Feb 2, 2021 - World

Biden's whole-of-National Security Council strategy

Illustration of king chess piece with star at the head of the piece
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Virtually every team in the National Security Council, from technology to global health to international economics, will incorporate China into their work, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: This is a concrete example of the "whole-of-government" approach toward China that officials from both the Biden and Trump administrations have supported.

The big picture: "Kurt Campbell’s Indo-Pacific team will be the largest regional NSC directorate, a sign of how this NSC is prioritizing China and broader Indo-Pacific policy issues," NSC spokesperson Emily Horne told Axios. "But work on China expands into virtually every NSC directorate," Horne added, including the following teams:

  • Technology and national security, led by senior director Tarun Chhabra.
  • Global health security and biodefense, led by senior director Beth Cameron.
  • Defense, led by senior director Cara Abercrombie.
  • Democracy and human rights, led by coordinator Shanthi Kalathil.
  • International economics, led by senior director Peter Harrell.

"National security adviser Jake Sullivan is personally focused on China as a priority, building capacity across departments and agencies and running processes that break down old silos between foreign and domestic policy," said Horne.

Details: Several NSC hires who will be doing China-related work specialize in political interference in democracies, the U.S.-China tech rivalry, and countering the CCP's grand strategy.

Laura Rosenberger, NSC senior China director:

  • Expertise: Authoritarian regime interference in democracies and state-backed disinformation.
  • Recent work: Rosenberger founded the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that first focused largely on Russian interference activities in the U.S. and Europe and later expanded to include Chinese government activities.
  • Suggested reading: Under Rosenberger's leadership, ASD published an in-depth study of China's authoritarian political interference in democracies, with an emphasis on the CCP's United Front Work Department and its strategies. She also helped spearhead a project that tracks Russian and Chinese information campaigns on Twitter and YouTube.

Rush Doshi, NSC China director:

  • Expertise: The CCP's global grand strategy.
  • Recent work: Doshi was the director of the Brookings China Strategy Initiative, where he worked on issues such as China's growing illiberal influence in the international system and the importance of alliances in pushing back.
  • Suggested reading: Doshi has a book coming out in a few months called "The Long Game: China's Grand Strategy to Displace American Order," based in part on a large database of CCP documents he has spent several years collecting. It includes a section on concrete policy recommendations.

Tarun Chhabra, NSC senior director for technology and national security:

  • Expertise: The geopolitical implications of emerging technology, with an emphasis on China.
  • Recent work: Chhabra was a senior fellow at Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology, a relatively new program that has published numerous key studies relating to China and tech policy. He and Doshi also co-led an initiative at Brookings that explored China's growing global influence.
  • Suggested reading: Chhabra co-authored a February 2020 report on how the U.S. must rely on democratic alliances to shape the future of AI, and a September 2020 report calling for the creation of an open-source "National Science and Technology Analysis Center."
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