CIA launches new center focused on threats from China

US names CIA official Jeffrey Wichman to counter election threats

The CIA is establishing a new mission center to address Chinese threats, the latest sign of the Biden administration’s emphasis on Beijing as its top foreign policy priority, the Hill reported.

According to CIA Director William Burns, the new unit, formally dubbed the China Mission Center, will “further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the twenty-first century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government.”

Burns, who recently informed the CIA workforce of the plans, stated that the agency will continue to focus on other threats, such as terrorism and threats from Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

Nonetheless, the establishment of the new center is the latest step taken by the Biden administration to direct resources toward combating China, which President Biden has described as a top national security threat.

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

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

In defending his decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan over the summer, Biden cited the need to refocus resources on addressing Chinese and Russian threats, as well as to strengthen US competitiveness “to meet these new challenges in the competition for the twenty-first 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. 

Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet virtually

The announcement of the mission center comes as US officials are tentatively planning a meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping before the end of the year. After a lengthy discussion in Switzerland on Wednesday, 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, according to a senior administration official.

The Biden administration has recently expressed concern about China’s military aggression near Taiwan and has urged Beijing to stop. In recent days, China has flown dozens of warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

According to a White House readout, during his meeting with Yang, Sullivan expressed concern about China’s behavior in relation to Taiwan, human rights violations, and the South China Sea.

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