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Navy intel chief says average Americans are ‘naive,’ have ‘blindness’ on China threat

Rear Adm. Michael Studeman. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
March 14, 2023

The commander of Navy intelligence recently called the average American “naïve” to the threats posed by China, saying the nation suffers from “a China blindness problem” as competition between the countries reaches new heights.

Rear Adm. Mike Studeman, commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence, made the remark Feb. 15, Breaking Defense reported, at the height of the fallout over a Chinese spy balloon that flew over a large part of the U.S. before being shot down by fighter jets.

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“I’ll be very honest with you. It’s very unsettling to see how much the U.S. is not connecting the dots on our No. 1 challenge,” Studeman said during the U.S. Naval Institute’s WEST 2023 conference in San Diego, California.

“It’s disturbing how ill-informed and naïve the average American is on China. I chalk this up, if I could summarize, into a China blindness. We face a knowledge crisis and a China blindness problem,” he added.

U.S. officials have increasingly sounded alarms about China in recent years, and relations between the two countries plunged to a new low amid the spy balloon incident. China claimed it was a wayward civilian weather balloon, but the U.S. has described it as part of a broader surveillance program run by China’s People’s Liberation Army that has targeted more than 40 countries.

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Studeman reportedly suggested that the so-called “China blindness” may stem from the military’s tendency to classify more information than necessary.

“Frankly, I’ve been in a struggle for some time with the Intelligence Community to be able to actually downgrade some of the things that we see that are truly damning with regard to what the Chinese are doing and why they’re doing it, and get those out into the public domain,” he said.

Studeman reportedly ended his remarks by asking government officials to tamp down on debates that distract from external threats.

“Can we please lower the amount of internal bickering within the United States and focus on the international challenges that actually affect every American?” he said.