall view that we need to do more training in this space and I noted in the work that the committee has done on Russia that one of your recommendations relates to more training and more active intelligence; I think that makes sense in the context of China as well and something that we should focus on.
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