Reform

China Poses Largest Long-Term Threat to U.S., DOD Policy Chief Says

Sept. 23, 2019 | BY Terri Moon Cronk

It is not an exaggeration to say China is the greatest long-term threat to the U.S. way of life, but China also poses the greatest challenge to the Defense Department, DOD's policy chief said.

John C. Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, made the assertion during a panel discussion today at the Center for European Policy Analysis Forum in Washington.

"The National Defense Strategy very clearly lays out a blueprint for America's role in the world and how we see it," the undersecretary said. "It starts with recognition that in this highly complex, dynamic security environment, the great power competition has returned," he said.

Chinese patch
Chinese Flag
In the last 10 years, the United States has witnessed a 750% growth in China’s defense spending, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John C. Rood said during a panel discussion at the Center for European Policy Analysis Forum in Washington, Sept. 23, 2019.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 190531-D-BN624-0156

The United States doesn't seek a confrontational approach, nor is it destined to be adversaries with China, Rood noted. 

"We want to trade. We want to have interactions. But on the other hand, we want to protect our intellectual property," he said. "We want to protect the rules-based international order that we've both worked so hard to create since World War II. And we want respect for the sovereignty of others. We want respect for the role of individual in society."

We have to be serious about protecting this international rules-based order ..."
John C. Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy

Rood said it's important to recognize the scale of China's ambitions. China wants not only to become the world's largest and most influential economy, but also to be the world's largest and most influential nation in all spheres of life.

The undersecretary talked about China's ambitions to have a world-class military.

"[But] it's the way in which China is challenging this international rules-based order, challenging the individual freedoms that we support, challenging the free movement of ideas, and people, trade," Rood said. "And promoting an authoritarian model, one that doesn't respect the sovereignty of others, [is] what challenges our way of life."

Two men shake hands in an office with a U.S. flag behind them.
Pentagon Handshake
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John C. Rood, right, hosts Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria at the Pentagon, May 20, 2019.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 190520-D-BN624-0119

If it were simply an economic competition, Rood said, America rather likes competition. "And so I wouldn't fear that at all," he added.

The U.S. innovation model would beat China's innovation model 10 times out of 10 times, Rood told the panel. "I really have tremendous confidence in it, he said, "and the best proof I can give you that China's leaders recognize that is that they are determined to steal from it."

Chinese destroyer moves through the water
Chinese Destroyer
The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Luyang II-class destroyer Xian moves through the water.
Photo By: Defense Intelligence Agency 2019 China Military Power report
VIRIN: 190115-O-ZZ999-102Z

The Chinese know they can't win a head-to-head competition, the undersecretary said; they know they can’t compete with that kind of entrepreneurship and innovation, so the state has to exercise that level of control. 

"You're starting to see China develop overseas military bases, overseas intelligence collection locations, and this is one of the areas in which to challenge sovereignty," Rood said. In the last 10 years, the United States has witnessed a 750% growth in China's defense spending, he noted.

"We have to be serious about protecting this international rules-based order, protecting free trade, protecting the free movement of ideas and the role of individual society," Rood said.