US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has warned that China is pursuing aggressive economic and military policies at the expense of other nations and challenging the “international order” established by Washington.
Beijing “is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction, more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness, and, most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture,” Esper said at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday.
“It is essential that we -– as an international community –- wake up to the challenges presented by China’s manipulation of the long-standing international, rules-based order,” said Esper.
The Pentagon chief also said Washington was working with US and European technology companies to develop 5G wireless technology and counter China’s dominance in the industry.
“We are encouraging allied and US tech companies to develop alternative 5G solutions and we are working alongside them to test these technologies at our military bases as we speak,” Esper said.
“Developing our own secure 5G networks will outweigh any perceived gains from partnering with heavily subsidized Chinese providers that answer to party leadership.”
Esper has made China a key focus for the Pentagon since taking office and seeks to redeploy American forces from other areas to confront a growing military competition with China.
Esper is the latest senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration to warn about what the US perceives as the threat posed by China.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray have also issued warnings about Beijing this week.
The US claim that China is seeking to expand its international influence has been a common US government assertion since the administration of former President Barack Obama.
There are a growing number of disputes in the US-Chinese relationship, which include a trade war, the disputed South China Sea, and the US relationship with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.
Trump launched a trade war with China in 2018 to restrain the country’s growing economic power and to punish China for its alleged economic espionage, cyber attacks, forced technology transfer and dumping of low-priced goods made with massive government subsidies.
While Trump often touts his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, competition between the countries has only deepened since they signed their “phase-one” trade deal last month. The two nations’ inability to cooperate on the coronavirus is one sign of how much the relationship has deteriorated over the past few years.