In recent years, Pentagon officials have been hyping China as one of the main threats to U.S. interests in the world, and in June the Department of Defense created a new office that will focus solely on China.
The deputy assistant secretary of defense (DASD) for China is one of four DASDs who work under the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs. The other three DASDs include one for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, one for East Asia, and one for South and Southeast Asia. The new China position is the only DASD that will focus on one country.
According to a statement released by the Department of Defense, the new position will serve as “principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on all things China and will be the single hub for policy and strategy development, oversight, authorities review, and national-level interagency integration to align the Department’s efforts on China.”
The position has been filled by Chad Sbragia, a former Marine whose career has been focused on U.S.-China relations. His most recent job was as deputy director of the China strategic focus group for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command from 2011-2018.
The National Defense Strategy (NDS), released by the Pentagon in 2018, identifies China and Russia as “the central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.” The NDS says, “China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage.”
Since the release of the NDS, Pentagon officials have been doubling down on the idea that China is one of the main threats to the U.S. John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said in July, “The top of the list is China in terms of [being] the one country, the largest country, with the ability to change our way of life in the United States and to change the global order for good or ill.”
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told Fox News in August that, “China is the number one priority for this department. It’s outlined in the National Defense Strategy, why we think it’s a long-term strategic competitor and one that is pursuing a maximization campaign, if you will, throughout the Indo-Pacific Theater, whether it’s politically, economically, or militarily.”
The U.S. has been increasing tensions with Beijing, not only with President Trump’s trade war, but also by selling Taiwan $8 billion worth of fighter jets in August.
Congress is also pushing to pass a bill that would require the Secretary of State to evaluate Hong Kong’s autonomy annually. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would, “mandate the President to impose sanctions against foreign persons determined to be responsible for extrajudicial rendition, arbitrary detention, torture, or forced confession of people in Hong Kong, or other gross violations of human rights in Hong Kong.” Beijing denounced the bill as “gross interference” in China’s internal affairs.