Avril Haines speaks during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to be President-elect Joe Biden’s national intelligence director on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON: Asserting that China is a "challenge" to the security and prosperity of the US, spy chief nominee Avril Haines has said she supports an "aggressive stance" to deal with the challenges that the country is now facing from Beijing.

America's approach to China has to evolve and essentially meet the reality of the particularly assertive and aggressive China that is being experienced now, Haines told lawmakers during her confirmation hearing for the post of Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday.

US President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Haines, who had served as White House Deputy National Security Advisor in the Obama administration, as his next spymaster.

If confirmed by the Senate, 51-year-old Haines would be the first woman to occupy this position. In this capacity she would oversee as many as 18 American intelligence agencies, including CIA and FBI.

"China is a challenge to our security, to our prosperity, to our values across a range of issues, and I do support an aggressive stance, in a sense, to deal with the challenge that we're facing. So I think that's the place that we are now, and one that is more assertive than where we had been in the Obama/Biden administration. And if I'm confirmed, I think frankly the intelligence community can do a lot to help in that respect," she said.

"Providing, keeping our focus, putting our resources and effort in making sure that we understand the intentions and capabilities of China, but also that we are actually recognising and holding them to account in effect by identifying where they are taking actions that are inconsistent with our interests will be part of what I hope to focus on," she said in response to a question.

Haines said China is adversarial and an adversary on some issues.

"And in other issues, we try to cooperate with them whether in the context of climate change or other things," she said.

"And ultimately, the frame that the President-elect has identified for thinking about this is as a global competitor. I think that doesn't, in any way mitigate the fact that, when it comes to espionage or a variety of areas that I'll be focused on if I am confirmed as the director of National Intelligence, they are an adversary and we have to work on those issues and particularly conjuring their illegal, unfair aggressive actions in these spaces," Haines said.

She acknowledged that the counterintelligence challenge with China is a very important one: a priority and something that she will need to focus on.

"I haven't had a chance to get the kind of in-depth classified briefing that I'd like to, on these issues to provide you with a more considered opinion," Haines said, adding that there needs to be more training in this space.

"And I know that prior directors of National Intelligence have emphasised the importance of having those partnerships with local and state actors. And I think that's a space where I would like to further engage with you on this issue. But I think having a plan for how we can increase training and education of various leaders in state and local authorities so that they understand the threat that is facing them would be perfectly sensible," she said.