Despite rising tensions with Russia, the U.S. Secretary of Defense named China as the top threat to global order in a memo released Thursday.
In a memo directed to the U.S. Armed Forces, Lloyd Austin outlined the need for the U.S. military to prepare for a potential confrontation with China.
“An increasingly aggressive China is trying to shape the international rules-based system to suit its authoritarian preferences. This is a generational challenge, and the Department will rise to meet it,” Austin wrote.
As covered previously by The Dallas Express, Chinese aggression has been seen above all in the East and South China Sea, where the country has territorial claims that put pressure on the national sovereignty of Taiwan and the Philippines.
To deal with this “pacing challenge” posed by China, Austin’s memo recommends “integrated deterrence,” which refers to working multilaterally “across all war-fighting domains [and] theaters” and coordinating with allies. The main goal is to “improve operational planning, increase joint and allied interoperability, and better align our operations, activities, and investments.”
The U.S. can already be seen strengthening its military partnership with Taiwan, already by acting as its biggest arms supplier.
As The Dallas Express reported, the U.S. is sending a historically large number of troops to the island nation in an effort to boost its military capabilities in light of the looming Chinese threat. It has also granted sizeable military assistance grants, including one in late December that China reacted to by simulating an air raid that infringed on Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
Other “major investments” Austin mentioned in the pipeline for the Indo-Pacific include “the nuclear triad, space, cyberspace, long-range fires, and next-generation capabilities in fighter aircraft and undersea warfare,” per his memo.
Alongside its growing partnership with Taiwan, the U.S. has increased its troop rotations and training with Australia and Japan, as well as its troops’ access to four new military bases in the Philippines.
Upon announcing the former early last month, China responded with accusations of its own against the U.S.
“Out of self-interest, the United States continues to strengthen its military deployment in the region with a zero-sum mentality, which is exacerbating tension in the region and endangering regional peace and stability,” Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said, per The New York Times. “Countries in the region should remain vigilant against this and avoid being coerced and used by the United States.”
Beijing’s opinion aligns with that of Moscow, with whom it has remained friendly. Chinese President Xi Jinping is even planning to soon sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin to allegedly broker an end to the war in Ukraine.
Prior to his recent memo, Austin had said that China “is the only competitor out there with both the intent to reshape the international order, and increasingly the power to do so,” as he testified before the Pentagon in late 2022, per PBS News Hour.
The efforts Austin outlined in his memo are only a short-term solution to U.S.–China tensions. Instead, he emphasized that the threat posed by China’s communist regime will persist and will likely continue to define U.S. strategy for years.