Published On: Thu, Jun 10th, 2021

Pentagon Chief Orders Stronger China Focus, With Details Secret

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a directive Wednesday aimed at reorienting America’s military to better compete with Beijing, but military officials offered few details on how that would be accomplished.

A Pentagon statement said the initiatives, many of which are classified, “are designed to focus departmental processes and procedures and better help department leaders contribute to whole-of-government efforts to address the challenge from China.”

Austin said in a statement that the efforts are part of the broader Biden administration response to the challenge from China and will feed into the Defense Department’s National Defense Strategy.

“The efforts I am directing today will improve the Department’s ability to revitalize our network of allies and partners, bolster deterrence, and accelerate the development of new operational concepts, emerging capabilities, future force posture, and a modernized civilian and military workforce,” Austin said.

Two senior defense officials, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said the moves build upon recommendations from the Defense Department’s China Task Force, announced by President Joe Biden in February. The group is led by Austin’s chief adviser on China, Ely Ratner, and charged with assessing the Pentagon’s China-related programs and priorities and providing Austin with policy recommendations.

Read More: Senate Passes Sweeping Bill to Help U.S. Compete With China

The initiatives are aimed at bridging a “say/do gap” when it comes to actually shifting the Pentagon’s focus to China. The official said the directives include efforts to work more closely with allies across the Indo-Pacific and to guide U.S. force posture toward China. The department will review joint warfighting concepts as well as professional military education to focus on competition with China, the official said.

The Pentagon’s shift comes as the administration prepares for an era of what Biden has dubbed “extreme competition” with Beijing, an effort that enjoys rare bipartisan support in Washington.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed an almost $250 billion bill to invest in manufacturing and technology in an effort to out-compete Beijing. The legislation authorizes $190 billion in spending, much of it aimed at increased research and development at universities and other institutions. It also includes $52 billion in emergency outlays to help domestic manufacturers of semiconductors expand production.

The U.S. should abandon its “cold war mentality” and view China’s development rationally, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday at a regular press briefing in Beijing. “Playing the China card has become an excuse of the U.S. to expand its military expenditure and military power,” he added.

Biden and his top officials have said they see areas of cooperation with China, often citing climate change. On Wednesday Biden revoked Trump-era bans on the Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat, instead ordering a review of software applications from foreign adversaries that could pose a risk to Americans’ sensitive data.

Biden Revokes TikTok, WeChat Bans and Orders Security Review

Overall, the two nations have deep disagreements on a wide range of issues from human rights to Bejing’s claims in the South China Sea.

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