Defense Secretary Mark Esper slammed China’s ever-growing power on the world and said the rest of the world needs to “wake up” in order to curtail the nation’s influence.
Speaking at the 2020 Munich Security Conference with world leaders on Saturday, Esper warned about China’s predatory behavior, saying the nation is a rising threat to world order, according to the Associated Press.
“The Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction – more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture,” Esper said.
“It is essential that we — as an international community — wake up to the challenges presented by China’s manipulation of the long-standing international, rules-based order,” he added, as CNN reported.
China is now at the top of the Pentagon’s list of concerns, just ahead of Russia, rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, and terrorist organizations.
“The Communist Party and its associated organs, including the People’s Liberation Army, are increasingly operating in theaters outside its borders, including Europe, and seeking advantage by any means, and at any cost,” he said.
“While we often doubt the transparency and forthrightness of Beijing, when it comes to their security aims, we should take the Chinese government at its word,” he said. “They have said that by 2035, the PRC intends to complete its military modernization, and, by 2049, it seeks to dominate Asia as the preeminent global military power.”
Esper clarified that he does not want conflict with China, adding that the United States has helped the country in its efforts to combat the coronavirus that has quickly spread across China and the rest of the world.
If China does not change its policies and behaviors, according to Esper, defending international order must be the international community’s “collective” priority.
“We can only do this by making greater investments in our common defense; by making the hard economic and commercial choices needed to prioritize our shared security and by working together to maintain a ready and capable alliance network that is prepared to deter any threat, defend any ally, and defeat any foe,” he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided last month to let Huawei develop Britain’s 5G network as part of his “leveling up” agenda, which has some security experts concerned that the network could be used to spy on the British.
Esper called on the world to join in the United States’ ban on the tech company for privacy concerns, including corporate and military espionage.
Without issuing an outright ban, German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed a plan to potentially curtail Huawei’s involvement in Germany by barring “untrustworthy” companies from the process working on 5G networks.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed Esper’s warning as “lies.”
“The root cause of all these problems and issues is that the U.S. does not want to see the rapid development and rejuvenation of China, and still less would they want to accept the success of a socialist country,” Wang said through a translator.