News & Politics

DNI Ratcliffe: China Is 'The Greatest Threat to America Today'

Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe had a stark warning for America: China is preparing for “an open-ended period of confrontation with the U.S.” He referred to Beijing as “the greatest threat to America today” and to “democracy around the world.”

Ratcliffe’s warning appeared in the Wall Street Journal and contained the shocking allegation that dozens of members of Congress and their aides had been targeted in the last year in a massive Chinese influence campaign.

The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically. Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.

I call its approach of economic espionage “rob, replicate and replace.” China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace.

The days of China flying below the radar and being taken lightly are over. They have a massive cyberwarfare operation (PLA Unit 61398) and dozens of companies that do nothing except hack American technology corporations and make off with proprietary information. They are robbing us blind and there’s little we can do to stop them short of going to war.

But it is in more subtle attacks where China is the biggest threat. And their influence campaign targeting Congress is a good example. Ratcliffe offers one scenario.

Consider this scenario: A Chinese-owned manufacturing facility in the U.S. employs several thousand Americans. One day, the plant’s union leader is approached by a representative of the Chinese firm. The businessman explains that the local congresswoman is taking a hard-line position on legislation that runs counter to Beijing’s interests—even though it has nothing to do with the industry the company is involved in—and says the union leader must urge her to shift positions or the plant and all its jobs will soon be gone.

The union leader contacts his congresswoman and indicates that his members won’t support her re-election without a change in position. 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.

Ratcliffe points out that “China is targeting members of Congress with six times the frequency of Russia and 12 times the frequency of Iran.”

Does this make China an “enemy”? China has been very careful not to make the struggle between the U.S. and Beijing an ideological contest. They are not obviously seeking to expand communism in Asia. But they have taken to heart the adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” They have cozied up to Iran in the Middle East and Venezuela in Latin America, seeking influence and the opportunity to tweak America’s tail.

America is not helpless in any of this. What’s needed is someone with the will in the White House to fight back. But it appears that Joe Biden will bend over backward to appease China. He certainly hasn’t been very antagonistic to China, despite these attacks on American sovereignty and the economy.

The Chinese threat will continue to grow unless we can take concerted action to check them on the world stage.