By U.S. Representative Kay Granger
September 4, 2020 2:00PM CST
This is the third op-ed in a series focusing on the threats China poses to the United States.
In the 1940s, America created the strongest, most capable military in the world during World War II. Our ability to develop the best fighters, warships, and other technology is both unmatched by our adversaries and unsurpassed throughout human history.
However, we have recently witnessed the rapid rise of another nation’s military — a nation that wants to upend the type of world that America and our allies have fought so hard to create and protect for decades. That nation is China.
Last month, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper explained how China’s military growth impacts the entire world, saying “unlike America's Armed Forces, the PLA [People's Liberation Army] is not a military that serves its nation or a Constitution. Rather, it serves a political entity, the Chinese Communist Party, in its attempts to undermine rules and norms across the globe.”
Instead of building relationships with nations based on principles of shared economic goals or an exchange of other interests, China bullies smaller, less wealthy nations in every corner of the globe into ceding assets like land and resources. China uses its economic might and military strength in ways that should be alarming to all of us.
Even worse, China continues to ignore international law by annexing land in the South China Sea. They have directly threatened U.S. Navy ships and aircraft in the South China Sea and other waters they have unlawfully claimed. They continue to threaten our allies in the region like Taiwan. These tactics of aggression have no place in the free world and must be confronted. What makes this problem alarming and urgent is that China is gaining on the U.S. in terms of capability by rapidly developing and fielding military technology and weapons.
To understand why we need to counter this threat, we must first answer the question of how the rise of China’s military impacts America.
First, I believe to answer that question, we must look back at our history. What has set America apart from superpowers of decades past is that we do not use our forces for the purposes of territorial expansion. Instead, America has used its military might to protect free commerce and global security, to advance the ideals of democracy and freedom, and to win wars against its enemies.
If we are no longer the guarantor of these ideals, China will rewrite the rules to our disadvantage. We can see the impacts this would have even today. Chinese leaders have already stated that if they get a COVID-19 vaccine first, they will distribute it based on their own strategic interests, bribing countries that have been standing up to them in the South China Sea to change their behavior in exchange for the drug. They will use all types of power, including their military, to overtake international organizations and surpass America as the primary partner for nations around the world.
Second, since more than 90 percent of the world’s commerce is carried by sea, the U.S. Navy has played a key role in protecting the free flow of goods around the world. They are only able to do this because of the internationally recognized Freedom of Navigation principles that China actively ignores. China’s military threatens global commerce in a way that threatens our own economic existence.
The good news is that America’s political and military leadership is boldly standing up to the Chinese threat. We have increased our military footprint in the Indo-Pacific region to ensure a rapid and mighty response to any actions taken by the Chinese. The Navy and Air Force continue to conduct freedom of navigation exercises to both send a message to China and preserve a free and open region. In the past few weeks, Secretary Esper has been visiting our military installations and allies throughout the Pacific to show how committed the U.S. military is to the region. From Palau to Japan, these visits make it clear that we will stand by our allies in the face of China’s aggression. Congress is also continuing our strong support for rebuilding our military, funding the Department of Defense at historic levels.
When I served as the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, I was increasingly concerned with China’s advancements in its state-sponsored defense industry and what it would mean for the future. That is why we made strategic and significant investments in the tools our military would need to win a war against a great power competitor like China. These investments include the F-35, B-21 bomber, and increased research and development into artificial intelligence and other programs.
The Department of Defense recently issued its annual report on China’s military power. The report states that China's goal is to “field a ‘world-class’ military and assume a leading position within an international order revised in line with China’s overall foreign policy goal to establish a ‘community with a shared future for mankind.’” If this should come to be, it would have deep and troubling implications for America and our allies.
We must confront this challenge now. Standing up to this buildup through investing in our military, increasing our presence in the region, and improving our relationships with partners and allies is the only way we can protect the interests and ideals of America and our allies.