Current and former intelligence officials last week acknowledged that decades of intelligence assessments and policies toward China that viewed the Communist Party-ruled government in Beijing as a benign power are no longer valid.
Michael Collins, deputy assistant CIA director and head of the agency’s East Asia Mission Center, said during a security conference that classified assessments outline the agency’s record on China but that China is expanding its global ambitions.
Critics have said the CIA failed to properly assess major strategic developments in China as a result of “group think” that sought to play down or ignore many of Beijing’s threatening activities.
The Pentagon also was slow to recognize China’s emergence as a major strategic competitor that is seeking to replace the United States as the leader of the international political and economic order.
Asked if the CIA harbored a benign view of China that resulted in failures to accurately assess China, Collins said the matter is secret.
“Can’t speak to classified assessments, it just goes a long way to say you don’t have all the access you think you have in terms of understanding what the intelligence community knows about this issue,” Collins told the Washington Free Beacon in remarks to a security forum in Aspen, Colorado.
“I will say, however, it’s a very good question,” he said. “But it’s a larger question, about the international system and what is it that has happened in the international system, in response to China, positively or negatively over time, that I would argue has been a big factor in explaining why the ambitions of the Chinese have so expanded.”