Anytime the Director of Central Intelligence goes on the record with the press, I listen. Writing for the Financial Times of London, Katina Manson and Demetri Sevastopulo report in their piece “CIA Sharpens China Focus with Mission Hub” that the Biden administration is growing our efforts to counter at an “increasingly adversarial” government”. Increasingly adversarial??
CIA director Bill Burns said the agency would be at “the forefront” of “facing our toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry”. “[The 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.”
Burns added, “[The hub] will strengthen our work on the most important geopolitical threat we face.” The Chinese communist.
Let’s check a few historical milestones with our Chinese-Communist friends. October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China came into being. November 25-26, 1950, 250,000 Chinese attacked American forces operating under the flag of NATO in Korea. US soldiers killed 36,516. Wounded 92,134. Total U.S. casualties 128,650. By context, the Korean War (conflict) is ranked 5th in the US death toll.
Notable in the graphic above is that the Korean War (Conflict) like the War on Terror is ongoing. After three years of bloody fighting, the United States, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and South Korea agree to an armistice. Please note that the newly minted peace-loving people of the PRC were signers to the armistice. Despite the cease-fire, the DMZ along the 38th parallel has remained fenced, mined, and militarized for over 70 years, longer than the vaunted Berlin Wall. Please take a peek below.
The Director of the Central Intelligence did not need my little walk down memory lane to memorialize the PRC as a long-time adversary. Director Burns fully appreciates the Chinese’s ideological position is anti-democratic. “Great power rivalry is back: China is systematically modernizing its military and is poised to overtake the United States as the world’s biggest economy, slowly extending its reach in Asia and across the Eurasian supercontinent” according to Burns in his 2019 memoir titled “The Back Channel”. Maybe a few red-leaning members of Congress could use a little contextual refresher. Jefferson is quoted in his letter to John Adams's son as saying, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. ”
The Director’s announcement is likely aimed at funding from Congress or sending a signal “in the clear” to our allies and enemies that we are stepping up our game with China. We will never know the full extent of the Director’s rationale for his messaging. In his house of mirrors, he is required to play three-dimensional chess at all times.
As a “hot war” belligerent and surviving member of the Cold War club, China will persist in spreading its authoritarian brand of “anti-freedom” ideology wherever it can take root. Don’t take my word for it, ask the people of Hong Kong.
How do I know to peel back the layers on any public statement from the CIA or any intelligence agency? Back in the day, I could be found playing a little three-dimensional chess opposite my Soviet friends. But that is ancient history.
I would be remiss not to mention another pull quote from Director Burn’s 2019 book “The Back Channel“. It seems our diplomatic crew might have needed a field trip to the Korean DMZ as a reminder of unfinished business. According to Burns, as an institution, the State Department might have missed on their China profile. “China’s ambition to recover its accustomed primacy in Asia had already upended many of our comfortable post–Cold War assumptions about how integration into a U.S.-led order would tame, or at least channel, Chinese aspirations. President Xi Jinping was flexing his muscle not only in Asia but all the way to the gates of Europe and the Middle East.”
In light of the photographs of the Korean DMZ above, I am reminded there is an old saying that to “assume” makes an “ass out of you and me“.