China is waging a “quiet kind of cold war” against the United States, using all its resources to try to replace America as the leading power in the world, a top CIA expert on Asia said Friday.
Beijing doesn’t want to go to war, he said, but the current communist government, under President Xi Jinping, is subtly working on multiple fronts to undermine the U.S. in ways that are different than the more well-publicized activities being employed by Russia.
“I would argue … that what they’re waging against us is fundamentally a cold war — a cold war not like we saw during THE Cold War (between the U.S. and the Soviet Union) but a cold war by definition,” Michael Collins, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia mission center, said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Rising U.S.-China tension goes beyond the trade dispute playing out in a tariff tit-for-tat between the two nations.
There is concern over China’s pervasive efforts to steal business secrets and details about high-tech research being conducted in the U.S. The Chinese military is expanding and being modernized and the U.S., as well as other nations, have complained about China’s construction of military outposts on islands in the South China Sea.
“I would argue that it’s the Crimea of the East,” Collins said, referring to Russia’s brash annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which was condemned throughout the West.
Collins’ comments track warnings about China’s rising influence issued by others who spoke earlier this week at the security conference. The alarm bells come at a time when Washington needs China’s help in ending its nuclear standoff with North Korea.
On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said China, from a counterintelligence perspective, represents the broadest and most significant threat America faces. He said the FBI has economic espionage investigations in all 50 states that can be traced back to China.
“The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said.