CIA steps up spying contest with China with new unit

·2-min read
The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (AFP/SAUL LOEB)

The US Central Intelligence Agency announced Thursday a new China-focused unit that underscored its view of Beijing as the country's toughest long-term adversary.

CIA Director William Burns said in a statement that the new China Mission Center will address the challenge China poses to all of the US spy agency's mission areas.

"CMC will further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government," Burns said.

The announcement parallels the broader shift of the administration of President Joe Biden to confronting China as its leading "strategic competitor."

In June Biden announced a new task force at the Pentagon to assess and respond to Beijing's military challenge.

Burns' announcement came after the CIA and FBI have unearthed dozens of cases of China recruiting US citizens to supply it classified or corporate proprietary information, and using Chinese citizens working in the United States as intelligence collectors as well.

It also comes as US intelligence sees their Chinese rivals making use of their strength in the global electronics market and in hacking to penetrate US government and private computer networks.

Underscoring the challenge from Beijing as well as other rivals like Pakistan, the CIA recently sent a memo to its arms around the world admitting that it had lost dozens of its own covert informants in other countries, some captured or killed, according to the New York Times and Washington Post.

“Throughout our history, CIA has stepped up to meet whatever challenges come our way…. And now facing our toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry, CIA will be at the forefront of this effort,” Burns said.

Burns, a veteran diplomat who became CIA director in March, also announced a new position, CIA chief technology officer, and a new Transnational and Technology Mission Center.

The center will address global issues critical to US competitiveness, the statement said, such as emerging technologies, economic security, climate change and health challenges.

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