CIA creates new unit to focus on ‘key rival’ China, calling it the ‘most important geopolitical threat we face’

CIA Director William Burns
CIA Director William Burns. Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP
  • The CIA created a new unit to focus on China, calling it a “key rival.”
  • CIA Dir. William Burns said China is the “most important geopolitical threat” the US faces.
  • The Biden admin. has made countering China the centerpiece of its foreign policy agenda.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The CIA on Thursday announced it’s established a new China Mission Center, in yet another sign of the Biden administration’s heavy focus on countering Beijing and its expanding influence across the globe.

CIA Director William Burns in a statement said the unit will “further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government.”

The CIA said the mission center is designed to “address the global challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China that cuts across all of the Agency’s mission areas.”

The intelligence agency described China as a “key rival,” but underscored that “the threat is from the Chinese government, not its people.” Burns also emphasized that the CIA will continue to “focus sharply” on other “important threats” such as Russia, Iran, North Korea, and terrorism.

Additionally, the CIA said it’s setting up a Transnational and Technology Mission Center to “address global issues critical to US competitiveness – including new and emerging technologies, economic security, climate change, and global health.”

The Biden administration has placed China at the center of its foreign policy agenda. President Joe Biden in a speech earlier this year said the US and China are in a “competition” to “win the 21st century.”

China has accused the US of employing a “Cold War mentality,” essentially alleging that Washington is vying to turn Beijing into a boogeyman.

Relations between the US and China hit a low point under President Donald Trump, who increased tensions via a trade war and by blaming the COVID-19 pandemic on Beijing. Biden has not strayed far from his predecessor when it comes to China. The Biden administration, for example, has maintained Trump era tariffs against China.

“For too long, China’s lack of adherence to global trading norms has undercut the prosperity of Americans and others around the world,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. “To be successful, we must be direct and honest about the challenges we face and the grave risk from leaving them unaddressed.”