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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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