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


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.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dismissed Ratcliffe’s remarks as a failed attempt to “hype up the China threat.”

“It has a sensational title, but throughout this article, there is no concrete evidence, just repetition of lies and rumors to smear China,” Hua told a regular news briefing Friday in Beijing. “It is just another mishmash of lies fabricated by relevant departments of the U.S. government, which has been going on for quite some time.”

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 was 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 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.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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