US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines
China wants to ensure ties with the US do not deteriorate to the point of "spiraling" tensions but is "increasingly convinced" it can only achieve its goals at Washington's expense, US intelligence warned Wednesday.
"Beijing still believes it benefits most by preventing a spiraling of tensions, and by preserving stability in its relationship with the United States," Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified before the Senate intelligence committee.
"Specifically, Beijing wants to preserve stability in East Asia, avoid triggering additional economic punishments from US sanctions and US partners, and showcase a steady relationship with the United States to help avoid setbacks in its other relationships around the world," she added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is seeking what Haines described as "a period of relative calm" to give China the leeway it needs to "address growing domestic difficulties," including growing economic woes, inequality and over reliance on investment.
The US intelligence community has determined that China's ruling party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), believes it cannot achieve Xi's goals of making China the preeminent power in the region without undermining the US, said Haines.
"The CCP is increasingly convinced that it can only do so at the expense of US power and influence, and by using coordinated whole of government tools to demonstrate strength and compel neighbors to acquiesce to its preferences, including its land, sea and air claims in the region, and its assertions of sovereignty over Taiwan," she said.
"The CCP represents both the leading and most consequential threat to US national security, and leadership globally, and its intelligence-specific ambitions and capabilities, make it for us our most serious and consequential intelligence rival," added Haines.
The intelligence chief's testimony comes amid soaring tensions in US-Sino relations concerning a wide range of disputes from trade to Taiwan, which were exacerbated by the discovery of what Washington maintains was a high-altitude surveillance balloon used to spy on sensitive military sites in the country.
China claimed the aircraft as its own after a period of silence but maintains it was a weather monitoring balloon that had been blown off course. Washington's decision to shoot it down last month was an overreaction, China has angrily claimed as relations further soured.