The Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are destabilizing international order in an effort to expand their global power, Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the Indo-Pacific Command, warned lawmakers during a House hearing on Tuesday.
In his written testimony submitted to the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Adm. Aquilino explained that the Department of Defense considers China the “most consequential strategic competitor to the United States and our allies and partners throughout the world.” He warned that the communist nation is currently executing a “dedicated campaign” to “uproot the rules-based international order in ways that benefit themselves at the expense of all others.”
“The PRC seeks to become a global military power and acquire the ability to seize Taiwan, while developing conventional weapons that can reach the U.S. homeland,” Adm. Aquilino wrote, referring to China by the acronym of its formal name, the People’s Republic of China.
The admiral also alerted lawmakers to China’s goal of establishing a network of military bases globally, extending the reach of the PLA “far beyond the Indo-Pacific.
Adm. Aquilino said the Chinese Communist Party, led by Xi Jinping, is using a combination of economic and military influences that are demonstrated in the “coercive “coercive economic actions the PRC has taken against U.S. allies and like-minded partners.”
According to the admiral, the PLA is executing “the most extensive military build-up since WWII” that includes a “comprehensive modernization program across land, sea, air, space, cyber, and information domains.”
Xi has ordered most of the modernization efforts to be completed by 2027.
“The PLA Navy (PLAN) boasts a battle force of [about] 350 ships and submarines, including more than 130 major surface combatants. Already possessing the largest navy in the world, the PRC is expanding this formidable force by adding new capabilities to a fleet expected to grow to 420 battle force ships by 2025,” he said. “The PLAN’s priorities are delivering aircraft carrier groups, building expeditionary warfare capabilities with Marine-like forces, expanding their surface force, and increasing undersea capacity.”
“The PLA’s aviation force is the largest in the Indo-Pacific. More than half of its operational fighter force utilizes 4th generation aircraft or better, and the PRC commenced mass production of its first 5th generation J-20 aircraft,” he continued. “The PLA Air Force is also fielding the nuclear-capable H-6N, the first PLA bomber capable of aerial refueling.”
Adm. Aquilino also highlighted the PLA Rocket Force, which is pursuing land-attack, supersonic cruise missiles “and other advanced weapons.” Additionally, he said the communist nation is “expanding and maturing its space and counter-space programs.”
Aquilino said that while the Indo-Pacific Command has “made significant strides toward improving our deterrence posture,” the U.S. “must capitalize on our current technological advantage and equip forces with the world’s most sophisticated weapon systems and use combined, secure networks with our allies and partners to prevent conflict.”
“This effort requires fielding an integrated Joint force with precision-strike networks, anti-ship, and anti-air capabilities inside the First Island Chain; integrated air and missile defense in the Second Island Chain; and an enhanced force posture that provides the ability to sustain extended combat operations,” he asserted.
“We will work tirelessly to preserve peace, stability, and the rules-based international order that has benefited all nations for more than 80 years. We do not seek conflict, nor will we shy away from robust competition,” Aquilino continued. “The resources we commit now, and in the future, will preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific, strengthen our deterrence posture, and provide us the ability to fight and win should deterrence fail.”