National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director Bill Evanina on Tuesday said that one of the incoming administration’s “bigger challenges” will be dealing with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“From a threat perspective, Russia is a significant adversary particularly with regard to cyber intrusions, malign influence, and sowing discord in our democracy,” Evanina told Fox News. “However, no country poses a broader, more severe intelligence collection threat to America than China.”
Evanina, who has spent decades working in intelligence agencies, said that malign foreign influence has been intensifying in recent years.
“Specifically, in the last year, with respect to the death of George Floyd, COVID, the vaccine, the election process—we saw foreign adversaries, including China, working diligently to expose and amplify discourse in the U.S.,” he said, noting that the CCP is using an increased social media presence to “stoke the fire” and create discord in the United States.
“China continues to engage in a highly sophisticated malign foreign influence campaign against America because we are a democracy, and democracy is bad for China,” Evanina remarked, adding that “bribery, blackmail, covert dealings with businesses, and an effort to influence American policies and attitudes so that they align with China’s interests globally.”
While he did not mention any official, Axios last year reported that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.)—who sits on the House Intelligence Committee—was in a close relationship with a known Chinese spy. Swalwell has issued few public remarks on the reports, although he said that federal law enforcement briefed him and others on the matter years ago.
“This is not only just a government problem,” Evanina warned. “This is a society problem.”
Evanina said that Americans need to figure out what malign foreign influence “tastes like, smells like, looks like, so when they see it, they can call it out.”
“This will take a whole of society approach, invoking the government, the intelligence community, law enforcement, social media, big tech companies, to be able to say what this is,” he said.
Evanina said that the CCP’s foreign influence has focused more and more on elected officials at the local, state, and federal level. They have targeted both anti-China and pro-China officials, he told Fox.
“I think the challenge for the Biden administration will be to understand the scope and scale of some of the Chinese threats in the American landscape, domestically, and what is the best course to defeat that,” Evanina said. “I have confidence they’ll be able to do that when they get in here, because there are scores of professional intelligence officers and law enforcement folks that are working around the world that will help them to find solutions.”
In mid-2020, Evanina released a report saying that China, Iran, and Russia were working to undermine the Nov. 3 election, placing the CCP at the top of the list of threats.
And meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, several days ago, said the CCP interfered in the 2020 federal elections, according to a letter that was sent to Congress. Ratcliffe on Dec. 3 echoed Evanina’s remarks, saying the CCP poses the “greatest threat” to the United States.
“Based on all available sources of intelligence, with definitions consistently applied, and reached independent of political considerations or undue pressure—that the People’s Republic of China sought to influence the 2020 U.S. federal elections,” Ratcliffe wrote.