CIA launches new China-focused unit

The Central Intelligence Agency announced the formation of a new China Mission Center on Thursday, underscoring the Biden administration’s focus on Beijing as a top foreign policy priority and a formidable global competitor to the United States.

In a statement that referred to the Chinese government as a “key rival,” the CIA said the mission center was the result of a series of strategic reviews Director William Burns launched in the spring that concentrated on “China, technology, people, and partnerships,” among other areas.

The mission center is intended to “address the global challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China that cuts across all of the Agency’s mission areas,” the CIA said, with Burns adding that it “will further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government.”

Bloomberg News first reported in August that the CIA was weighing proposals for an independent mission center focused on China, which had previously fallen under the portfolio of the agency’s Mission Center for East Asia and Pacific.

In addition to the mission center, Burns also announced the creation of a chief technology officer role, as well as a Transnational and Technology Mission Center to “address global issues critical to US competitiveness — including new and emerging technologies, economic security, climate change, and global health.”

Deputy CIA Director David Cohen “will oversee the implementation” of the changes to the agency’s organizational structure that resulted from Burns’ reviews, the CIA said.

The formation of the China Mission Center comes just a day after national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Switzerland — following up on a phone call last month between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sullivan and Yang made little tangible progress during their talks Wednesday, although the two envoys agreed in principle to have Biden and Xi participate in a virtual summit by the end of the year.

Sullivan also “raised a number of areas” with Yang where U.S. officials “have concern” with the Chinese government’s actions, including those “related to human rights, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and Taiwan,” according to a readout of the conversation from the White House.

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