WASHINGTON — China’s Communist government is waging a covert operation to influence members of Congress into supporting pro-Beijing policies, the Director of National Intelligence said Thursday.
In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, DNI boss John Ratcliffe warned that officials in China were engaged in a “massive influence campaign” which targeted US lawmakers with six times the frequency of Russia and 12 times that of Iran.
“This year China engaged in a massive influence campaign that included targeting several dozen members of Congress and congressional aides,” Ratcliffe wrote.
The intelligence chief warned of a scenario where Chinese-owned manufacturing facilities employing thousands of Americans could influence union chiefs to turn against lawmakers supporting disadvantageous policies — or risk losing their jobs.
“The union leader contacts his congresswoman and indicates that his members won’t support her re-election without a change in position. He tells himself he’s protecting his members, but in that moment he’s doing China’s bidding, and the congresswoman is being influenced by China, whether she realizes it or not,” Ratcliffe wrote.
“Our intelligence shows that Beijing regularly directs this type of influence operation in the U.S,” he went on. “To address these threats and more, I have shifted resources inside the $85 billion annual intelligence budget to increase the focus on China.”
The warnings came as part of a stark op-ed which described the Communist nation as the biggest national security threat to the United States.
Ratcliffe said Beijing was preparing “for an open-ended period of confrontation with the U.S. Washington should also be prepared.”
In response, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called the comments “ludicrous,” adding that, “in the eyes of some Americans, there is only hatred, division and confrontation.”
Relations between the two countries have reached a frostiness not seen in decades after the Trump administration blamed China for the raging coronavirus pandemic and vowed to hold Beijing responsible.
According to various reports, Trump is eyeing a crackdown on China before he vacates the Oval Office on Jan. 20, making it difficult for successor Joe Biden to undo the hardline approach.