“Ladies and gentlemen, China’s intent is crystal clear. We ignore it at our peril,” United States Pacific Command (US PACOM) commander Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. told the House Armed Services Committee on February 14.
“China’s ongoing military buildup, advancement, and modernization are core elements of their strategy to supplant the U.S. as the security partner of choice for countries in the Indo-Pacific, but China also holds clear global ambitions. But don’t take my word for it,” the American admiral said.
He quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping saying he wanted China to develop a “world class” military and become a “global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence” at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2017.
“These types of aspirational goals could be appropriate for a nation of China’s stature, but judging by China’s regional behavior, I’m concerned China will now work to undermine the rules-based international order – not just in the Indo-Pacific, but on a global scale – as China expands is presence in Central Asia, the Arctic, Africa, South America, and Europe,” Admiral Harris said.
“This increasingly competitive environment necessitates continued dialogue between the U.S. and Chinese militaries to improve understanding and reduce risk. For PACOM, my goal remains to convince China that its best future comes from peaceful cooperation and meaningful participation in the current free and open international order and honoring its international commitments. After all, the Chinese economic miracle could not have happened without the rules-based order the region has long supported,” he explained.
However, he said US should also be ready for confrontation if needed.
“But I’ve also been loud and clear that we won’t allow the shared domains to be closed down unilaterally, so we’ll cooperate where we can, but remain ready to confront where we must,” he said.