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Congress sends out warning of China’s rising strength, says US must be ready to counter

February 15, 2018

Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, gave a statement Thursday at the committee’s “Strategic Competition with China” hearing.

Adm. Harry Harris, U.S. Pacific Command commander, spoke Wednesday before the committee.

“China’s impressive military buildup could soon challenge the United States across almost every domain. Key advancements include fielding significant improvements in missile systems, developing fifth-generation fighter aircraft capabilities, and growing the size and capability of the Chinese navy to include their first overseas base in the port of Djibouti,” Harris said. “They’re also heavily investing in the next wave of military technologies including hypersonic missiles, advanced space and cyber capabilities, and artificial intelligence.”

These are Thornberry’s opening remarks, during which he warns that “a lot is at stake” and the U.S. must be ready to counter China’s “all-of-nation” strategy.

“Today the Committee meets to receive testimony on strategic competition with China. Following our hearing with Admiral Harris yesterday, it is a good time to hear additional perspectives, especially with the knowledge and expertise of these witnesses. They are Dr. Aaron Friedberg, professor at Princeton University, and Dr. Ely Ratner, Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Both are longtime experts on China, and we thank you for being with us.

As the National Defense Strategy points out, long-term strategic competition with China is a principal priority for the Department of Defense requiring investment and attention that is both increased and sustained. American security and American economic prosperity are at stake.

The National Defense Strategy states, ‘China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage… China continues its economic and military ascendance, asserting power through an all-of-nation long-term strategy.’

Countering China’s all-of-nation strategy is a real challenge for us. In recent years we have frequently read and heard admonitions to integrate all elements of America’s national power-political, economic and military, but we have not yet really done so.

If China chooses a path of responsible participation in world affairs, we should welcome and encourage it. But the U.S. must also be ready, able and willing working with our allies and others, to adjust to other choices that China may make.

In his book, Destined For War, Graham Allison points to ‘two difficult truths:’

‘First, on the current trajectory, war between the U.S. and China in the decades ahead is not just possible, but much more likely than currently recognized. Indeed, on the historical record, war is more likely than not. … Second, war is not inevitable. History shows that major ruling powers can manage relations with rivals, even those that threaten to overtake them, without triggering a war.’

A lot is at stake. I look forward to hearing the insights of our witnesses.”