During a blistering speech at the Munich Security Conference, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, boldly called on the world to recognize and take action against the “authoritarian rule” of the China.
“Under President Xi’s rule,” Esper warned, “the Chinese Communist Party 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 did not hold back when he spoke of intentional efforts by the Chinese government to nefariously influence global interactions.
“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 that has benefited all of us for many decades,” Esper said.
— @EsperDoD (@EsperDoD) February 15, 2020
Esper made it clear America is not seeking to ramp up hostilities with China. “Let me state up front, though, the United States does not seek conflict with China,” Esper admitted. “In fact, we look for areas of cooperation when our interests converge in the hope that they will choose the other path they didn’t take twenty years ago.”
However, although he promoted the idea of peace, it was not a peace without conditions.
“To be a responsible member of the international community, China must be transparent and respect the sovereignty, freedom, and rights of all nations,” Esper said. “Unfortunately, their current behavior leaves great cause for concern.”
Esper made his case to the room of international security experts that Chinese threats must be recognized then dealt with swiftly and appropriately. The Secretary of Defense then recounted a short history of the tactics of the People’s Republic of China. “The PRC’s growing economic, military, and diplomatic power often manifests itself in ways that are threatening, coercive, and counter to the rules-based international order,” Esper reminded his audience. “Over time, we have watched them seize and militarize islands in the South China Sea, and rapidly modernize their armed forces, while seeking to use emerging technologies to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in their favor ….and often at the expense of others.”
Then Esper made it clear, if it was not already, the entire world should be vigilantly alert against Chinese expansion efforts. “I continue to stress to my friends in Europe – and just this past week again at the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels – that America’s concerns about Beijing’s commercial and military expansion should be their concerns as well,” Esper said.
The global community should be deeply concerned about the Party’s use of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies to surveil and repress Muslim minorities, journalists, and pro-democracy protestors. To make matters worse, the government is now exporting these tools worldwide in a manner that could bolster other authoritarian regimes.
Although the Chinese leadership seems hell-bent on promoting a violent and authoritarian agenda, Esper affirmed the notion that international caution can curb the PRC’s ominous direction.
“History has proven time and again, though, that authoritarianism breeds corruption, promotes conformity, smothers free thinking, and suppresses freedom,” Esper noted. “In stark contrast to this are our values, sense of fairness, and culture of opportunity, which encourage disruption and unleash the very best of human intellect, spirit, and innovation.
Esper concluded that to defeat China, the leaders of the free world must stay smart, alert and and courageous.
“It is critical that, together, we directly and unambiguously, address Beijing’s actions and intentions, so that we are never intimidated, duped, or pushed into bad security, economic, or political choices,” Esper said. “And maybe, just maybe, we can get them on the right path.”