Haines shouldn't be labeling China as a counterintelligence threat
First Voice

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In America, it is often that the incoming administration seeks to reverse policies that it deems to have a deleterious impact on the country left from the previous administration. Joe Biden's inauguration is heralded by many with optimism, given his political and personal contrast with his immediate predecessor.

But on Wednesday, the President-elect's nominee for Director for National Intelligence, Avril Haines, said that countering the Chinese counterintelligence threat and foreign influence operations would be among the top priorities for the Biden administration. Making such assertion about China only hours away from the swearing-in of the new president is both untimely and inappropriate.

Allegations of espionage and subversive activities had earlier fomented trust-deficits between China and the U.S. They were made worse by the fabrications and propaganda spewed by Donald Trump's administration. While Haines has definitely hinted at a bipartisan national security policy, touting China as a threat instead of a potential partner in the post-Trump era would be a massive blunder that could cost the Biden administration and America in the long run.

Haine's has pledged to keep politics out of intelligence, but her views on China risk descending the United States on a dangerous path of provocations, a hallmark of Trump's foreign policy. An example includes the mishandling of Confucius Institutes in the United States, on part of Haine's predecessors, where centers of cultural and interpersonal exchanges were labeled as rogue entities involving in espionage operations by the outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The chief diplomat of the United States openly said that he wishes these institutions would all be "closed out."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2018. /Xinhua

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2018. /Xinhua

Events like this were blows to the public diplomacy between China and the U.S. which have had a critical role to play in diffusing tensions through increased people to people contact, cultural exchanges and academic collaborations.

There are pockets within the Democratic Party that are aligned with the aggressive anti-China policy. Last year, during the closure of Chinese consulate in Houston, the ranking Democratic senator on the Senate's Intelligence Committee Mark Warner refused to discuss the actual findings, but only focused on making outlandish claims of how Communist Party of China has been stealing intellectual property from American companies and universities.

The Trump era has seen enough collateral damage to foment distrust between China and the U.S. Allegations and sanctions against Chinese tech companies like Huawei has led to automakers such as Ford and Toyota to cut back their operations in the U.S. More than 245,000 jobs have been lost in America as the result of the economic conflict between the two nations.

Repeated denials by Chinese companies and government regarding spying, intelligence gathering or espionage on American soil were unheeded to, and the relationship only worsened over the past couple of years. Upon assuming office, Avril Haines should do well to understand the implications of knee jerk reactions or radical rhetoric. They only serve to worsen ties between the two countries and won't solve any problems.

It is through dialogue, multilateralism and rapprochement towards Asia alone that hope is being pinned on the Biden administration to potentially diffuse tensions and improve China-U.S. relationship. On the subject of intelligence, emphasis needs to placed on joint intelligence prospects given that both countries face threats of domestic terrorism, a crippled global economy and unpredictability in global environmental changes. Peddling previous Trump administration's rhetoric wouldn't materialize these prospects. Only a constructive approach would.

Scriptwriter: Hamzah Rifaat Hussain

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