The move was the latest in a series of jabs aimed at Beijing. It was only yesterday when US Vice President Mike Pence publicly hurled allegations at China, claiming that Beijing had been interfering with the midterm elections and is planning to tamper with the next presidential election in 2020.
As CNN reported, the Pentagon report identified nearly 300 “vulnerabilities” that could affect the supply of critical materials and other US military supplies, and took the opportunity to once again accuse Beijing of posing a significant risk.
The report stated, “China’s aggressive industrial policies have already eliminated some capabilities with critical defense functions, including solar cells for military use, flat-panel aircraft displays, and the processing of rare earth elements.” It even went on to say that, “China’s actions seriously threaten other capabilities, including machine tools; the production and processing of advanced materials like biomaterials, ceramics, and composites; and the production of printed circuit boards and semiconductors.”
There is no doubt the Pentagon report will have an exacerbating effect on the tension already in place between the two countries. It will also strengthen US misconceptions about China, fueling “strategic rival” sentiment. The issues here will eventually become part of a campaign platform led by US political elites, designed to harm, or even sever, China-US relations.
Do Americans want to know how much China is worried about the US undermining industrial supply chain significant to China’s national security? Do they know that the US has already done restrictive actions to China that Chinese people have deemed as destructive?
The White House has openly restricted high-tech exports to China to prevent military-related manufacturing. It doesn’t stop there as the US requires its allies to restrict their own high-tech exports to China. From supercomputer systems to aviation and aerospace production and test equipment, underwater machinery and parts, key technologies are prohibited from being sold to China, not only by the US, but from other Western nations.
Every year China purchases chips manufactured in the US, but the deal has proven to be unstable even though it has provided huge profits for the US corporations involved. The US has used chips as a weapon to hit China’s ZTE. Now, the serious risk of the US expanding chip weaponization threatens the safety of the entire Chinese industry and public consumption.
Rare earth resources are potential bargaining chips that China’s holds which they have yet to use. The report also claimed that China was an “unstable country who may cut off US access” to supply sources. The risks listed in the report are potential ones, meanwhile, the US was not able to include one supply cut-off that China has used as a trade war weapon. Unfortunately, this has not prevented the US from using ZTE chips as a destructive tool, along with the restrictions they have imposed on China’s high-tech purchases.
Relations and trade between the two countries make up a vast system that promotes and complements both sides while expanding the US industrial foundation. The deterioration of this relationship would lead to consequences that would force modifications within their supply chains, which can only imply uncertainty and trouble for both nations.
While the US wages a trade war against China, Washington has implemented a series of actions designed to deteriorate what is arguably the most important global relationship of the modern era. Washington made a sharp turn on their China relations, it seemed impulsive, insane even, that many suspected the precarious move would merely be short-lived mid-term election strategy. The real question now is how much of the US government’s behavior will become solidified after the midterm, and this is what China really needs to take seriously.
National defense is one of the most sensitive areas of any country, and the Pentagon’s assessment revealed US bottom-line thinking. The vigilance against China as indicated in the report was not an accurate representation of the “China as strategic rival” sentiment the runs through US society. However, keep in mind it also does not mean they want to extinguish Sino-US relations as a move like that would be entirely unrealistic.
Overall, the Pentagon report has made a less significant impact compared with Pence’s speech. However, it did reveal the core sectors the US is making plans for should relations between the two completely deteriorate. China must attach great importance to this message while facing it with a peaceful mind.
China does not want to become a US rival, nor challenge or even take the country down. However, China is not a kite in the hands of any nation. Where and when it chooses to fly is entirely China’s decision, and its presence remains down-to-earth. When the US incites, the best response is to try to settle things on our own.