The CIA is considering establishing a new China-focused mission center, Bloomberg is reporting, at a moment tensions have steadily escalated over months of continued Biden-ordered sail throughs of the Taiwan Strait and other provocative 'freedom of navigation' warship maneuvers in the South China Sea. It comes amid criticisms that China is ultimately "out-spying" the United States, also amid tit-for-tat cyber intrusion accusations which have gone on for years.
CIA Director Bill Burns has ordered a broad review of the agency's China capabilities. Currently China-related missions fall under the aegis of the much larger "Mission Center for East Asia and Pacific," but officials are turning their sights to a specialized internal unit with its own mandate of a narrower China focus which would include vaster resources.
"Mission center are stand-alone entities that utilize resources from across the CIA in line with agency priorities," notes Bloomberg. Apparently an entire mission center for China has for years been under discussion, but with no director or prior administration willing to order its establishment, likely on fears it would trigger Cold War-style escalation and tit-for-tat covert ops.
A CIA statement confirmed the current review of capabilities underway: "As director Burns has said, China is one of his priorities, and CIA is in the process of determining how best to position ourselves to reflect the significance of this priority," CIA Public Affairs said.
The last major mission center to be established, the Korea Mission Center, was under Trump in 2017 at a moment the White House was trying to assess the north's nuclear capabilities and how to confront Pyongyang.
Chinese leaders are sure to see this is as a major escalation, and will likely mirror US intelligence efforts, particularly given just last month China charged the CIA specifically with hacking Beijing for over a decade.
NPR at the time detailed the accusations, writing that "China has accused the United States of mounting cyberattacks against Chinese government, scientific, aviation and other technical institutions for the past 11 years." Further the report noted "The finger-pointing comes the day after the U.S. mounted similar accusations against China, an exchange of blame which threatens to make cybersecurity another rift in an already-fractious U.S.-China relationship."
CIA mulls a Special China Unit, in effort to OUT-SPY Beijing— Amrita Bhinder 🇮🇳 (@amritabhinder) August 13, 2021
LOL - Too little! Too late! https://t.co/2jJ1rNL7oR
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had at the time said the US is the world's greatest aggressor in terms of cyber attacks and cyber espionage, warning Washington to "stop pouring dirty water" in terms of its hypocritical allegations against other nations.