|National Security The Big Story US intelligence chiefs: China ranks atop worldwide threatsChina’s power and ambitions for influence are bleeding into nearly every threat that U.S. intelligence agencies are tracking, the five directors of the most senior intelligence agencies told lawmakers on Wednesday.© APLeaders of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency presented an annual summary of global risks to Americans.
“In brief, the [Chinese Communist Party] represents both the leading and most consequential threat to U.S. national security and leadership globally,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in her opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee. “And its intelligence-specific ambitions and capabilities make it, for us, our most serious and consequential intelligence rival,” she added. Haines’s remarks are part of an intelligence community annual Worldwide Threat Assessment. The presentation of it allows the select group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the Senate and House to raise questions and concerns over assessments and priorities on work that is largely conducted in secret. Chinese President Xi Jinping lashed out at the U.S. in a major speech to lawmakers on Monday, accusing Washington of trying to contain Beijing. But the U.S. intelligence community says Xi is actually intent on managing mounting pressures. “Despite this more public and directly critical rhetoric, however, we assess that Beijing still believes it benefits most by preventing a spiraling of tensions and by preserving stability in its relationship with the United States,” Haines said. “He wants a period of relative calm to give China the time and stability it needs to address growing domestic difficulties,” the intelligence head continued, saying the Chinese economy is slowing down because of structural issues like “debt demographics, inequality, over reliance on investment and suppressed consumption.” Still, Xi’s ambitions include pressing for unification with Taiwan and undercutting U.S. influence, driving a wedge between Washington and its allies and partners.