Senior CIA Official: China Threatens US Interests ‘Far More Significantly By Any Extreme’ Than The Russians

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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A senior CIA official warned of the dangers of China’s rise Friday, stressing that Beijing is determined to see China replace the U.S. as the world superpower.

Arguing that China is fundamentally waging a “cold war” against the U.S., Deputy Assistant Director for the CIA’s East Asia Mission Center Michael Collins indirectly described China as a “country that exploits all avenues of power — licit and illicit, public and private, economic and military — to undermine the standing of [its] rival relative to [its] own standing without resorting to conflict.”

“At the end of the day, they want every country around the world, when it’s deciding its interests on policy issues, to first and foremost side with China and not the United States, because the Chinese are increasingly defining a conflict with the United States and what we stand behind as a systems conflict,” he argued at the Aspen Security Forum.

Emphasizing that China represents the greatest challenge to American interests, he stressed that Chinese ambitions set “up a competition with us and what we stand behind far more significantly by any extreme than what the Russians could put forward.”

His statements echo those of FBI Director Christopher Wray, who spoke at the Aspen Security Forum a few days earlier.

While he acknowledged the seriousness of the threat from Russia, which he called “the most aggressive actor” in its efforts to influence “public opinion, our politicians, our business community,” Wray said that China is “the most significant threat we face as a country.” (RELATED: FBI Director: Chinese Espionage ‘Most Significant’ Spy Threat Facing US)

China is “trying to position itself as the sole dominant superpower. They’re trying to replace the United States in that role,” he explained, “I think China from a counterintelligence perspective represents in many ways represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country.”

Through China’s Belt and Road initiative, Made in China 2025 plan, militarization of the South China Sea, aggressive trade practices, and extensive espionage operations, among others, Beijing appears to be advancing its interests at the expense of others, the U.S. in particular, to achieve dominance in its sphere of influence and beyond.

Before leaving his position as head of what is now U.S. Indo-Pacific Command to become the ambassador to South Korea, Adm. Harry Harris warned that China, not Russia or any other country, stands as the greatest long-term threat to American interests.

“North Korea remains our most imminent threat and a nuclear-capable North Korea with missiles that can reach the United States is unacceptable,” he said in late May. “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia.”

The Chinese foreign ministry responded by accusing the U.S. of being “obsessed with hegemony.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounded the alarms last year, when he was still serving as the head of the CIA, about the threat posed by Beijing.

“I think China has the capacity to present the greatest rivalry to America of any of those over the medium and long term,” he said, “If you look at them, they are probably trying either to steal our stuff, or make sure they can defeat it.” (RELATED: CIA Director Identifies China As Greatest Long-Term Security Threat)

He added that in many cases, it’s both.

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