In a weekend national security conference, Defense Secretary Mark Esper named China as the “top concern” of the Pentagon, and one that needs to be focused on.
Esper accused China of engaging in aggression, claiming they are exploiting free market economies to engage in nefarious activities. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further accused China of seeking to build an “empire.”
Pompeo went on to dismiss reports that NATO isn’t unified on the matter, declaring that “the West is winning” and will protect liberal democracies from China. Several nations, notably France, objected to the idea that “the West” is entirely US-driven and that Europe is just a junior partner.
The Chinese also rejected US claims against them, calling them “lies, not based on facts.” Foreign Minister Wang offered serious talks with the US over the matter, though that seems unlikely to happen.
Instead, the US seems eager to play the Chinese threat up to get foreign allies’ support, the same way they historically have with Russia. Confidence that the West is winning is easy to say, since there is no real conflict ongoing, beyond the US trying to get countries to not do business with Huawei.
Indeed, the economic challenge of Huawei is virtually the beginning and end of the matter. The US spends nearly three times as much on its military as China does, and apart from China not squandering much of their budget on open-ended occupations, there is no real potential of a military conflict unless the US openly picks a fight with China.