WASHINGTON — Before President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency said the agency needed “an offensive stance” in assessing any interference from China in the 2024 elections.
“We’re thinking about our own elections coming up and who might try to meddle in those,” Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the director of DIA, said earlier this month in response to a question about China’s information warfare during a question-and-answer session at the Center of Strategic and International Studies think tank on Nov. 1.
With the U.S. election coming on Nov. 5, 2024, expert witnesses warned the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last month that Beijing will interfere in American elections.
Berrier stressed that his agency was trying to determine China’s posture towards both the United States and the Indo-Pacific region.
Berrier said that DIA prioritized China before Russia, Iran and North Korea. “China, clearly, is the pacing threat. … It is number one. There is no other number one,” Berrier said.
The New York Times reported Friday that Biden would tell Xi in the bilateral meeting that the U.S. expected China not to interfere in Taiwan’s election next year. The Financial Times also reported that Biden would say that the U.S. would “raise extremely strong concerns” if Beijing politically interfered with Taipei’s voting.
Taiwan will hold its presidential and congressional elections on Jan. 13 next year, less than 60 days after the talk between Biden and Xi in San Francisco, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
This week, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council published its Third Quarter Report on the Situation in Mainland China, indicating that Beijing was enhancing its interference with Taipei’s forthcoming election. The council said that China was “attempting to use the economy to threaten our election” by enforcing tariff barriers to Taiwan’s agricultural products and travel bans to Taiwan.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing flared after Chinese balloons flew over the U.S. earlier this year, and on Oct. 27, when a Chinese Shenyang J-11 twin-engine fighter jet came within 10 feet of an American B-52 bomber over the South China Sea.
“With the growth of the [People’s Republic of China’s] military across all spectrums, we have had our eye on this for the last five or six years with a high degree of intensity,” Berrier said. “They watched us over the last 20 years. They watched the ability that we could employ precision fires and do command control. And they are aspirational in that regard right now. So we have to watch them very, very carefully as they continue to grow and develop.”