U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr warned of a range of threats from China including propaganda efforts surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.
In an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, Barr described Chinese efforts as a ‘full-court blitzkrieg’ across multiple fronts, which he said includes meddling in US elections, exercising control over key supply chains and promoting disinformation about the coronavirus.
In one example, Barr noted recent reports of Chinese government efforts to block companies, including U.S.-multinationals in China, from exporting needed coronavirus supplies and protective equipment to the United States.
“The idea that much of what we need to protect the health of the American people is in the control of foreign governments who can interdict and say ‘we’re not shipping stuff to the United States’ when everyone else in the world wants it during a pandemic was a crazy situation to get into,” Barr said.
Michael Wessell, a founding member of the federal US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, assessed that, after China blocked the export of coronavirus supplies to the U.S., the Chinese government began releasing some of that equipment under the auspices of foreign aid. He said the effort was one “to curry goodwill with the American when some of the problems we’re facing are the direct result of Chinese policies.”
Barr said the U.S. Department of Justice has a “China Initiative” that is dealing with Chinese threats on multiple fronts, but “it’s something we also have to expose by letting the business community understand exactly the nature of the threat.”
“The Chinese are engaged in a full-court blitzkrieg of stealing American technology, trying to influence our political system, trying to steal secrets at our research universities and so forth and we are focused on it,” Barr said.
When asked if he viewed the Chinese Communist Party or the Russia under President Vladimir Putin as a greater threat, Barr told Ingraham, “In my opinion it’s China, and not just to the election process, but I think across the board there’s simply no comparison.”
“China is a very serious threat to the United States geopolitically, economically, militarily, and a threat to the integrity of our institutions given their ability to influence things.”
Other members of President Donald Trump’s administration have also criticized China for spreading disinformation about the coronavirus. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently criticized China for delaying the release of information regarding the coronavirus and spreading disinformation about its origin and claims of lockdown orders in the U.S.