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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.

Making sense of Biden's big emissions promise

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's new U.S. emissions-cutting target is a sign of White House ambition and a number that distills the tough political and policy maneuvers needed to realize those aims.

Driving the news: This morning the White House unveiled a nonbinding goal under the Paris Agreement that calls for cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% by 2030 relative to 2005 levels.

Biden pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% by 2030

U.S. President Joe Biden seen in the Oval Office on April 15. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is moving to address global warming by setting a new, economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Why it matters: The new, non-binding target is about twice as ambitious as the previous U.S. target of a 26% to 28% cut by 2025, which was set during the Obama administration. White House officials described the goal as ambitious but achievable during a call with reporters Tuesday night.