Veteran national security officials warned a key Senate panel Wednesday that the Chinese Communist Party has gained alarming influence over the U.S. private sector.
Bill Evanina, former director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said the CCP has begun a “comprehensive, whole of government” effort to infiltrate and influence the U.S., through its United Front Work Department.
“The holistic and comprehensive threat to the United States, posed by the Communist Party of China is an existential threat. And it is the most complex, pernicious, aggressive, and strategic threat our nation has ever faced,” he told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“I proffer that the U.S private sector has become the geopolitical battlespace for China as a baseline for this comprehensive and nefarious behavior,” Mr. Evanina said.
The remarks came during a rare open hearing by the Senate intelligence panel, which was focused on CCP threats to national security. The meeting was as a bipartisan consensus is growing on opposing China’s growing influence.
In June, the Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act aimed at bolstering the U.S.’s ability to compete with China. A similar measure passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July.
But Matt Pottinger, a former deputy national security advisor, warned that this consensus hasn’t fully grasped how China uses the U.S. private sector.
“But even with this new consensus, we fail to adequately appreciate one of the most threatening elements of Chinese strategy, and that is the way that it seeks to influence and coerce Americans, including political, business, and scientific leaders in the service of Beijing’s ambitions,” he said.
Mr. Pottinger said the CCP has succeeded in penetrating digital networks through 5G networks and other means, giving the party unprecedented access to information on private citizens around the world.
“So the Party now compiles dossiers on millions of foreign citizens around the world using the materials that it gathers to influence and target, intimidate, reward, blackmail, flatter and humiliate, and ultimately divide and conquer,” he said.
“Beijing has stolen sensitive data, sufficient enough to build dossiers on every single American adult and many of our children too, who are fair game under Beijing’s rules of political warfare,” he said.
Mr. Pottinger said the CCP’s influence has grown through the exploitation of social media, which he said they use to exacerbate social tension within the U.S.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the panel’s ranking Republican, said committee members have “a very unique insight into this horror show that’s playing out before our eyes.”
“The title of this hearing is ‘The Long Arm of China.’ The long arm of China is not some futuristic threat. It’s already here,” he said.