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Xi Jinping reviews troops during a military parade in Beijing last year. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Thursday will publicly warn that China's threat to the U.S. is a defining issue of our time, a senior administration official tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's exceedingly rare for the head of the U.S. intelligence community to make public accusations about a rival power.

I'm told the DNI will make a series of public statements and appearances outlining intelligence that argues China is the greatest national security threat that America faces.

Between the lines: The P.R. blitz is one of the first major components of a broader, administration-wide effort to raise the alarm about China and to build consensus and awareness about China's intent to supplant the United States as the world's dominant power.

  • The role of the intelligence community is to warn the president and senior policymakers of threats. But typically such intelligence isn't discussed publicly — especially on the record, the administration official points out.
  • So, this is the person who sees more intelligence than anyone else in the U.S. government, who spends every waking hour prioritizing and categorizing threats. And he'll say that this one — China — rises far above the others.

Thought bubble from Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, author of Axios China:

  • This shows that senior intelligence officials are worried that the Biden administration may pull in the reins on the Trump era's harder line against China.
  • This is a last big effort to try to persuade the American public that, regardless of your political leanings, China is a profound danger to U.S. interests and Western democracy.

Flashback: Axios reported shortly after the election that the Trump administration would enact a series of hardline policies during its final weeks, in an effort to cement Trump's legacy on China.

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Go deeper

In cyber espionage, U.S. is both hunted and hunter

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

American outrage over foreign cyber espionage, like Russia's SolarWinds hack, obscures the uncomfortable reality that the U.S. secretly does just the same thing to other countries.

Why it matters: Secrecy is often necessary in cyber spying to protect sources and methods, preserve strategic edges that may stem from purloined information, and prevent diplomatic incidents.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

2 hours ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.