CIA forming mission to counter China, 'the most important geopolitical threat we face'

CIA Director William Burns cites 'increasingly adversarial' Chinese government

Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns announced the formation of the China Mission Center to counter Beijing, while warning the "increasingly adversarial" Chinese government poses "the most important geopolitical threat" to the United States in the 21st century.

Burns announced the agency’s adjustments to its organization structure and approach to "best position it to address current and future national security challenges."

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"CMC will further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government," Burns said.

Burns said the China Mission Center (CMC) will address the challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China and emphasized that "the threat is from the Chinese government, not its people."

Burns said the new mission center will bring "a whole-of-Agency response" and will "unify the exceptional work CIA is already doing against the key rival."

The announcement comes as the Biden administration has warned that China is the "only competitor" potentially capable of mounting a "challenge" to the international system. 

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President Biden, last month, spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the second time. The White House said the president "made clear" that the discussion was "part of the United States’ ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC."

The logo of the Central Intelligence Agency in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.  (REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo)

The logo of the Central Intelligence Agency in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.  (REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo) (REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo)

"President Biden underscored the United States’ enduring interest in peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world and the two leaders discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict," the White House said after the meeting. 

The White House in March released new national security guidance, which warned of the "reality" that China "has rapidly become more assertive" and is capable of "combining its economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system."

The guidance further warned that China’s leaders "seek unfair advantages, behave aggressively and coercively, and undermine the rules and values at the heart of an open and stable international system."

In addition to the focus put on the threat from China, Burns emphasized that the CIA will continue to "focus sharply" on other important threats, specifically "an aggressive Russia, a provocative North Korea and a hostile Iran, as well as combatting terrorism."

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Meanwhile, Burns also unveiled a new position within the CIA — the chief technology officer — as well as a Transnational and Technology Mission Center to address issues critical to U.S. competitiveness. That effort will include a focus on "emerging technologies, economic security, climate change and global health." 

Also, in an effort to "attract and retain a diverse talent pool of the best and brightest," Burns said the CIA has changed processes to "significantly reduce the time it takes for applicants to join the CIA."

Burns also announced the launch of the CIA Technology Fellows program to bring promising experts to the CIA for one to two years of public service.

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Burns said CIA Deputy Director David S. Cohen will oversee the implementation of these adjustments.

"Throughout our history, CIA has stepped up to meet whatever challenges come our way….  And now facing our toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry, CIA will be at the forefront of this effort," Burns said.  

He added: "There’s no doubt we have the talent for the job.  And with the right approach, and the right structure in place, I know we’ll help ensure American leadership and American success on the global stage for decades to come."

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.