On the eve of the visit to the US of the leading contender to be the next president of China, a senior US admiral has laid out with refreshing candor his estimate of Chinese capabilities and intentions.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), who is widely expected to become China’s top leader later this year, was scheduled to arrive in Washington yesterday. He is slated to be the guest of US Vice President Joseph Biden, but is also scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama and other political and military leaders.
Most likely by coincidence, US Pacific Command nominee Admiral Samuel Locklear III delivered his written assessment of China’s goals to the US Senate Armed Services Committee last week. He awaits a Senate vote to confirm his new assignment, then is scheduled to assume his new command next month.
In contrast to the laments about a “lack of transparency” in China’s military buildup from many US politicians, diplomats and military officers in Washington, Locklear was forceful without being provocative. He made the obligatory nod toward transparency that has marked US rhetoric recently, but then said what he evidently really thinks.
“The overriding objectives of China’s leaders appear to be to ensure the continued rule of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP],” he said, echoing the private assessments of officials with access to intelligence assessments.
To stay in power, Locklear said, Chinese leaders would seek to “continue China’s economic development.”
Locklear, who is scheduled to arrive at the US Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu next month, referred indirectly to the frequent protests, particularly in rural areas, that have erupted recently. Thus another objective, he said, would be to “maintain the country’s domestic political stability.”
A third objective would be “to defend China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
Chinese leaders have frequently asserted that Taiwan must be incorporated into China to preserve territorial integrity. The US supports self--determination by Taiwanese.
Still another objective would be to “secure China’s influence and status,” he said.
Some “Asia hands” contend that China’s rulers are seeking to revive the Middle Kingdom of yore with enough political, economic and military power to dominate Asia and drive the US out of the western Pacific.
Militarily, Locklear wrote: “China appears to be building the capability to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its periphery.”
“Its near-term focus appears to be on preparing for potential contingencies involving Taiwan and to deter or deny effective [US] intervention in a cross-strait conflict,” he added.
“Its modernization plans emphasize anti-access and area denial capabilities,” he said. That is known in Pentagon jargon as “A2AD,” meaning Chinese ballistic missiles to attack US air bases and naval facilities and weapons intended to destroy US ships and aircraft.
Locklear, who has been commander of US naval forces in Europe, said: “China is also devoting increasing attention and resources to conducting operations beyond Taiwan and China’s immediate periphery.”
“China looks to South and Southeast Asia as an area of strategic importance, which includes political objectives, access to resources, trade, and investment,” he wrote.