NEW YORK—China leads the world in deploying advanced technology to muffle dissent, according to the top U.S. intelligence official.
“They are, in our view, the lead actor in essentially engaging in digital repression,” Avril Haines, who heads the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said at the annual Concordia Summit in New York on Sept. 19, in what marks the latest warning from the U.S. intelligence sector about threats from China.
“They have just a vast apparatus that they use” in carrying out such activities, she said. She cited the regime’s global campaign to repatriate dissidents through what’s known as Operation Fox Hunt, which, according to Chinese authorities’ data, has since 2014 captured about 10,000 Chinese nationals that the regime had accused of corruption.
Many of them, Ms. Haines noted, happen to also be dissidents and individuals who express political opposition.
“The thing that that I've noticed is that when you're looking at the Chinese model for this, as opposed to, for example, the Russian model or Iran model, with China, they're really first in class, in the sense, at the technology piece of it,” Ms. Haines said.
Beijing has “gotten very good at censoring effectively the information that you get to individuals within China” and “building the structure that allows them to control that information,” she said. The increasing integration of digital appliances through the internet of things also creates data about personal activities, which “can be collected, and ultimately surveilled and monitored.”
“China is really exceptional” in engaging in such effort, according to Ms. Haines.
Her remarks came at the heels of FBI Director Christopher Wray's warning that U.S. intelligence agents are “vastly outnumbered on the ground” when compared to China.
Ms. Haines has been outspoken about the Beijing regime’s increasing aggression worldwide and its willingness to achieve its ambitions at the expense of the United States.
In May, she told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively working to push its authoritarian model while “increasingly challenging the United States economically, technologically, politically, militarily, and from an intelligence standpoint around the world.”
An example that she raised was the three-day military drills around Taiwan that Beijing described as a “serious warning” after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) meeting with the island’s president, Tsai Ing-wen.
“China seeks to divide us from our allies and partners, and then frame U.S. actions as provocations that provide the basis for [pre-]planned aggression, which they then claim are just responses,” Ms. Haines said.
Such efforts from Beijing to reshape global governance and solidify its “monopoly of power” within China are increasingly a concern in Washington.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP, in July said that the regime is perfecting a techno-totalitarian mechanism for export globally.
"The techno-totalitarian regime that the CCP is perfecting in China will not stay there. It's a model increasingly they want to export around the world.”