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China First.. Why Did the Ukraine War Not Change the Priority of US Intelligence?

Washington – More than a year after the Russian war in Ukraine, which caused a state of strategic instability in Europe, threatening Washington’s historical interests with its NATO partners, despite the fact that the CIA (CIA) believes that the Chinese threat remains its top priority.

The war in Ukraine and the increase in threats emanating from Moscow did not change the focus of the American intelligence community on China, its rise and its threats.

The two main parties, Republican and Democratic, do not meet on common goals at the present time except to agree on the need to confront China, and to provide all the necessary resources for that.

Despite their strained relationship, the volume of trade exchange between the two countries amounted to $691 billion in 2022, of which $537 billion were Chinese exports, compared to $154 billion in US exports.

However, the two countries could fall into the trap of sliding into a war they do not want to fight due to miscalculations in Beijing or Washington, or their suspicion of the other side’s response to military provocations in disputed areas, such as the South China Sea or outright aggression against Taiwan, which is what intelligence claims. American work to avoid it.

An intelligence center to monitor China

In October 2021, CIA Director William Burns announced the creation of a unit specialized in China issues known as “CMC”, explaining that the unit “aims to strengthen the agency’s collective action on the most important geopolitical threat facing America in the century.” The 21st, that is, an increasingly hostile Chinese government.”

This is the first time in the history of the agency that a specialized unit has been established for one country, as the agency follows the system of geographical division of the regions of the world along the lines of East Asia or the Middle East, and this system did not change even at the height of the Cold War against the former Soviet Union. The exception with regard to China reflects growing concern in Washington about the consequences of Beijing’s rise and the increasing possibilities of future confrontation between them.

Burns gives priority to the agency’s work related to China, creating a new team across several agency departments, and leading a recruitment drive for Chinese speakers and a number of its local dialects, as well as experts in Chinese affairs in general. Burns still attends a weekly meeting with the new China unit.

This prompted the CIA director to become the spearhead of the US national security team concerned with confronting China, and it was up to him to talk about developments regarding Chinese threats.

Coping mechanisms

US intelligence focuses its efforts on China through several mechanisms, foremost of which is the “Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance” consisting of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

Since President Joe Biden came to power two years ago, the “Quad” alliance with Japan, India and Australia, and the “AUKUS” triple alliance with Britain and Australia, have been activated, all of which aim to contain the risks of China’s rise.

The CIA described China as a “major competitor,” but emphasized that “the threat comes from the Chinese government, not from its people.” The Biden administration placed China at the center of its foreign policy agenda, and the US national security strategy revealed that the United States and China are in a “competition to win.” in the 21st century.”

At the same time, US-Chinese relations reached their lowest level in decades, following Washington’s downing of the Chinese spy balloon on the one hand, and on the other hand, US intelligence published its estimates of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s intention to visit Moscow and meet President Vladimir Putin soon.

Chinese behaviour

In recent television appearances, Burns has mentioned that China has doubts about its ability to invade Taiwan, but Burns said it is still important to take the threat to the island seriously.

Burns adds that the Chinese leadership “was shocked by the fierce Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, and by the economic price that Russia is paying,” and it seems likely that President Putin’s setbacks during the invasion of Ukraine affected Beijing’s calculations.

Burns also mentioned previously that the Chinese president has instructed the military leaders to be ready by 2027 to invade Taiwan, but this does not mean that he decided to invade in 2027 or any other year as well.

China’s image in the West was damaged

The CIA director believes that China feels the need to repair its badly damaged image in the West – especially with major trading partners in Europe – by showing its efforts to induce Moscow to reach a political settlement to the war. Recently, Chinese efforts have focused on informing Western capitals that Beijing stands firmly against the use of nuclear weapons by Russia.

However, the revelations by US intelligence that Beijing was considering supplying arms to Moscow caused a Western campaign against any future Chinese step in this direction. And the pillars of the Biden administration talked about the possibility of declassifying some of the intelligence that helped them reach these conclusions, so that they could share it with allied governments and global public opinion.

And Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen stated that any Chinese decision to provide weapons to Russia will prompt the imposition of Western sanctions on Chinese government officials, various companies and banks. Blinken attacked Beijing for not condemning the Russian invasion even a year after its occurrence, saying, “On the one hand, it is trying to present itself publicly as neutral and seeking peace, and on the other hand, it is repeating at the same time Russia’s false narrative of war.”

On the other hand, China criticizes America and its Western allies for providing huge arms shipments to Ukraine, and denies any plans to send weapons to Russia.

Chinese view of the world

US intelligence believes that China shares Russia’s desire to see a world run not on the basis of what Washington calls “universal values”, but on the basis of the security interests of major powers. Despite the absence of Chinese military support for Russia, China believes that the Russian invasion reinforces this shared worldview.

US intelligence estimates say that China does not want Putin to pay any price for his invasion, lest it reaffirm the importance of the rules-based order it seeks to break.

Finally, neither Washington nor Beijing seeks a military conflict with the other, the consequences of which would undoubtedly be disastrous for the whole world.

Source: Al Jazeera