March 08, 2023
Watch or download Sentor King’s questioning HERE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Co-Chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, today questioned top U.S. intelligence officials about threats posed by continued U.S. dependence on China for critical supplies like batteries and pharmaceuticals. In the annual SSCI Worldwide Threat Assessment hearing, King compared the vulnerability to Europe’s crippling reliance on Russian oil and gas and asked Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines to assess the challenge.
“China is now on track to control 65% of lithium ion battery markets, they dominate all parts of the supply chain; 40% of the world's active pharmaceutical ingredients; and their global share across all manufacturing of solar panels is now 80%, certainly could go to 90%,” said Senator King. “This is important information for us, in terms of informing us about the dangerous dependency that we have developed in a whole lot of areas – semiconductors is one we have talked about. It suggests to me, this issue of dependency is something that really has to have some serious policy examination, would you concur?
“Yes, absolutely,” agreed DNI Haines. “I think one of the things we are really trying to expose over here is the fact that it is not simply about China trying to create indigenous supply chains, but to actually control global supply chains.”
“That seems to be a deliberate policy, does it not?” asked Senator King.
“Exactly,” DNI Haines confirmed.
“That also goes with the actions in Africa and South America, where they are trying to corner the market, if you will, on various commodities,” Senator King added.
“You can see it also, as you indicate, not only in their decisions about what they are purchasing and how they are managing it, but also the laws that the pass, that gives them the capability – for example, in rare earth elements – to actually turn the dial on the export and import policies, so that they can actually create that pressure,” said DNI Haines.
“You’d think we would learn from Europe's dependency on Russia with gas, that this is a similar thing we need to address as a matter of policy,” concluded Senator King.
Continuing his questioning, King asked General Paul Nakasone, Director of the National Security Agency and Commander of United States Cyber Command, if the country is keeping up with increasingly aggressive cyberthreats from China and Russia. Yesterday, King discussed the new National Cyber Strategy with Nakasone, calling it a “coherent, government-wide strategy.”
“General Nakasone… China's cyber posture, my sense is that they are getting more aggressive, is that true? And is Russia adapting and getting better?” asked Senator King.
“Senator, I would say that both China and Russia, they are very capable cyber adversaries,” replied General Nakasone. “With regard to China, we see an increasing degree of risk taking that they have undergone with regards to stealing our intellectual property, even increasing their influence operations. These are concerning efforts for us. With regard to Russia, we still see them, and we see them very accurately, and being able to warn, and being able to counteract some of the things they are doing around the world. So, we know them very, very well.”
“But they are getting clever-er about using our infrastructure, for example,” Senator King continued.
“Well certainly they are getting clever. But we still I would say, Senator, are able to stay ahead of them,” General Nakasone added. “That is a big piece I would want to emphasize.”
“Maybe the answer would be: so are we, getting more clever,” Senator King concluded.
Senator King has been one of Congress’ leading experts on cyberdefense and is a strong advocate for a forward-thinking cyberstrategy that emphasizes layered cyberdeterrence. Since it officially launched in April 2019, dozens of CSC recommendations have been enacted into law, including the creation of a National Cyber Director.
Senator King is also recognized as a thoughtful voice on national security and foreign policy issues. Senator King has shared concerns that Putin may consider “greater force in Ukraine” and condemned the attacks on Ukrainian sovereignty as “heinous”, calling for a united, international effort to push back on Putin. In January, Senator King visited Kyiv to hold bilateral meetings with President Zelenskyy and his Ukrainian counterparts to ensure that American aid was used efficiently with proper oversight.