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CIA Creates New China-Focused 'Mission Center'

cia director william burns speaks during a congressional hearing
CIA Director William Burns (Saul Loeb/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 07 October 2021 11:07 AM EDT

The CIA has created a unit exclusively focused on gathering intelligence about China.

Director William Burns announced the new China Mission Center in remarks to agency officials Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.

The center also will focus on countering China's espionage against the U.S., the Post said.

"[The center will] further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government," Burns told CIA personnel, the Post said.

One senior CIA official compared the current landscape with China to the Cold War fight against the Soviet Union. The official added that China was a more formidable and complicated foe given the size of its economy and its own global reach, the Post reported.

China previously fell under the portfolio of the CIA's Mission Center for East Asia and Pacific.

With the China Mission Center, the CIA will deploy more officers, linguists, technicians, and specialists internationally to gather intelligence and counter China's interests, the senior official told the Post.

The agency also plans to recruit and train more Mandarin speakers, said the official, who added Burns would meet weekly with the head of the mission center.

Politico reported Burns on Thursday officially announced the center, and also the creation of a chief technology officer role, and a Transnational and Technology Mission Center to "address global issues critical to U.S. competitiveness — including new and emerging technologies, economic security, climate change, and global health."

Under Gina Haspel, who served as CIA director from 2018-21 under former President Donald Trump, the agency began to return its focus to "hard targets" — chiefly China, but also Russia, Iran, and North Korea — and less on penetrating and dismantling terrorist networks.

The Post reported that Burns said the CIA would continue a counterterrorism mission. However, the new China center indicates the communist country likely will remain the agency's No. 1 target.

The CIA set up new centers to consolidate work on Iran and North Korea four years ago. The senior official told the Post that those mission centers would be absorbed by larger components focused on whole regions, the Near East and East Asia, respectively.

Asked why China needed its own mission center when ones for Iran and North Korea pretty much were being shut down, the senior official told the Post that China was unique because no other country required work that stretched across all of the agency's mission areas.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Switzerland on Wednesday. The two envoys agreed in principle to have President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a virtual summit by the end of the year.

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The CIA has created a unit exclusively focused on gathering intelligence about China.
cia, mission, center, intelligence, director, william burns
Thursday, 07 October 2021 11:07 AM
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