Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe argued on Monday that the Biden administration’s approach to the Chinese government is flawed because it is “inconsistent” with what intelligence demands.
After the Trump administration embraced a national security strategy of ramping up pressure on the Chinese Communist Party, Ratcliffe, fresh out of government, critiqued White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying President Biden will take a patient, rather than active, stance by forming an interagency review process and reaching out to Republicans, Democrats, and global allies about its China strategy.
“I can just tell you that what Jen Psaki said is entirely inconsistent with what the intelligence shows. The intelligence doesn’t say we should have patience with respect to China, it says we should act with respect to China,” Ratcliffe said on Fox News. “The policies that were based on that intelligence in the Trump administration should be followed. I increased our spending on China from an intelligence collection standpoint in the intelligence community budget by 20% — that ought to increase even more going forward, and what I’m hearing are signs that maybe we will back off and we want better relations with China, and the path of appeasement is the road to nowhere when it comes to China.”
During a press briefing Monday, Psaki was asked whether Biden would rescind a Trump order that forced the delisting of Chinese military-linked companies from U.S. stock exchanges. She said that “interagency reviews” were just starting and would look at “a range of regulatory actions and a range of relationships with companies as it relates to Chinese investment and other issues. The State Department and Treasury Departments will also weigh in, the spokeswoman said.
“We’re starting from an approach of patience as it relates to our relationship with China, so that means we’re going to have consultations with our allies, we’re going to have consultations with Democrats and Republicans, and we’re going to allow the interagency process to work its way through to review and assess how we should move forward with our relationship,” Psaki said.
Ratcliffe was replaced as spy chief by Avril Haines, who stressed during her confirmation hearing that China “is a challenge to our security, to our prosperity, to our values.”
Trump signed an executive order in November arguing the Chinese government “increases the size of the country’s military-industrial complex by compelling civilian Chinese companies to support its military and intelligence activities.” The former president prohibited transactions involving securities linked to a set of Chinese military companies, and in early January, the New York Stock Exchange announced it would remove a trio of Chinese state-run companies — China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom.
“Strategic competition with China is a defining feature of the 21st century. China is engaged in conduct that it hurts American workers, blunts our technological edge, and threatens our alliances and our influence in international organizations,” Psaki told reporters on Monday, adding that “Beijing is now challenging our security, prosperity, and values in significant ways that require a new U.S. approach.”
“We want to approach this with some strategic patience, and we want to conduct reviews internally, through our interagency… We wanted to engage more with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to discuss the path forward. And most importantly, we want to discuss this with our allies,” she added.
“As is the case with other areas of our relationship with China, he will take a multilateral approach to engaging with China, and that includes evaluating the tariffs currently in place,” Psaki said, adding that “the president is committed to stopping China’s economic abuses on many fronts, and the most effective way to do that is through working in concert with our allies and partners.”
In addition, Psaki was asked about Biden’s stance on TikTok following a months-long failed effort by Trump to ban the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, but said she hadn’t had a chance to speak with the national security team about it yet.
When pressed on whether Biden planned to reverse the Trump administration’s restrictions on Huawei, including its placement on the designated entities list, Psaki didn’t answer directly.
“Well, technology, as I just noted, is, of course, at the center of the U.S.-China competition. China has been willing to do whatever it takes to gain a technological advantage — stealing intellectual property, engaging in industrial espionage, and forcing technology transfer. Our view — the president’s view — is we need to play a better defense, which must include holding China accountable for its unfair and illegal practices and making sure that American technologies aren’t facilitating China’s military buildup,” Psaki said. “So he’s firmly committed to making sure that Chinese companies cannot misappropriate and misuse American data. And we need a comprehensive strategy … and a more systematic approach that actually addresses the full range of these issues.”
The Trump administration engaged in an all-out effort to limit Huawei’s global reach, viewing Huawei technology as a national security threat. The Justice Department unveiled a superseding indictment against Huawei last February charging it with racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets worldwide. Last summer, the Defense Department also released a list of companies operating in the United States that the Pentagon believes are tied to the Chinese military — including Huawei.
When asked when the Biden administration’s comprehensive strategy on China might be forthcoming, Psaki replied: “I don’t have any preview for you on when we will have more specifics on our strategy. I’ve tried to convey overarching — the President’s overarching approach … There are a number of calls that will happen over the coming weeks with key partners and allies — I’m sure this will be a topic of discussion — as well as Democrats and Republicans on the Hill, and we’re going to approach it with patience.”
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