5 June 2019

Pentagon Report Slams China for Pursuing ‘Predatory Economics’

By Ros Krasny

A Pentagon report slammed China for “eroding the values and principles of the rules-based order” just as acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was in Singapore attempting to downplay a spat between the world’s two largest economies.

In the more than 50-page “Indo-Pacific Strategy Report,” released on Saturday, the U.S. criticized China’s actions in the region on several points, and affirmed the U.S. commitment to boost multilateral efforts with other Asian countries.

China, under Communist Party leadership, “seeks to reorder the region to its advantage by leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce other nations,” according to the report, which included a message signed by Shanahan.

Speaking in Singapore on Saturday, Shanahan knocked Beijing for employing “a toolkit of coercion,” but predicted nonetheless that the two nations would eventually resolve their differences on trade and other matters.

The Pentagon report was less sparing.
‘Confident and Assertive’

“The Indo-Pacific increasingly is confronted with a more confident and assertive China that is willing to accept friction in the pursuit of a more expansive set of political, economic, and security interests,” according to the document.

The U.S. criticized China’s “systematic mistreatment of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang -- including pervasive discrimination, mass detention, and disappearances,” as well as its efforts to militarize the South China Sea, a maritime route through which roughly one-third of global shipping passes.

“China is using a steady progression of small, incremental steps in the ‘gray zone’ between peaceful relations and overt hostilities to secure its aims, while remaining below the threshold of armed conflict,” according to the report.

The Pentagon also cited Chinese citizens “acting in association with” the government security apparatus, to “conduct global campaigns of cyber theft that targeted intellectual property and confidential business and technological information at managed service providers.”

Shanahan told reporters on Friday that he had a “constructive and productive” meeting with Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in Singapore, where both attended the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, one of Asia’s most prominent defense forums.

After months of disruptive tit-for-tat tariffs, Washington and Beijing are competing to sway skeptical allies in the region wary of finding themselves squeezed in an escalating global trade war that may ultimately force them to choose sides.

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