07.16.19

Senator David Perdue Questions Defense Secretary Nominee On China’s Rising Influence

Esper: “China is a strategic competitor that could be an adversary if we’re not careful.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, asked Dr. Mark Esper, President Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD), about how the United States should approach evolving threats from China. 

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Senator Perdue: “We now have our first audit of the DoD as of last November, thanks to you, President Trump, and others at the Pentagon. We’re gaining great insight now into how to save money. In fact, if we were to resort to a one-year CR this year, the DoD has already identified $4 billion that they don’t want to spend, but they would be obliged to spend it if we end up in a one-year CR. Today China’s military spends, if you adjust it for purchasing power parity, almost on parity with the United States, and they’re focused on their naval forces. Through their Belt and Road Initiative, China has made proprietary loans to over 30 ports in Africa and 56 ports in Latin America. My fundamental question is – in a strategic relationship with Secretary of State Pompeo – how do we deter China when we see what their interests are in the West Pacific and South China Sea, as well as Africa and Southern Asia? How do we use our allies and relationships that we’ve had since World War II to actually deter, not only China, but Russia in this environment?”

Dr. Esper: “We have to have a whole government approach. It’s not just DoD. It’s the State Department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Justice (DOJ). Everybody has to be in on this because that is how the Chinese approach it. And you’re right – we have to really muster our allies and partners to do the same, whether it’s in Europe or Asia. I will tell you, in Asia many countries are quite concerned about China’s influence. It’s a hegemon, if you will. It’s something we really need to work aggressively on. The Chinese are very patient. They are very strategic. If you go back to arguably China’s greatest leader, Deng Xiaoping, who has a famous saying that was something like, ‘Bide your time. Hide your actions. Play the long game.’ They are playing the long game, and we are playing the short game. What’s so important about the National Defense Strategy is it points us to have our own long game. We don’t want to be adversaries with China. We want to be competitors and compete in the economic domain. We have to make sure we’re addressing the security concerns first. … What really impressed me about President Trump’s defense strategy is that, for the first time ever, it recognized China as a strategic competitor that could be an adversary if we’re not careful.”

Senator Perdue: “We now know from Made in China 2025 what their initiatives are to achieve. In my experience with the Chinese culture, they never tell you what they’re going to do unless they’ve made the decision that you don’t have the wherewithal or will to stop them. Do you agree with that?”

Dr. Esper: “Yes sir.”

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When Senator Perdue was elected, he was the only Fortune 500 CEO in Congress. He is serving his first term in the United States Senate, where he represents Georgia on the Armed Services, Banking, Budget, and Agriculture Committees.