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House report: U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to adapt to China threat

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released a report finding that the U.S. intelligence community has failed to adapt to the growing threat from China, arguing that it will struggle to compete on the global stage for decades to come if it does not implement major changes.

The big picture: The 200-page report, based on thousands of analytic assessments and hundreds of hours of interviews with intelligence officers, determined that the intelligence community's focus on counterterrorism after 9/11 allowed China "to transform itself into a nation potentially capable of supplanting the United States as the leading power in the world."


Key findings:

  • The Western consensus that China would choose to liberalize as its economy developed was "deeply misplaced," the report concludes, with the belief that democratic systems were "globally inevitable" causing policymakers to be blind to the Chinese Communist Party's "overriding objective of retaining and growing its power."
  • The committee expects China's use of "digital authoritarianism" to surveil and indoctrinate its citizens to continue to be exported abroad — "potentially degrading longstanding international norms concerning the rights of the individual, and the very idea of liberal and free societies."
  • The CCP's efforts to suppress information and "warp the record" of its own actions in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak provide important insights for understanding Beijing's "vast propaganda apparatus," and should have "profound effects on how the United States should track and evaluate events occurring within China."
  • China's aggressive military expansion and dreams of becoming a "science and technology world superpower" could create "entirely new domains of conflict," extending the battlefield to "our political discourse, mobile devices, and the very infrastructure that modern digital communication and communities rely upon."

What they're saying: "The stakes are enormous. We must do everything possible to accurately predict and characterize Beijing’s intent, or we will continue to struggle to understand how and why the leadership of the CCP makes decisions, and fail to respond effectively," House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

Read an unclassified summary of the report.

Go deeper: Subscribe to the weekly Axios China newsletter

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