Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island clear out of the way of a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II in preparation for takeoff from the flight deck of the ship. Photo: US Marine Corps / Patrick Crosley

If there was any doubt about who the Biden administration believes is the greatest military threat to the United States, it has now become crystal clear.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this week approved a classified directive ordering the military to shrink the gap between what it says and what it does regarding China, Breaking Defense reported.

“The efforts I am directing today will improve the Department’s ability to revitalize our network of allies and partners, bolster deterrence, and accelerate the development of new operational concepts, emerging capabilities, future force posture and a modernized civilian and military workforce,” Austin said in a statement.

The directive arose from the work of the Pentagon’s China Task Force, created soon after President Biden took office.

Senior DOD officials speaking on background said the directive will bring greater focus and unity of effort to address challenges posed by China. 

The initiatives call on the department to invest in America’s unparalleled network of allies and partners. They also chart the need to bolster deterrence across all domains of warfare and look to accelerate the development of new operational concepts. 

The initiatives “are intended to streamline and strengthen cooperation with US allies and partners, particularly in the Indo-Pacific,” he said. 

The secretary will also accelerate the Joint Warfighting Concept through the experimentation and prototyping phases, he said.

Flying in the face of that US action, it was reported by Associated Press that China flew a record 28 fighter jets toward the self-ruled island of Taiwan on Tuesday, the largest such display of force since Beijing began sending planes on a near daily basis last year. 

U.S. Marines and Australian service members sit aboard an Osprey en route to Darwin, Australia, after a site survey visit at Tiwi Island, Australia, in preparation for an upcoming exercise, May 3, 2021. Photo By: Marine Corps Master Sgt. Sarah Nadeau.

Taiwan’s air force deployed its combat air patrol forces in response and monitored the situation in the southwestern part of the island’s air defense identification zone with its air defense systems, the Ministry of National Defense said. 

The planes included various types of fighter jets including 14 J-16 and six J-11 planes, as well as bombers, the ministry said.

China’s show of force comes after leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations issued a statement calling for a peaceful resolution of cross-Taiwan Strait issues and underscored the importance of peace and stability, AP reported.

The G7 confronted China on just about every sore spot, from allegations of human rights abuses and forced labor in Xinjiang to ongoing political disputes over Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The world’s wealthiest democracies also pushed for a renewed independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19, and promoted a green alternative to China’s Belt and Road, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s expansive plan to boost its trading influence.

The US Senate last week passed a bill that aims to slow China’s threat to America’s economic competitiveness and national security by providing hundreds of billions of dollars to boost development and manufacturing in critical technology areas including artificial intelligence, quantum science, and 5G networks.

Marines disembark from an amphibious combat vehicle during a training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., April 7, 2021. Photo courtesy Marine Corps.

The US Innovation and Competition Act, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is a major step to address China’s political-economic challenge to the United States.

While the action is a welcome start, some analysts think it may not be enough to counter China’s rapid growth.

Currently, US manufacturing companies rely almost completely on microelectronics produced and integrated in East Asia, and US tech firms get as much as 90% of their semiconductor chips from Taiwan.

Semiconductors are a microelectronic component required in everything from electric toothbrushes to missile systems, autos and fighter jets.

Meanwhile, NATO will boost its collective funding pool for alliance-wide command and control, says Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Breaking Defense reported.

The deal comes at a time when the US is pressing allies to support its emerging strategy for network-centric All Domain Operations in globe-spanning war with Russia and China.

“Increased common funding will enable us to do more command and control together, more exercises, higher readiness, invest in critical infrastructure, and many other things,” he told the Defense Writers Group.

The extra funding — the amount of which has not been hashed out — is designed to support a new “Strategic Guidance” to guide NATO future operations, and the cutting edge technologies (such as AI and big data analytics) needed to implement that reorientation.

NATO’s joint funds, which total about 2.5 billion Euro (about US$3 billion) annually, are supplied by member nations on a cost-sharing scheme based on Gross National Income, and are spent on infrastructure and collective capabilities — such as airborne early warning — that would be too expensive for any individual ally to bear. 

This was the first NATO summit to clearly identify China as a threat to all the members.

“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” the summit communique said.

Sources: Breaking Defense, Defense One, Department of Defense, CNN