WASHINGTON (WNN) – The CIA said Thursday it would create a top-level working group on China as part of a broader US government effort focused on countering Beijing’s influence.
The group would become one of less than a dozen mission centers run by the CIA, with weekly director-level meetings aimed at steering the agency’s strategy toward China. The CIA also announced that it would intensify efforts to recruit Chinese speakers and create another mission center focusing on emerging technologies and global issues such as climate change. and global health.
President Joe Biden’s administration has been seeking common ground on issues such as climate change and nuclear-armed North Korea, as has Chinese aggression on security and economic issues.. Top administration officials have repeatedly signaled a shift of resources toward “great power” competition with China, while focused on countering terrorism.
China poses a particularly difficult challenge to the US intelligence community, because of its Communist Party leadership, its large military and security services, and its development in advanced technologies that can counter espionage. In a statement on Thursday, CIA Director William Burns called the Chinese government “the most significant geopolitical threat facing us in the 21st century.”
“Throughout our history, the CIA has stepped up to meet the challenges that come our way,” Burns said. “And now facing our toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry, the CIA will be at the forefront of this effort.”
As part of the agency’s restructuring, the CIA will add mission centers on Iran and North Korea to existing groups covering each country’s respective territory. Both country-specific mission centers were built during the administration of President Donald Trump.
The CIA will attempt to address recruitment delays through the often difficult process of completing background checks and security clearances, with the goal of reducing processing times to an average of six months.
And it will designate a chief technology officer for the first time as part of a broader effort to implement advanced computing methods.
Washington has publicly accused Beijing of failing to cooperate with efforts to understand the origins of COVID-19 and promoting cyberattacks targeting critical US infrastructure. China in response has accused the US of unfairly making Beijing the scapegoat and pointed to the collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan, along with previous US intelligence failures..
But the two countries are also the world’s two largest economies and pre-eminent military and political powers. Relations have been strained by China’s military plane flying near the self-governing island of Taiwan, which has long been backed by the US and which Beijing considers part of its territory. A US official said on Wednesday that a virtual meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected. by the end of this year.
US moves towards “great power” competition amid fall of Kabul to Taliban after US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. The withdrawal resulted in the loss of key intelligence resources in Afghanistan.
Intelligence officials have assessed that al-Qaeda is closely linked to the Taliban and could acquire the capability to strike the US within one to two years.
D-VA Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he looks forward to working with the CIA “to ensure that organizational changes address the challenges we face.”
“The strategic threat environment is changing, and the intelligence community needs to adapt to meet that new environment,” Warner said.
The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., welcomed the announcement of the new China group.
“The threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party is real and growing,” Rubio said in a statement. “Every part of our government needs to reflect this great power contest in message, structure and action.”