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China a formidable competitor

Updated: May 7, 2022

The world’s two leading economic nations are moving toward a potentially devastating confrontation over the Island of Taiwan. China considers Taiwan to be part of China, whereas Taiwan sees itself to be an independent nation.

The United States has a military commitment to defend Taiwan based on the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which provides a legal basis for the unofficial relationship between the two countries, and commits the U.S. to assist Taiwan in maintaining its defensive capability. On May 10th, Rep. Ken Buck, (R-Colo.) introduced a resolution to reaffirm U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s continued peace and their mutual strategic interests. “We cannot allow China’s dangerous threats against the people of Taiwan to go unnoticed… and the U.S. must hold the Chinese government accountable,” Buck said.

A recent Pew Research Centre survey this year found nine in 10 Americans viewed China as a competitor or an enemy while a majority were in favor of pressuring Beijing on human rights and economic issues.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Chinese have expressed dissatisfaction over what they perceive as US efforts to prevent China’s rise as an economic, military and technological powerhouse, according to Maria Siow of the South China Morning Post. For 20 years, the Department of Defense (DoD) has provided Congress with an annual report on military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China (PRC). These reports have assessed the contours of China’s national strategy, its approach to security and military affairs, and potential changes in the PRC’s armed forces over the next 20 years, among other matters.

The most recent report says that China’s strategy aims to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049. The goal is framed as a strategy to place China in a position of strength, prosperity and leadership on the world stage. The strategy has three key prongs; to advance overall development and economic growth, to strengthen its armed forces and to take a more active role in global affairs. This sounds much like the historical strategy of the United States.

North Carolina is a significant contributor to America’s defense strategy according to The North Carolina Military Affairs Commission (NCM

AC). With Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine and Army bases in the state. The largest base is Fort Bragg, with over 65,000 service members and civilian employees. It is the largest U.S. Army installation in terms of population in the nation and it is home to the Army’s Rapid Response Force, consisting of Special Operations and Airborne Forces, Joint Special Operations Command and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the U.S. Army Forces Command and the U.S. Army Reserve Command.

The United States has maintained a stellar military operation, which many have called the best military in history. With an all-volunteer military and state of the art technology, the United States has led the world with a motto of “Peace Through Strength” coined by then President Ronald Reagan. Former President Reagan’s foreign policy, known as the Reagan Doctrine was the support of freedom for people around the world.

During his tenure, Reagan’s administration grew the U.S. Army by two divisions in addition to developing new weapon systems including the Strategic Defense Initiative, branded as “Star Wars” to defend against nuclear attack. The United States has for the most part maintained an effective and mobile military that has fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and has American soldiers positioned in countries around the world.

In January 2020, former President Trump’s military budget was $740 billion, an increase of $100 billion over former President Obama’s 2017 budget. Approximately 15% of America’s discretionary spending goes to defense.

The United States spends more than the top 10 nations in the world on its military. Those nations include China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korean and Brazil combined, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. There is nothing we Americans value more than our freedom and we are willing to pay for it, with treasure and lives if necessary.

As we look to the future, Americans must keep in mind the ever growing economic and military power of China. The Chinese are known for playing the long game and are projected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2028, according to a report published by CNBC.

As tensions rise between China and the United States, North Carolinians will be at the forefront for military readiness as the competition between the two superpowers intensifies in the coming years.

Virgil L. Smith formerly served as president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times and Vice President for Human Resources for the Gannett Company. He is the principal for the Smith Edwards Group and writes for Carolina Commentary.

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