Director of National Intelligence Nominee Rep. John Ratcliffe: China Is the Biggest Threat Actor

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, right, is sworn in by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., standing left, before a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May. 5, 2020. The panel is considering Ratcliffe's nomination for director of national intelligence. (Gabriella Demczuk/The New York …
Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times via AP

President Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said during his confirmation hearing Tuesday that he views China as the greatest threat actor to the United States.

“I view China as the greatest threat actor right now. I mean, look at where we are with respect to COVID-19 and the role that China plays, the race to 5G, cyber security issues — all roads lead to China,” Ratcliffe told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He cited several Chinese government initiatives aimed at supplanting the U.S. as the world’s superpower:

When you look at the initiatives that they have, the Belt and Road, the Made in China 2025…the military-civil fusion initiative where they literally want, by law, Chinese companies to collect intelligence — these are all spokes of the same initiative, and that is for China to supplant us as the world’s superpower.

These initiatives are aimed at setting new standards around the world, he said.

He explained that with Made in China 2025, Chinese companies seek to dominate industries across ten different sectors by 2025. With the military-civil fusion, Chinese companies would collect and share proprietary information with the Chinese Communist Party. With Belt and Road, China is trying to dominate hubs for trade routes and telecommunications.

“All of these things are China trying to essentially supplant free marketplace standards and values like liberty and free speech and all the things that we have with authoritarian values,” he said.

“We very clearly don’t want an authoritarian regime like the Chinese Communist Party’s setting standards in the world marketplace,” he said.

Ratcliffe pledged that if confirmed, he would seek to commit more of the intelligence community (IC)’s resources to the threat.

“From the race to 5G to preventing cyber espionage, we need to make sure we are not just observing the growing threat from a distance. We must ensure we have the resources and skills to counter this threat, and that we are actively working to do so,” he said.

He also said the IC must understand the geopolitical and economic impacts of the coronavirus, as well as China’s role in the spread of it.

Several Republican senators expressed concern over China’s efforts to dominate 5G technology that is expected to revolutionalize digital communications and everyday life.

Ratcliffe, who sits on the intelligence and judiciary committees, said the IC needs to work harder with the American private sector and take advantage of technological expertise. He said:

We have the best intelligence enterprise in the world to continue for that to be the case we have got to continue to innovate and we have got to be first, we have got to be first and best on cyber issues, on [artificial intelligence], and ultimately on quantum.

But 5G is where we are with regard to that issue now and it is the pathway to being first in those areas and so again it is something that is vitally important and that is my perspective.

Ratcliffe said with Chinese firms like Huawei, it is hard to tell where the Chinese Communist Party stops and starts, and explained why that is a risk to the U.S.:

If Huawei has an obligation to share information under Chinese law with the Chinese Communist Party, and they are creating global networks, and our information is going over those lines, and our allies that we are sharing information with, that’s jeopardizing our information, that’s jeopardizing our troops. All of these things are basically put at risk with respect to that.

Ratcliffe said one of the things he is most concerned about is China’s investment towards quantum computing.

“If China gets to quantum first, we are in trouble,” he said.

“And so that, for me, is one of the [areas] — when we look at investments and looking forward in the challenges that we face in the fact that China is investing more towards those technologies than the United States presently — we need to rebalance,” he said.

 

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