Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has declared his country will have the world’s strongest military by mid-century.
China is militarizing the South China Sea, has Taiwan in its crosshairs and is seeking to project power on a global scale both militarily and through its mercantilist debt-trap diplomacy. A revisionist power seeking to shape the world in its authoritarian image, Beijing represents a clear and present danger to the U.S. and our allies.
Last week, Chinese scientists announced their successful production of next-generation hypersonic weapons, which are equipped with infrared imaging technology. This breakthrough, heat-seeking capability would enable the Chinese military to expand its lethal targeting to include U.S. stealth aircraft and aircraft carriers.
Hypersonic missiles are a key component of China’s strategy to project power and deter the U.S. and its allies from countering its plans to establish a regional hegemony in East Asia.
China has denied developing a nuclear-armed hypersonic missile, but the U.S. must plan for this grim eventuality as well, since it would give China an alarming first-strike capability.
Expressing grave concern about China’s advances in hypersonic missiles in November 2021, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten warned China could soon surpass U.S. military capability “if we don’t do something to change it.” Highlighting the “pace and trajectory” of China’s technological advances, Gen. Hyten noted that China had conducted hundreds of hypersonic missile tests in comparison to America’s nine.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley called the October Chinese hypersonic missile test “very close to a Sputnik moment,” reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s surprise advances in space at the height of the Cold War in 1958.
The U.S. is lagging dangerously behind China in the development of hypersonic missiles, with implications far beyond the military sphere. With military superiority, Chinese unfair trade practices would morph into even more sinister coercive measures. The Biden administration needs to take action with the greatest alacrity along three lines of operation.
First, China’s successes illustrate the critical importance of protecting our own technology from China’s ubiquitous espionage. Beijing is flooding the zone in the U.S. with traditional spying as well as exploiting its fellow-traveler businessmen who — by law — must share everything demanded of them with Chinese intelligence.
China targets the U.S. scientific community with its “Thousand Talents” recruiting program. There is an ongoing federal investigation targeting multiple scientists and researchers at leading universities who have allegedly been enriching their bank accounts by endangering intellectual property paid for by grant monies from the Pentagon.
Second, U.S. intelligence agencies must focus on our adversaries’ development and proliferation of hypersonic weapons. Key intelligence requirements would focus on how Mr. Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin would plan to incorporate hypersonic missiles into their overall military strategy. China first tested its hypersonic missile in 2014 and Russia two years later. U.S. intelligence analysts must assiduously track the potential for nuclear-armed rogue states to acquire — or, in the case of North Korea, enhance — their own hypersonic arsenals.
Third, the Department of Defense, in partnership with the private sector, must develop a superior infrared hypersonic missile capability and adopt new countermeasures against the Russian and Chinese systems. The free market economy has always been our most powerful comparative advantage, which has enabled our military to stay a step ahead of brittle autocracies like Russia and China.
Yet the number of high technology companies partnering with the U.S. military has been steadily decreasing, the result of onerous regulations, lower profit margins and concerns about the government’s ability to protect intellectual property.
The Biden administration needs to build on the Trump administration’s success in developing a bipartisan consensus on countering, defending and deterring China, engaging the Congress on a broad agenda to cut red tape and speed technology acquisition; boost federal investment in private-sector research and development; and build up the technological prowess of the Defense Department’s technology acquisition workforce.
The key to outpacing China, as it was with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, is nurturing the most innovative and secure defense industrial base, one which can turbo-boost the U.S. military’s technological capacity. Now is not the time to cede the battlefield to Communist China and to Mr. Xi’s malign vision of a new world order.
• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.