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US Intelligence Chief: China Takes Center Stage in Digital Suppression

‘They have just a vast apparatus that they use,’ Haines says.

NEW YORK—China tops the world in deploying advanced technology to muffle dissent, according to leading U.S. intelligence official Avril Haines.

“They are, in our view the lead actor in essentially engaging in digital repression,” Ms. Haines, who heads the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said at the annual Concordia summit in New York on Sept. 19 in what marks the latest warning from the U.S. intelligence sector on threats from China.

“They have just a vast apparatus that they use” in carrying out such activities, she added. She cited the regime’s global campaign to repatriate dissidents through what’s known as Operation Fox Hunt, which, according to Chinese authorities’ data, has captured around 10,000 Chinese nationals since 2014 that Beijing had accused of corruption. Many of them, Ms. Haines noted, happen to also be dissidents, and folks who express political opposition.

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“The thing that that I’ve noticed is that when you’re looking at the Chinese model for this, as opposed to, for example, the Russian model or Iran model,” Ms. Haines said, “with China, they’re really first in class, in the sense, at the technology piece of it.”

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines at the Concordia Summit in New York on Sept. 19, 2023. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines at the Concordia Summit in New York on Sept. 19, 2023. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Beijing has “gotten very good at censoring effectively the information that you get to individuals within China” and “building the structure that allows them to control that information,” she said. And the increasing integration of digital appliances through the internet of things also creates data about personal activities, which “can be collected, and ultimately surveilled and monitored.”

“China is really exceptional” in engaging in such effort, she added.

Ms. Haines’s remarks came at the heels of FBI Director Christopher Wray’s warning that U.S. intelligence agents are “vastly outnumbered on the ground” when compared to China.

“But it’s on us to defend the American people here at home,” he said in a media interview. “I view this as the challenge of our generation.”

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