Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said he regards Communist China as the No. 1 national security threat facing the United States.
“If I could communicate one thing to the American people from this unique vantage point, it is that the People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide since World War II,” Mr. Ratcliffe stated in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal published Thursday.
Mr. Ratcliffe, a former Texas Republican congressman who has been DNI since May, said he based that assessment on his access to “more intelligence than any member of the U.S. government other than the president.”
The director, whose post was created in the aftermath of the intelligence failures related to the September 11 attacks, oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and produces the President’s Daily Brief, an all-source intelligence report outlining threats facing the country.
“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies oﬀer only a layer of camouﬂage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The comments by the DNI reflect the new tough American policy toward China taken during the Trump administration. Under Mr. Trump, the U.S. government has taken steps to stamp out large-scale technology theft and spying operations by Beijing.
Sanctions have also been imposed on Beijing for human rights abuses in places like Xinjian, where over 1 million ethnic Uighurs have been imprisoned, and Hong Kong, where critics say China has violated its promise to permit the democratic system first set up under British rule to continue.
Mr. Ratcliffe described China’s economic espionage as “rob, replicate and replace.” A 2017 White House report on Chinese “economic aggression” estimates that China’s technology theft amounted to between $250 billion and $600 billion annually.
“China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the U.S. ﬁrms in the global marketplace,” the DNI stated.
One example is the 2018 case of China’s Sinovel, that was found guilty of stealing trade secrets related to wind-turbine technology from American Superconductor. The theft cost the American company an estimated $1 billion in lost revenue and led to the loss of 700 jobs.
Sinovel is now selling wind turbines world-wide based on the stolen technology, Mr. Ratcliffe said.
The DNI also noted the recent FBI arrest of the chairman of the Harvard Chemistry Department, Charles Lieber, Jr. who was paid 50,000 a month as part of a Chinese scheme to attract American scientists and reward them for stealing information.
Mr. Lieber has pleaded not guilty to making false statements in the case.
Mr. Ratcliffe charged that China is also engaged in the theft of defense technology as part of President Xi Jinping’s to make his country the world’s leading military power.
“U.S. intelligence shows that China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities,” he said. “There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power.”
In a bid to obtain advanced technologies, Chinese intelligence are using their access to firms like the telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies, for malicious activities, “including the introduction of vulnerabilities into software and equipment,” he said.
“Huawei and other Chinese ﬁrms deny this, but China’s eﬀorts to dominate 5G telecommunications will only increase Beijing’s opportunities to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten user privacy world-wide,” Mr. Ratcliffe said.
The use of Chinese-linked technology will several restrict the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to share information with allies.
China’s rulers also are suppressing U.S. Internet content that is perceived as undermining Chinese Communist Party rule and building up offensive cyber warfare and cyber espionage capabilities for use against the United States, he said.
On the information warfare front, Mr. Ratcliffe said China this year conducted a “massive inﬂuence campaign” targeting several dozen members of Congress and congressional aides.
He did not elaborate on the campaign but suggested it involved Chinese-owned manufacturing plants pressuring union leaders to lobby against legislation opposed by Beijing. The Chinese threaten to coerce union leaders into doing China’s bidding or the plant and all jobs will be gone.
“The union leader contacts his congresswoman and indicates that his members won’t support her re-election without a change in position,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “He tells himself he’s protecting his members, but in that moment he’s doing China’s bidding, and the congresswoman is being inﬂuenced by China, whether she realizes it or not.”
To counter Chinese hostile operations against the United States, Mr. Ratcliffe said that more funding from within the $85 billion a year intelligence budget to meet the threat.
“This shift must continue to ensure U.S. intelligence has the resources it needs to give policy makers unvarnished insights into China’s intentions and activities,” he stated.
Mr. Ratcliffe said that inside U.S. intelligence agencies “a healthy debate and shift in thinking” is underway.
Older analysts and operations officers were steeped in a Cold War focus on first the Soviet Union and then Russia. Later, the focus shifted to counterterrorism.
“But today we must look with clear eyes at the facts in front of us, which make plain that China should be America’s primary national security focus going forward,” he said.
A new Cold War involves a struggle between two incompatible ideologies, he said. China is preparing for a long-term confrontation with the United States and Washington must respond.
“This is our once-in-a-generation challenge,” Mr. Ratcliffe said.