China Identified as Top ‘Threat’ in New National Defense Strategy

US military activity near China increased significantly in 2021

China has been identified as the number one “threat” facing the US in the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy (NDS), which was sent to Congress on Monday.

The full NDS is still classified, but the Pentagon released a fact sheet on the document that says it “will act urgently to sustain and strengthen deterrence, with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as our most consequential strategic competitor and the pacing challenge for the Department.”

The fact sheet outlines four priorities for the Pentagon:

  1. Defending the homeland, paced to the growing multi-domain threat posed by the PRC
  2. Deterring strategic attacks against the United States, Allies, and partners
  3. Deterring aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary, prioritizing the PRC challenge in the Indo-Pacific, then the Russia challenge in Europe
  4. Building a resilient Joint Force and defense ecosystem

The Pentagon says that while China is the focus, Russia poses “acute threats” because of its invasion of Ukraine. “We will collaborate with our NATO Allies and partners to reinforce robust deterrence in the face of Russian aggression,” the fact sheet reads.

The fact sheet says that the Pentagon will “remain capable of managing other persistent threats, including those from North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations.”

The last NDS was published in 2018 by the Trump administration. It outlined the US military’s shift in focus from counterterrorism in the Middle East to so-called “great power competition” with Russia and China. The 2018 NDS appeared to put equal focus on Beijing and Moscow.

The Biden administration’s focus on China is demonstrated by the uptick in US military activity in Southeast Asia. According to a report from the Beijing-based South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), the US conducted nearly 1,200 surveillance sorties over the South China Sea in 2021, about a 20% increase from 2020.

The presence of US aircraft carriers and other warships in the South China Sea has also significantly increased. According to the SSCPI, US carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups entered the South China Sea 12 times in 2021, more than twice the frequency of 2020.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.