Attorney General William Barr in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., April 1, 2019 (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Former attorney general Bill Barr said recently that China is the “biggest threat” to the United States, echoing comments from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and FBI director Christopher Wray.

“China is the biggest threat that the country faces, not only militarily – because they are building a very capable military — but also technologically,” Barr told Fox News in a recent interview promoting his new memoir, One Damn Thing After Another. 

Barr said the U.S. has been “the world’s technological leader and people are accustomed to that” but noted that China has “a comprehensive, highly aggressive plan to take control of all of the key technologies of the future, such as 5G communications, robotics, artificial intelligence – all of the technologies that are going to be pivotal in the years to come.”

He said Beijing is “seizing on the high ground on a lot of that, through thefts of secrets.”

“They are very industrious and enabled people,” said Barr, who served as attorney general under former presidents Donald Trump and George H.W. Bush. “It is going to be a huge challenge for us going forward.”

The interview was published days after Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told Congress on Tuesday that the Chinese Communist Party remains the “absolutely unparalleled” long-term priority for the U.S. intelligence community. Haines’s comments to the House Intelligence Committee came one day after the release of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s annual threat assessment report.

“China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas — especially economically, militarily, and technologically and is pushing to change global norms and potentially threatening its neighbors,” the report said.

It added that China “will remain the top threat to U.S. technological competitiveness as Beijing targets key sectors and proprietary commercial and military technology from U.S. and allied companies.”

“The Chinese Communist Party will continue efforts to achieve President’s Xi Jinping’s vision of making China the preeminent power in East Asia and a major power on the world stage. The CCP will work to press Taiwan on unification, undercut U.S. influence, drive wedges between Washington and its partners, and foster some norms that favor its authoritarian system,” the assessment said. “Beijing sees increasingly competitive U.S.–China relations as part of an epochal geopolitical shift and views Washington’s diplomatic, economic, and military measures against Beijing as part of a broader U.S. effort to prevent China’s rise and undermine CCP rule.”

While the report is based upon information available as of January 21 — before Russia invaded Ukraine — Haines said that China is still the priority for U.S. spy agencies.

During Haines’s testimony, Representative Sean Maloney (R., N.Y.) noted that some may see the Russian invasion as a “storm” and asked if China is “more like the climate.”

“[China] remains the persistent existential long-term threat,” he said. “So Director Haines, how are we going to stay focused on China as we work this emergency in Ukraine?” Haines replied: “Unquestionably, we are going to stay focused on China.” 

“And I agree with you — it is one of those things where the urgent crowds out the important on some level, and we are working very hard to ensure that that does not happen, because we recognize the long-term priority is China for us,” she added. “Absolutely unparalleled.”

Meanwhile, FBI director Christopher Wray said last month “there is just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, our innovation, and our economic security than China.”

China is “like the surveillance nightmare of East Germany combined with the tech of Silicon Valley,” Wray added.

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