The regime in China poses the leading challenge to U.S. national security, followed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea, in the annual threat assessment report compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies, despite the pandemic,” according to the report (pdf) published on April 13. “China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas—especially economically, militarily, and technologically—and is pushing to change global norms.”

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Moscow are “fueling” economic and humanitarian crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition, while they engage in so-called vaccine diplomacy to expand their respective spheres of influence, the report notes.

The CCP will “continue its whole-of-government efforts to spread China’s influence, undercut that of the United States, drive wedges between Washington and its allies and partners, and foster new international norms that favor the authoritarian Chinese system,” according to the ODNI. “Chinese leaders probably will, however, seek tactical opportunities to reduce tensions with Washington when such opportunities suit their interests,” saying that it is a matter of the regime’s “survival.”

“China is touting its success containing the COVID-19 pandemic as evidence of the superiority of its” communist system, the report noted, adding that it will continue to combine its military power with its “economic, technological, and diplomatic clout to preserve the CCP … at Washington’s expense.”

At the same time, the CCP will try to “muffle” criticism of China and human rights violations in the United States and will “pressure political figures whom Beijing believes oppose its interests,” officials said. “Beijing has been intensifying efforts to shape the political environment in the United States to promote its policy preferences.”

The report further notes that China’s conventional and nuclear forces are becoming more capable of putting American lives at risk, predicting the CCP will try to construct more overseas military bases.

“Beijing will press Taiwan authorities to move toward unification and will condemn what it views as increased U.S.–Taiwan engagement. We expect that friction will grow as Beijing steps up attempts to portray Taipei as internationally isolated and dependent on the mainland for economic prosperity, and as China continues to increase military activity around the island,” officials said.