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By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven
(Washington D.C.) Defense Secretary Austin has set up a specialized, 15-person strong China Task Force to “Counter Chinese Efforts” by refining and analyzing force structures, strategies, weapons systems and emerging technologies of relevance to U.S.-China competition.
Described in a Pentagon report as a “sprint effort,” the newly created task force will have many things to consider, such as China’s ambitions in the South China Sea, global expansionist aims and massive military modernization push. Austin and newly sworn in Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks called China the "pacing threat" for America.
“China is seeking to overturn the current rules-based structure, which has benefitted all nations in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States and its allies seek to continue the free and open environment in the region. China is using all elements of national power to bend the nations to its will,” the Pentagon report says.
Pentagon officials add that policing exclusive economic zones and territorial sovereignty of relevance to the U.S. and its allies in highly contested areas such as the South China Sea is likely to be a heavy focus for the task force.
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There certainly seems to be little question as to why this kind of task force may be desired, given that China’s Navy is already larger than the U.S. force, the country regularly test-fires hypersonic and anti-satellite weapons and has a long history of appearing to replicate emerging U.S. platforms and technologies not long after they emerge.
Simply, the aim is deterrence and a decided push to ensure China does not achieve any kind of military “overmatch” capability when it comes to the U.S. Much is discussed regarding Chinese technical advances in the areas of AI, Quantum computing, space weapons, hypersonics and anti-ship missiles, among other things, efforts closely paralleled by China’s transparent effort to rival or equal U.S. superiority in the area of 5th-Gen fighter jets, dual-carrier force projection operations, new bomber technology and major land systems such as mobile artillery. What is interesting is that, despite the apparent fact that many of these newer Chinese systems, to include the H-20 bomber, J-20 stealth jet, carrier-launched J-31 fighter and new destroyers and amphibs, closely resemble U.S. platforms in terms of configuration and potential mission scope, there are little available indications as to whether these platforms truly rival or counter U.S. dominancein their respective areas. Ripping off design specs, which is a documented occurrence according to many U.S. reports detailing Chinese cyberespionage, would seem to only go so far, meaning the performance of computing, sensing, targeting and weapons systems would of course be key to discerning any actual measure of difference between U.S. and Chinese platforms.
What might the Task Force lead to or generate in coming months? Well certainly one might see a continuation or stepped up emphasis on the Pacific pivot to Asia, a large-scale initiative put into motion by his previous administration serving as Obama’s Vice President. The Task Forcemay also go well beyond that and continue the uptick in surveillance missions, bomber task force patrols and war-preparation training operations with the U.S. Navy and allied nations in the region.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
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