HomeEconomicThe intelligence surveillance competition behind the establishment of the US "China house"

The intelligence surveillance competition behind the establishment of the US “China house”

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US Secretary of State Blinken presided over the launching ceremony of the newly established “China Affairs Coordination Office” of the US State Department on December 16. The agency, informally known as the China House, is dedicated to addressing geopolitical challenges from China. Prior to this, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency also successively established departments targeting China.

The U.S. State Department said the “China Group” will “ensure that the U.S. government can responsibly manage our competition with the People’s Republic of China and advance our vision of an open and inclusive international system.” The U.S. State Department said in a statement, “Our goal with the ‘China Group’ is to help implement elements of the Biden administration’s strategy toward the People’s Republic of China.” Director Rick Waters. According to CNN, the new agency will expand the number of diplomats who focus on China, and there will also be US government personnel from other departments working in the “China Group” in rotation, making it an interdepartmental operation.

After the Republican Party gained control of the House of Representatives, on January 10, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the establishment of the “U.S.-China Strategic Competition Special Committee” by an overwhelming vote of 365 to 65. More than two-thirds of Democrats voted in favor. It is the second measure passed by Republican leadership in the 118th House of Representatives. McCarthy made a special trip to the chamber to deliver a speech before the committee was established, calling for bipartisan support for the bill. “I have heard colleagues from both parties say that China poses a serious threat to the United States, and I completely agree with that.” McCarthy said: “This is a problem that transcends partisanship. The best way.” According to the resolution, the special committee will be composed of up to 16 members. Up to seven of them were appointed in consultation with the House Minority Leader. The Speaker of the House will designate a member to serve as committee chair. The committee does not have legislative jurisdiction, nor is it empowered to take legislative action on any bill or resolution. It is only responsible for investigating and making policy recommendations on China’s economic, technological and security developments and its competition with the United States.

In fact, in the U.S. government system, there are many small agencies or settings that are solely concerned with Chinese affairs. For example, Congress had the “China Connection” before, and the Ministry of Justice had the “China Initiative” (China Initiative). In October 2021, Biden announced the establishment of the “Defense Department’s China Strategic Working Group.” In fact, these groups all have organizational and coordination functions, pointing to the brewing and control of Sino-US security relations and geopolitical conflicts. The U.S. government has different preferences in different periods, which will lead to different organizational preferences. These agencies will inevitably be involved in security affairs, so certain government and intelligence-related activities will obviously form. Because they are different from formal government agencies, these relatively special agencies will face relatively weak supervision when performing national security affairs.

In the final analysis, the competition between China and the United States is the competition of advanced industries and organizational capabilities. When it comes to industrial competition, it is manifested as a game between industrial espionage and anti-industrial espionage. The 1947 “National Security Act” gave the president the function of supervising and controlling the intelligence system. The law handed over the function of supervising intelligence to the “National Security Council”. , In fact, in the final analysis, it is also presidential control. At present, the security sector plays an important role in the formulation of the important policy of the United States towards China, and has actually become a key force in shaping the direction of the policy. On the surface, many policy formulations are conflicts and games between administrative departments (such as foreign affairs and commerce departments), but in essence, the security departments of both sides are conducting behind-the-scenes contests. Since the Trump era, Sino-US security competition has replaced trade competition, and Sino-US relations have undergone a qualitative reversal. High-intensity competition obviously requires some kind of centralization of power, and the establishment of new government agencies needs to encounter many obstacles such as voting, budgeting, and auditing. These groups carry new missions.

Why upgrade and set up “China house”? There are several key reasons here: 1. To strengthen the centralized and unified leadership of China-related intelligence decision-making. The U.S. State Department has a huge China-related intelligence agency, financial, commercial and judicial agencies, and these departments really need coordination in their roles. The U.S. political elite recognizes that in an environment of high competition with China, it is necessary to highlight the weight of the new organization. Second, the US executive power still has a tendency to expand. The “whole-of-government model” previously advocated by the U.S. government is obviously unable to effectively deal with China’s challenges. The U.S. government adopts a design similar to the “special class” within the Chinese government. It has the essence of the “whole-of-government model” and is also innovative. 3. Based on power checks and balances, the Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections, and the establishment of a new decision-making coordination department for China will help avoid the Republican Party’s fierce offensive. After the Republican Party elected Speaker McCarthy (the No. 3 politician in the United States), it quickly established the “Special Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and China.” These two units belong to different power systems, but they have a high degree of consistency in conducting all-round security competition with China.

A notable goal of these agencies was to circumvent possible intelligence oversight. Because the analysis and research of China-related affairs involve a lot of intelligence and secret operations. According to the U.S. tradition of intelligence oversight, intelligence-related activities undertaken by the executive branch are subject to congressional oversight. Both the House and Senate of the U.S. Congress have corresponding intelligence oversight committees. However, given the split between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, especially when Trump’s influence on the Republican Party still exists, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have no control over China-related intelligence and There is stiff competition in security matters. The current “secret documents” involving Biden is actually a political attack launched by the Republican Party against the Democratic Party. Biden’s violations of classified materials are likely to be guided by the Republican Party in the direction of judicial investigations. The Republican Party must try its best to shape and confirm Biden’s “dereliction of duty” image in matters related to national security and confidentiality, so as to reduce the possibility of Biden seeking re-election.

The Democratic Party currently controls the Senate, and it is difficult for the Senate to effectively supervise the intelligence activities of the US government. In other words, the Senate lacks the motivation to intervene in intelligence supervision. The House of Representatives has become the stronghold of the Republican Party against Biden. Under this situation, the Republican Party, which has gained the dominance of the House of Representatives, will establish a new agency, which will help to supervise the intelligence activities of the Democratic Party’s “China Group”. In the context of the high degree of competition between the two parties in the United States, how to deal with the high degree of competition between China and the United States without allowing the opponent to gain the dominance of intelligence supervision is the basis for the successive establishment of the “China House” and the “Special Committee on US-China Strategic Competition”. One big reason. Although it appears to be a check and balance of power on the surface, both parties in the United States hope to achieve new advantages over China in the intelligence field, while weakening the possible supervision and advantages of the opponent party.

(Note: Wang Yingliang, who studies Sino-US industrial investment and national security, WeChat account porsche910114. This article only represents the author’s personal opinion. The editor’s email is bo.liu@ftchinese.com)

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