China’s Increasing Aggression Is ‘Generational Challenge,’ Austin Says in Message to Armed Forces

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The U.S. military must prepare to confront China and prevent its communist regime from reshaping the international order in its image, a new memo from the secretary of defense says.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wrote that communist China seeks to force the international community to acquiesce to its authoritarian demands and must be stopped.

“An increasingly aggressive China is trying to shape the international rules-based system to suit its authoritarian preferences,” Austin wrote in a March 2 message to the U.S. Armed Forces. “This is a generational challenge, and the Department will rise to meet it.

“To do so, we must embrace integrated deterrence, which charges us to coordinate our efforts across all war-fighting domains, theaters, and the spectrum of conflict to create new and more complex dilemmas for our adversaries.”

The U.S. National Defense Strategy labels China’s communist regime as the “pacing challenge” to the United States, and asserts that the regime is the only power on earth with both the will and capability to reshape the rules-based international order.

To that end, Austin wrote that the U.S. military would need to strengthen its posture in the Indo-Pacific and work with allies to more adequately deter Chinese communist aggression in the South and East China Seas and against Taiwan.

“We are strengthening our deterrence posture in the Indo-Pacific by developing new concepts and capabilities, deepening our alliances and partnerships, and expanding our activities and operations,” Austin wrote.

“Implementing our strategy means tackling the pacing challenge from [China] while also confronting the acute threat of Russian aggression and managing the risk of escalation as Putin’s cruel war against Ukraine enters a second year.”

Working hand-in-glove with its allies and partners is a key part of the U.S. strategy to deter China from engaging in hostilities toward Taiwan, which the regime claims as part of its territory. The democratic island has functioned as a separate entity for seven decades and has never been controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

To counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific, the United States has recently expanded its access to military bases in the Philippines and increased troop rotations and training with both Australia and Japan.

Such activities are only likely to deter an attempted invasion of Taiwan by China in the near term, however, and aren’t a permanent solution to U.S.–China tensions, nor the end of U.S. strategy.

The “threat” posed by China’s communist regime remains ongoing, Austin wrote, and would continue to define U.S. strategy for years to come.

As such, he wrote, U.S. forces would continue to prepare and train to deter the authoritarian power from realizing its ambition of conquering Taiwan or otherwise creating international instability.

“As the threat from [China] evolves, we will provide Taiwan self-defense capabilities consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act,” Austin wrote.

“Our team is making major investments in the nuclear triad, space, cyberspace, long-range fires, and next-generation capabilities in fighter aircraft and undersea warfare, while also accelerating Joint All Domain Command and Control.”

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