Vernuccio’s View: China’s Drive Towards Supremacy

The unprecedented extent of China’s combined military, financial, and political challenge to the United States and its allies has been outlined at an unclassified hearing called by the House Permanent Select Committee on intelligence.

According to Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, “For many years, the Committee has warned about the threat posed by China’s increasingly aggressive activities around the globe…Past administrations have sought to assuage China through measures such as helping Beijing join the World Trade Organizations; taking steps to build better military-to-military relationships; avoiding confrontations over China’s unfair trade practices, predatory economic policies, and theft of U.S. intellectual property; and responding softly to China’s aggressive territorial claims and military force projection. These previous attempts to appease China failed to improve our bilateral relations. In fact, China has only become emboldened and may now be the preeminent threat to American security, our economy, and our values.”

Nunes outlined his belief that China’s growing military capabilities and global strategy, especially Beijing’s efforts to modernize and expand its military as well as its ability to project power abroad, is a crisis of extraordinary magnitude. Combined with China’s predatory economic activity, it’s use of civilian port facilities and bases to expand its military presence, renders this a challenge equal to that faced during the first Cold War.

China, the committee hearing revealed, has a broad-based strategy that combines modernizing military capabilities across the air, land, sea, cyber, and space domains. This effort is added to the rapid expansion of China’s access to ports and overseas bases, and its international propaganda campaign. From its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, to its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, China is using its economic and military power to subvert international norms, undermine U.S. national security, threaten U.S. friends and allies, and re-shape the global balance of power.

China’s also threatens U.S. government and private sector research and seeks to undermine America’s global leadership role in technological innovation. Beijing has engaged in an influence campaign across political, ideological, economic and informational spheres to win supporters and undermine opposition to the Chinese regime within America. This includes its use of economic leverage to exert influence including through financial and trade strategies, pressure on U.S. companies operating in China, and “Confucius Institutes” and “Chinese Student Associations” in American universities.

The testimony given by witnesses at the hearing was stark in its implications. Captain James Fanell, a retired Naval Intelligence officer, warned that:

“The strategic balance has shifted in the PRC’s favor and against America’s security and interests. China’s unilateral expansion into and through the international waters within the First Island Chain—or what Beijing now calls China’s ‘Blue Territories’—over the past six years has dramatically altered the strategic balance of power in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. In addition to building of a modern, blue-water Navy, the PRC has taken a wide range of destabilizing actions that pose an increasingly threat to global security.

“These actions include the PRC’s construction of naval air stations atop buried coral reefs in the South China Sea, including Mischief Reef within the territory of our ally the Philippines; their declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea near Japan, their claims of sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, and their flat out repudiation of the authority of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the world’s oldest standing international law arbitral body. The threatening actions also include China’s unprecedented and increasing naval operations in the Western Pacific, South Pacific, Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, the Arctic and Antarctic and finally into the Atlantic Ocean. This is a clear empirical indication of China’s future malign intentions and actions.”

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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