- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2018

The United States continues to lack a whole of government approach to curb Chinese aggression on the world stage, despite ongoing efforts at the Pentagon and State Department placing Beijing at the top of their priority lists, a top House Republican said Thursday.

The approach advocated by the Trump administration, outlined in military terms within the new National Defense Strategy (NDS) and in a recent slew of new economic sanctions by Washington against Beijing, still lacks the cohesiveness seen in China’s own “whole of nation” approach to advancing its interests across the globe, said Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry.

China is a principal priority for the Department of Defense requiring investment and attention that is both increased and sustained. American security and American economic prosperity are at stake,” the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said at the onset of a Thursday hearing on strategic competition between the U.S. and China.

“Countering China’s all-of-nation strategy is a real challenge for us,” he told members of the House defense panel. “In recent years we have frequently read and heard admonitions to integrate all elements of America’s national power-political, economic, and military — but we have not yet really done so,” the Texas lawmaker added.

Committee member Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, sounded similar concerns during a Wednesday hearing with U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris on the strategic threat posed by China in the region.

“I think it’s essential that we view these threats from a whole-of-government perspective,” Mr. Wilson said. “It’s not enough that the State Department or the Defense Department view China as a rival. I think we need to view China, for example, as a rival across all of government.”

Beijing already views “the United States as a rival across the whole of their nation,” Mr. Wilson said, noting the U.S. is “coming up to speed on the whole-of-government aspect but we have more to go in that regard.”

For his part, Adm. Harris said the Chinese effort to expand its global influence is a direct threat to the international military and political status quo.

“While some view China’s actions in the East and South China seas as opportunistic, I do not. I view them as coordinated, methodical, and strategic, using their military and economic power to erode the free and open international order,” the four-star admiral said at the time.

China will now work to undermine the rules-based international order, not just in the Indo-Pacific, but on a global scale” in places like the Arctic, Africa, South America, and Europe, he added.

Pentagon war planners have already shifted away from strategies dominated by battling extremist groups such as al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State, and setting their sights on the growing military threat posed by Russia, China and other nation states.

The new NDS contends Beijing though “military modernization, influence operations and predatory economics” is pursuing its own designs to replace the U.S. as the premiere regional power in the Indo-Pacific region. China has already drawn the ire of Washington and its Pacific allies through its aggressive actions in the South China Sea and continued backing of the rogue regime in North Korea.

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