Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said he was not only worried about the size and technological sophistication of the growing Chinese Navy, but also by Beijing’s provocations, aggressive behavior, and overall action on the international stage.
“It’s not just ships and weapons that concern me,” Del Toro told a group of U.S. Navy Academy midshipmen in October, according to a transcript of the speech. “It’s what Beijing does as it strives to achieve leverage over its competitors. It uses every advantage in a coercive, extractive, and dangerously irresponsible manner.”
He cited the often-discussed Chinese expansionist tactics, often using economic influence, predatory lending and various kinds of self-directed investment in key foreign areas such as Africa and South America.
“Beijing uses economic leverage like predatory lending to force governments from Asia to Africa to South America to cede critical infrastructure and natural resources,” Del Toro added.
There is also the growth of China’s international footprint, as the People’s Liberation Army military base in Djibouti, Africa. The new base is nearby a critical U.S. presence in the region. The growing Chinese Navy could benefit further from additional bases in strategic locations. If the People’s Liberation Army Navy can dock ships at the Djibouti base, areas of the Middle East could become increasingly vulnerable to Chinese influence.
Del Toro singled out aggressive Chinese tactics. For example, China continues to make very territorial claims on island chains in the South China Sea that ignore rulings from international tribunals. It regularly conducts bomber and fighter jet patrols along Japanese and Taiwanese airspace. It also conducts exercises such as amphibious assault drills.
China’s increasingly aggressive language on the question of Taiwanese independence has generated perhaps the most concern. China continues to assert that Taiwan is part of China and that foreign entities or Western proponents of Taiwanese independence are “playing with fire.”
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.