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Nation's Spy Chief Just Unloaded on China

DNI John Ratcliffe calls Beijing the greatest threat to democracy since World War II
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2020 1:47 PM CST

(Newser) – The nation's top intelligence official just unloaded on China in unusual fashion. "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," writes director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Beijing's leaders, he asserts, aim to dominate the US and the rest of the world on everything from the military to the economy to technology, and they are "preparing for an open-ended period of confrontation with the US." China, he adds, "should be America’s primary national security focus going forward."

  • Rarity: It is "exceedingly rare for the head of the US intelligence community to make public accusations about a rival power," writes Mike Allen at Axios. Such assessments are typically made to the president and lawmakers behind closed doors.
  • Why? It's seen as part of a push by the Trump administration to ramp up the case against China before President Trump leaves office. As Bloomberg puts it, the administration wants to "lock in its policies and posture toward China" and make it more difficult for Joe Biden to unwind them. The Hill notes that US-China relations have soured on a number of fronts, including over COVID, trade, and the South China Sea.

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  • What Biden says: In an interview with the New York Times, Biden says he has no plans to immediately loosen tariffs put into place by Trump. First, he wants to consult with other nations. “The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our—or at least what used to be our—allies on the same page,” he says. "It’s going to be a major priority for me in the opening weeks of my presidency."
  • No leverage: Biden also told the Times that dealing with China requires leverage, and "in my view, we don't have it yet." He says his goal will "be to pursue trade policies that actually produce progress on China’s abusive practices—that’s stealing intellectual property, dumping products, illegal subsidies to corporations," etc.
  • Assessment: Biden's comments suggest that he "is focused on picking his spots with Beijing, shoring up alliances and US national power first, rather than rushing to accommodate a Chinese government that seems to think the burden for detente lies entirely with Washington," writes David Wertime at Politico. "Friends and allies concerned about a US over-correction on China must be feeling some relief."
  • Businesses: Trump also is poised to sign legislation that would effectively bar Chinese companies from trading on US stock exchanges, reports CNN. The measure blocks companies who refuse to open their books to American regulators, and while it applies to all nations, "the focus on China is obvious," writes Jill Disis at CNN.
(Read more US-China relations stories.)

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