Ratcliffe’s piece was just a recent warning from top administrative officials about China’s intentions, with some warning of possible military action in Asia and others alluding to unprecedented efforts to influence the incoming Biden administration.
The Trump administration also instructed China to close its consulate in Houston earlier this year on allegations that incumbent Chinese diplomats intimidated U.S. citizens and made espionage efforts. Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo described the Chinese Communist Party earlier this year as a “central threat of our time.”
Ratcliffe voiced more urgently on Thursday than in previous remarks, underlining the fact that he and other high-ranking national security officials in the Trump administration are seeking to get a nomination from China in the last working days.
“This generation will be judged by China’s efforts to transform the world into its own image and to replace America as a dominant superpower. Intelligence is clear. Our response must also match,” Ratcliffe wrote.
“Beijing is preparing for an open-ended confrontation with the United States. Washington must also be prepared. Leaders must work through party divisions to understand the threat, speak openly about it, and take action to address it,” he added.
One senior national security official told CNN that the operation was part of a broader administration-wide Chinese effort before President-elect Joe Biden took the oath.
This effort is motivated in part by the intention to make it harder for the Biden administration to unfold current policies, but also by the belief that these warnings about China will prove true in the future, the official said.
Tough with China, but not like Trump?
According to sources familiar with Biden’s foreign policy plans, the president-elect is aware of the challenge posed by Beijing, but believes Trump’s approach – especially acting without consulting the Allies – has undermined the ultimate goal of competing with China.
Leading Democrats in Congress have also called on members of the Biden team, including replacing Ratcliffe as a DNI, to take a tough stance against China, but take a different approach than the Trump administration.
“I urged the incoming Biden government to be tough on China, but in a much smarter, more multilateral way than the Trump government, so that U.S. workers don’t lag behind and so the U.S. plays a leading role in critical industries like semiconductors, quantum computing, and clean energy, ”said senior minority senator Chuck Schumer earlier this week after meeting Biden’s election, DNI, alongside Avril Haines.
Biden said there are areas where the U.S. has an interest in working with China, including on climate change and North Korea, but his advisers stress that he will work closely with allies to present a united front on issues such as technology. , including Huawei. and 5G, the theft of intellectual property and the expansion of China in Asian waters, and steps taken to overthrow democracy in Hong Kong.
It remains to be seen how Biden will deal with China, but recent warnings from Trump’s outgoing officials could increase the pressure on him to prioritize Beijing’s accountability, or at least make it harder to calculate certain issues.
Ratcliffe, for example, argued on Thursday that it was time to persuade the Allies to voluntarily join the United States in presenting the united front when it comes to 5G, suggesting that the situation demanded that the Trump government demand a stronger approach.
“China’s efforts to dominate 5G telecommunications will only increase Beijing’s ability to gather information, disrupt communications and endanger users’ privacy worldwide. I have personally told U.S. allies that the use of such Chinese-owned technology severely limits America’s ability to he shares vital intelligence with them, “he said.
“The world is facing a choice between two completely incompatible ideologies. China’s leaders are trying to subordinate the rights of the individual to the will of the Communist Party. They exercise government control over companies and authoritatively subvert the privacy and freedom of their citizens.”
Ratcliffe’s assertion that China is increasingly controlling U.S. lawmakers because it wants to influence U.S. policy from within may also hamper the Biden government’s prospects for diplomatic cooperation with Beijing in other areas.
Specifically, Ratcliffe said on Thursday that the Chinese government had “launched a massive campaign of influence last year, targeting dozens of members of Congress and congressional aides,” arguing that Beijing’s efforts were dwarfed by other foreign opponents and rivals, including Russia.
While the exact details of this influencing campaign remain top secret, a senior national security official told CNN that the Chinese government used various tactics, including attempts at bribery and extortion.
“Our intelligence shows that Beijing regularly directs this type of influential operation in the United States. I have informed House and Senate intelligence committees that China targets members of Congress six times Russia and 12 times Iran,” wrote Ratcliffe in Thursday’s op.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has also “redefined” its leverage efforts toward incoming Biden administrations and officials around them, the U.S. chief intelligence official said, Bill Evanina said Wednesday.
Evanina, director of the U.S. National Center for National Defense and Security, called the effort “diplomatic influence plus or against steroids,” saying a shift is expected.
“We’re starting to see that piece [out] not only to the people in the new administrator, but also to those close to the new (administration) people, “Evanina said during her conversation about China at the Aspen Cyber Summit. The goal is for these new in administration “know what it looks like, what it feels like when you see it.”
Growing tensions between Washington and Beijing
Other agencies in the Trump administration have also taken recent steps to escalate tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The State Department will introduce new restrictions on travel visas to the United States for members of the Chinese Communist Party, a State Department spokesman confirmed on Thursday.
Under the new rules, CCP members and their immediate family members will change their travel visas from 10 to one month and one entry.
The United States is also closely monitoring the recovery of Chinese military activity around Taiwan, which is another potential flashpoint that could pose problems for the Biden administration if it intensifies further.
“We are very attentive and ready for anything, including a serious miscalculation by the PRC,” a senior administrative official told CNN. – We’re definitely watching them.
“Sooner or later, they are willing to boil things over Taiwan than on Hong Kong and the Indian border. That’s coming,” the official added.
But at the same time, Biden and Harris can only watch from the sidelines without an oath and will inherit the loss of the action the Trump administration has been doing so far and between the day of the inauguration.
CNN’s Alex Marquardt, Jim Sciutto, Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler contributed to the report