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DHS: China Is a Long-term Strategic Threat to the U.S.

In October, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a first-of-its-kind Homeland Threat Assessment. The report mentioned major threats that countries such as China and Russia pose, including cybersecurity and foreign influence. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf called China a long-term strategic threat to the United States.

The report stated that the United States faces potential threats that China poses in terms of cyber security, foreign influence, and supply chains.

On October 6, Wolf tweeted, “The most long term strategic threat to Americans, our Homeland, and our way of life is the threat from China.”

The report said, “China already poses a high cyber espionage threat to the Homeland and Beijing’s cyber-attack capabilities will grow.”

“Chinese cyber actors will, almost certainly, continue to engage in wide-ranging cyber espionage to steal intellectual property and personally identifiable information (PII) from U.S. businesses and government agencies to bolster their civil-military industrial development, gain an economic advantage, and support intelligence operations. China possesses an increasing ability to threaten and potentially disrupt U.S. critical infrastructure.”

DHS expects China’s cyber operations against U.S. companies to focus on critical manufacturing, defense, the industrial base, energy, healthcare, and transportation sectors.

“Chinese operatives probably are waging disinformation campaigns using overt and covert tactics—including social media trolls— to shift responsibility for the pandemic to other countries, including the United States.” “Since August 2019, more than 10,000 suspected fake Twitter accounts with suspected ties to the Chinese Government have been involved in a coordinated influence campaign.”

On the 2020 U.S. presidential election, “China likely will continue using overt and covert influence operations to denigrate the U.S. Presidential Administration and its policies and to shape the U.S. domestic information environment in favor of China. China will further use its traditional ‘soft power’ influence toolkit—overt economic measures and lobbying—to promote U.S. policies more aligned with China’s interests.”

China will also “seek to cultivate influence with state and local leaders directly and indirectly, often via economic carrots and sticks such as informal and legal or social agreements that seek to promote cultural and commercial ties. Chinese officials calculate that U.S. state- and local-level officials enjoy a degree of diplomatic independence from Washington and may leverage these relationships to advance policies that are in China’s interest during times of strained relations.”

In terms of economic security, “China and Russia will continue to represent the top threats to U.S. supply chain security, given the sophisticated intelligence and cyber capabilities they can use to infiltrate trusted suppliers and vendors to target equipment and systems. Criminal actors also will engage in efforts to compromise supply chains, with such methods as inserting malicious code in a third party’s software to conduct operations against firms that use the software.”

The report identifies China’s threat in U.S. supply chains of medical products. DHS is “targeting illicit Chinese manufacturers who produced and disseminated fraudulent or prohibited COVID-19 PPE and medical supplies to the United States. This has resulted in the seizure of over 1,000,000 FDA-prohibited COVID-19 test kits and 750,000 counterfeit masks.”

“China is collecting information on U.S. supply chain shortages and is using the COVID-19 crisis to build additional leverage with the United States. … China could exploit future shortages of critical supplies by conditioning their provision on U.S. acquiescence in other matters important to Beijing.”

On academic institutions and research, “China—which has mobilized vast resources to support its industrial development and defense goals—will continue exploiting U.S. academic institutions and the visa system to transfer valuable research and intellectual property (IP) that Beijing calculates will provide a military or economic advantage over the United States and other nations.”

“China will remain the leading source of U.S. trade policy violations. Actions by China-based criminal organizations will continue to present the principal challenge to U.S. enforcement of trade laws and policies in the year ahead, despite progress in U.S.-China negotiations aimed at addressing this issue.”

Wolf told CBS during an interview that the China threat “cuts across a variety of different threats, from the cyber threats we see, from foreign influence, to supply chain security, to exploiting our academic and visa systems, foreign investment here in the U.S., trade policy violations and the like.” He said, “It goes on and on and on. …”  “Just across the board, threat after threat stream, we see China playing a very significant and enhanced role really trying to do the U.S. some long-term harm.”

Source: Voice of America, October 7, 2020