Chinese Regime Is ‘Greatest Adversary’ of US: Former Director of National Intelligence

Chinese Regime Is ‘Greatest Adversary’ of US: Former Director of National Intelligence
Then-Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) questions Intelligence Committee Minority Counsel Stephen Castor and Intelligence Committee Majority Counsel Daniel Goldman during the House impeachment inquiry hearings on Dec. 9, 2019. (Doug Mills/AFP via Getty Images)
Cathy He

The Chinese regime is the “greatest adversary” of the United States, having the capability to unseat it as a global hegemon, according to former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe.

“China is our greatest adversary in the sense of the only other nation-state that is capable of challenging, and even supplanting the U.S. as the world’s superpower economically, militarily, and technologically,” Ratcliffe, who served as DNI during the Trump administration, said during an April 19 event hosted by Washington-based think tank The Heritage Foundation. 

He described Beijing as both an adversary and competitor to the United States, noting that “they should be more of a competitor and less of an adversary, and it’s the other way around right now.”

His remarks come after the Office of the DNI last week released its annual threat assessment that described the Chinese communist regime’s push for global power as the leading threat to U.S. national security. DNI Avril Haines, at a Senate hearing a day later, said Beijing is on its way to becoming a “near-peer competitor” for the United States and represents an “unparalleled priority” for the country’s intelligence community.
Haines and other senior Biden officials have cast the Chinese regime as an adversary in some areas. But on the whole, the administration has framed the relationship in terms of “extreme competition” and has expressed willingness to cooperate with the regime on issues including climate change. President Joe Biden previously described the regime as the United States’ “most serious competitor.”
As DNI, Ratcliffe took the unusual step of writing an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last December highlighting the seriousness of the threat posed by communist China, calling it a “once-in-a-generation challenge.”

He wrote the piece in the hopes of clearing up the question of which country poses the No. 1 threat to the United States. As DNI, Ratcliffe was able to look at all the intelligence collected across U.S. agencies, and “it was so clear that China, and China alone, presented the greatest national security threat,” Ratcliffe said at the event. “That wasn’t something that I had seen as a member of Congress,” he said, referring to his time as a representative for Texas immediately before taking the position of DNI.

“What worries me most about China now is that they’ve got a lot of momentum,” he said. “They didn’t just become our No. 1 adversary overnight.”

Beijing’s aggressive efforts to advance cutting-edge technology are of particular concern to Ratcliffe.

“China’s investment in things like artificial intelligence and machine learning and biometrics ... are a way that they know they can close the gap with the United States even faster,” he said.

The U.S. administration should continue to recognize the regime as the top threat, so the United States can “counter them in a productive way that we really should have been for the last few years, not just starting now.”

Officials when discussing the issue should set aside political narratives and be “honest about the intelligence,” he said.

“The intelligence is clear ... so we must be clear as we talk about it, when we talk about China,” he said. “I think that’s what’s been missing.”

Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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