The CIA on Thursday confirmed it has established a new ‘mission center’ focused on China after a major review that had been ordered earlier in the year by CIA Director Bill Burns.
A new statement issued by Director Burns said the new China Mission Center “will further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government.”
It comes amid criticisms that China is ultimately “out-spying” the United States, also amid tit-for-tat cyber intrusion accusations which have gone on for years. A separate report out this week in The New York Times also indicates US intelligence officials are increasingly worried that China is among a handful of nations increasingly arresting, executing, or oftentimes compromising US agents abroad.
The China center will have a more narrowly focused mandate on China-related intelligence matters, which would include vaster resources. – rather than intelligence on China being collected under the prior aegis of the much larger “Mission Center for East Asia and Pacific”.
“Mission center are stand-alone entities that utilize resources from across the CIA in line with agency priorities,” noted a prior Bloomberg report. Apparently an entire mission center for China has for years been under discussion, but with no director or prior administration willing to order its establishment, likely on fears it would trigger Cold War-style escalation and tit-for-tat covert ops.
The Thursday CIA announcement also revealed further restructuring of internal departments as follows:
At the same time, two other traditionally high-priority areas will no longer be standalone but rather part of their regions: The Iran and Korea mission centers will be folded into the Near East Mission Center and the East Asia and Pacific center, respectively.
And more, via CNN:
Other adjustments included a new Transnational and Technology Mission Center and a chief technology officer position. This second mission center will focus on issues “critical to US global competitiveness,” a senior CIA official said, including global health, economic security, climate change and technology.
The last major mission center to be established prior to this major rearranging, the Korea Mission Center, was under Trump in 2017 at a moment the White House was trying to assess the north’s nuclear capabilities and how to confront Pyongyang.
Chinese leaders are sure to see this latest internal move is as part of broader escalation in tensions, and will likely mirror US intelligence efforts, particularly given that in recent months China has charged the CIA specifically with hacking Beijing for over a decade.