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National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien. Photo: MANDEL NGAN / Contributor

White House national security advisor Robert O'Brien gave a searing speech in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday, in which he criticized the Chinese Communist Party's totalitarian vision for China and its growing influence around the world.

Why it matters: This is the first in a string of speeches on China from top Trump administration officials. It highlights the administration's emphasis on China as a campaign issue, but also stems from bipartisan concern about the growing power of the world's largest authoritarian country.

O'Brien warned about the Chinese Communist Party's far-ranging attempts to manipulate and coerce Americans, including:

  • Policing speech at U.S. universities and organizations such as the NBA;
  • Spreading propaganda on social media and through broadcast media;
  • Hacking Americans' personal data;
  • Influencing international organizations.

What he's saying:

  • "Together with our allies and partners, we will resist the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to manipulate our people and our governments, damage our economies, and undermine our sovereignty," O'Brien said. "The days of American passivity and naivety regarding the People’s Republic of China are over."
  • "Let me be clear — we have deep respect and admiration for the Chinese people. The United States has a long history of friendship with the Chinese nation. But the Communist Party does not equal China or her people."

O'Brien also quoted John Garnaut, a former Australian government official who helped lead the international discussion about the nature of China's political influence and interference around the world.

  • “In Classical Chinese statecraft, there are two tools for gaining and maintaining control over ‘the mountains and the rivers’: the first is wu, weapons and violence, and the second is wen, language and culture. Chinese leaders have always believed that power derives from controlling both the physical battlefield and the cultural domain," O'Brien said, quoting Garnaut.

What to watch: O'Brien explained that in the coming weeks, senior administration officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray will also speak publicly on challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Go deeper

Sep 30, 2020 - World

House report: U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to adapt to China threat

Xi Jinping and other Chinese politicians and delegates listen to the national anthem duirng the closing of the 19th Communist Party Congress in 2017. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released a report finding that the U.S. intelligence community has failed to adapt to the growing threat from China, arguing that it will struggle to compete on the global stage for decades to come if it does not implement major changes.

The big picture: The 200-page report, based on thousands of analytic assessments and hundreds of hours of interviews with intelligence officers, determined that the intelligence community's focus on counterterrorism after 9/11 allowed China "to transform itself into a nation potentially capable of supplanting the United States as the leading power in the world."

Biden: "I am the Democratic Party right now"

Responding to President Trump's insistence that the Democratic Party "wants to go socialist medicine," Joe Biden said at the presidential debate on Tuesday: "I am the Democratic Party."

Why it matters: Trump has repeatedly claimed that the Democratic nominee is not in control of his party and that he will be "dominated" by progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Unlike other candidates who Biden ran against in the Democratic primary, he does not support Medicare for All or abolishing private health insurance.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
37 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Higher education expands its climate push

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New or expanded climate initiatives are popping up at several universities, a sign of the topic's rising prominence and recognition of the threats and opportunities it creates.

Why it matters: Climate and clean energy initiatives at colleges and universities are nothing new, but it shows expanded an campus focus as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the world is nowhere near the steep emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to hold future warming in check.

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