Washington: China, which is currently and will remain America’s pacing challenge going forward, has no allies, while the United States has many allies around the world, which gives it greater capacity and greater capability, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on Thursday.
“China is currently and will remain our pacing challenge going forward,” Austin told the members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defence during a hearing on the fiscal 2022 Budget Request for the Defence Department.
The Biden administration, he said, has established the China task force that is about to complete its work and will inform about its efforts going forward and help them create synergies, eliminate duplication and more efficiently focus on the China challenge, he said.
“China has no allies. We have many allies around the world. And we certainly have some strong allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region. And that gives us greater capacity and greater capability,” Austin said responding to questions from the lawmakers.
“You have seen that we very recently began trying to strengthen those alliances as I made my first overseas trip, along with Secretary Blinken, to the Indo-Pacific region and I think it was a very well-received trip,” he said, referring to his recent visit to India.
Recognising the fact that China is attempting to make strides in cyberspace, Austin exuded confidence that the US maintains a competitive edge.
Meanwhile, Congressman Scott Franklin has introduced a bill to further block the People’s Republic of China from participating in the Rim of the Pacific, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, until it has recognised and addressed its genocidal actions against the Uighur Muslims.
“The People’s Republic of China’s continued oppression of the Uighur Muslims is one of the most repugnant human rights abuses in modern history. As the world leader in standing up for human dignity, the United States must do everything in our power to pressure the PRC into ceasing its horrific behaviour. My bill will hold China accountable for their actions against the Uighurs as a condition for being allowed to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercise,” Franklin said.
A day earlier, following his introduction of the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act, Congressman Gregory W Meeks, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said China has used its new found influence and power in ways that run contrary to the interests of others in the region and clash with the very international order that facilitated its rise.
“We are all aware of these challenges. They range from the PRC aggressively pressing its border, maritime and territorial claims to its economic coercion against US allies,” Meeks said.
“It includes the PRC”s theft of intellectual property and technology, and its anti-competitive industrial and trade policies that have for years put American companies and workers at a disadvantage. It also includes attempts by the PRC to mold regional and international institutions in ways that undermine a rules-based order, erode the market principles of non-discrimination, market access, reciprocity, fairness and transparency, and apply undue influence on sovereign states,” he alleged.
“And the world has watched in horror as the government of China has committed atrocities against the Uighurs and other ethnic minority communities in Xinjiang, building high-tech surveillance and censorship tools that it has no compunction in exporting abroad,” Meeks said.
(With inputs from PTI)