CIA launches new center focused on China

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The CIA is launching a new mission center to address threats posed by China, the latest evidence of the Biden administration’s focus on Beijing as its main foreign policy priority.

CIA Director William Burns said in a statement that the new unit, formally dubbed the China Mission Center, will cut across all corners of the agency and “further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government.”

Burns, who recently informed the CIA workforce of the plans, said that the agency will still focus on other threats, including terrorism and those emanating from Russia, North Korea and Iran.

Still, the formation of the new center is the latest action the Biden administration has taken to direct resources toward countering China, which President Biden has described as a top national security threat. 

The CIA also said that it is creating a new position of chief technology officer and a Transnational and Technology Mission Center to focus on emerging technologies, economic security, climate change and global health. The agency also plans to change its hiring process to reduce the time it takes for applications to join the agency, in a bid to make it more competitive. This includes launching a technology fellows program that will bring experts to the agency for between one and two years. 

CIA Deputy Director David Cohen will oversee the changes to the agency’s organizational structure, the statement said. 

In defending his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan over the summer, Biden spoke of the need to refocus resources on addressing threats from China and Russia and to shore up U.S. competitiveness “to meet these new challenges in the competition for the 21st century.” 

“There’s nothing China or Russia would rather have, would want more in this competition than the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan,” Biden said in an August speech following the completion of the withdrawal. 

News of the mission center comes as U.S. officials are tentatively planning for Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet virtually before the end of the year. National security adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, reached an agreement in principle for Biden and Xi to hold a virtual bilateral meeting after a lengthy discussion in Switzerland on Wednesday, a senior administration official said.

The Biden administration has raised concerns recently about China’s military aggression near Taiwan and called on Beijing to halt its behavior. China has flown dozens of warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in recent days.

During the meeting with Yang, Sullivan raised concerns about China’s activity as it relates to Taiwan, human rights abuses and the South China Sea, according to a White House readout.

Tags China-US relations CIA Intelligence Jake Sullivan Joe Biden William Burns

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