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Testimony: Cooperation and Competition with China: The Need for New Approaches

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On August 18, 2018, the Department of Defense released its seventeenth Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China. Since 2002, the annual reports have addressed the current and probable future course of the military-technological development of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), as well as the development of Chinese grand strategy, security strategy, military strategy, military organizations, and operational concepts through the next quarter-century. Since 2012, the reports have tripled in length to incorporate more information on China’s force modernization and special topics. This year’s report includes five special topics: China’s expanding global influence, China’s approach to North Korea and its diplomatic history and objectives, the PLA’s progress in becoming a joint force, overwater bomber operations, and Xi’s innovation-driven development strategy and the push to turn China into a science and technology powerhouse by 2050.

The annual report to Congress is a crucial tool for collating information and maintaining awareness of China’s growing military capabilities. Its systematic collection of data is a useful resource for scholars like me, and in this testimony I do not challenge the facts or assessments it presents. However, the US government generally is less adept at understanding the implications of these developments, what they bode for the future, and the best way to respond. Therefore, in this testimony, I will discuss several misconceptions about cooperation and competition with China that may hinder US attempts to deter Chinese aggression and compete effectively with China regionally and globally. I will also present recommendations about what Congress should do to improve the US’s ability to interpret and respond to China’s challenge. The bottom line is that great power competition requires expanding US efforts beyond traditional friends and allies, and the US needs a whole-government approach to identifying and responding to the China challenge.

Read the full testimony here. 

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