China is conducting "human testing" to create "biologically enhanced soldiers," the head of US intelligence has claimed as he warned that Beijing poses the biggest threat to America's national security.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, warned that the US must be prepared for an "open-ended" confrontation with China which he likened to the Cold War.
Mr Ratcliffe, who oversees America's intelligence agencies, said he believed China's intention was to "dominate" the planet in every sense: economically, militarily and technologically.
He claimed that US intelligence showed China has "conducted human testing on members of the People's Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities".
"There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing's pursuit of power," he said.
Mr Ratcliffe said his unique vantage point on the current security threats facing the US had led him to conclude that "the People's Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom world-wide since World War II".
He went on to outline in granular detail China's strategy of economic espionage, which he framed as: "rob, replicate and replace."
"China robs US companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the US firms in the global marketplace," he said.
China's foreign affairs spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, hit back at the claims on Friday, calling Mr Ratcliffe's op-ed "fake news" that contained no real evidence and jeopardised relations between the two countries.
"We hope that American politicians will respect the facts, stop making and selling fake news, stop fabricating and spreading political viruses and lies, and stop damaging Sino-US relations, otherwise it will only further damage the credibility of the United States," she said.
The incendiary op-ed by Mr Ratcliffe, a former Republican congressman from Texas, is part of Donald Trump's administration-wide effort to enact a series of hardline policies confronting Chinese in the final weeks of his presidency.
Senior administration officials have hinted that the US president is determined to cement his tough stance on Beijing with a series of policy moves which his successor Joe Biden will find difficult to undo.
"Unless Beijing reverses course and becomes a responsible player on the global stage, future US presidents will find it politically suicidal to reverse President Trump's historic actions," John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council told Axios last month.
In recent weeks Mr Trump has issued an executive order barring US investment in 31 companies the Defense Department believes has links to the Chinese military as well as banning cotton imports from companies accused of human rights violations in Xinjiang.