Beijing could slow WTO-related reforms if it fears social unrest will threaten stability of the leadership, the head of the CIA warned yesterday. CIA Director George Tenet said problems related to China's entry to the World Trade Organisation were just one of many confronting Washington's relations with Beijing. He said cross-straits relations remained the toughest issue. He also feared China may not keep to recent agreements halting the spread of missile technology by continuing to work with Pakistan. In his annual report to the US Senate, Mr Tenet warned that mainland leaders already feared 'disturbing trends' were under way as they prepared to enter the WTO. 'Their crackdown on Falun Gong, underground Christians, and other spiritual and religious groups reflects growing alarm about challenges to the Communist Party's legitimacy. 'The Chinese Communist leadership wants to protect its legitimacy and authority against any and all domestic challenges. 'Over the next few years, however, Chinese leaders will have to manage a difficult balancing act between the requirements of reform and the requirements of staying in power.' Under questioning from the Senate's Intelligence Committee, Mr Tenet spoke of both a 'cauldron of social change' and rampant corruption testing the leadership in the run-up to the 16th Communist Party Congress next year. In a sweeping global assessment, he named alleged Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden as the biggest external threat to Americans but said China's 'drive for recognition as a great power is one of the toughest challenges we face'. 'Beijing's goal of becoming a key world player and especially more powerful in East Asia has come sharply into focus. 'It is pursuing these goals through an ambitious economic reform agenda, military modernisation, and a complex web of initiatives aimed at expanding China's international influence - especially relative to the United States.' China's development was reliant on Western markets and technology yet the leadership viewed Washington as its biggest obstacle to becoming a superpower, he said. Mr Tenet's report - one of his few public statements - was mostly compiled before the change of administrations but had been reviewed to reflect the thinking of the new Republican presidency of George W. Bush, intelligence sources said. Mr Tenet was appointed by former president Bill Clinton but Mr Bush is keeping him on. Many analysts believe the new administration wants a more extensive and co-ordinated approach to its mainland intelligence gathering.