China is waging a cold war against the United States with the aim of replacing it as the world’s leading superpower, a top official of the US Central Intelligence Agency said on Friday.

“By their own terms and what Xi [Jinping] enunciates I would argue by definition what they are waging against us is fundamentally a cold war, a cold war not like we saw during the Cold War, but a cold war by definition,” said the CIA’s deputy assistant director of the East Asia mission centre Michael Collins. He was speaking at a session at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on the rise of China.

“At the end of the day they [China] want every country around the world, when it is deciding its interests on policy issues, to first and foremost side with China and not the United States, because the Chinese are increasingly defining a conflict with the United States and what we stand behind as a systems conflict,” Collins said.

The intelligence official added that there were concerns about China’s efforts to steal business secrets and details about high-tech research being conducted in the US. The Chinese military is expanding and being modernised and the US, as well as other nations, have complained about China’s construction of military outposts on islands in the South China Sea, Collins observed. In June, the United States accused China of intimidation and coercion in the South China Sea.

“I would argue that it’s the Crimea of the East,” Collins said. He was referring to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.


Collins’ comments came a few days after Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray told the audience at the forum that China “represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country”.

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats on Thursday told the forum that the US needed to decide if China was a “true adversary or a legitimate competitor”.

In its most recent National Defense Strategy report released earlier this year, the United States cautioned about the return to an era of “great power” conflict with adversaries such as China and Russia. The report said China was at present “leveraging military modernisation, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighbouring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage”. It noted that China would continue to work to push the US out of Asia “to achieve global preeminence in the future”.