In addition to threatening freedom of navigation in international waters off its coast, China is stealing intellectual property and personally identifiable information from U.S. companies and citizens, as well as from allies and partners, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said.
Navy Adm. Philip Davidson addressed threats from China at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, Dec. 7.
The United States, its allies and its partners will continue to navigate through the East and South China Seas, he said, noting that undersea telecommunications cables and $3 trillion worth of trade, all vital to the global economy, pass through that area.
Last week, the admiral said, he spoke with telecommunications and technology industry leaders about China and its Huawei 5G network. That network is a threat to the United States and other nations, he said, because by law, Huawei and other firms such as ZTE must provide information to the Chinese Communist Party when asked.
China's advantage in spreading this technology is its ability to offer extraordinarily cheap goods at state direction that other nations can't compete with.
China's Belt and Road Initiative, which includes lending money to countries wanting to improve their infrastructure, is another threat China poses, Davidson said. The danger, he explained, is that if nations can’t pay back the loans, they can be subject to political, economic or military pressure from China.
Nations are starting to resist the initiative, he said, citing the example of the small island nation of Tuvalu in the Southwest Pacific. Tuvalu rejected China's offer of a $400 million loan for infrastructure improvements such as levee construction, he said. The island's annual gross domestic product is just $40 million, and Tuvalu's leaders recognized that if they were unable to pay it back, their sovereignty could be threatened.
The admiral also noted that China's authoritarian model has resulted in the suffering of its own people from the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region and the people of Hong Kong, who want freedom and democracy.
The world should be outraged China's behavior, Davidson said, adding that about 100,000 Americans live in Hong Kong. And if things don't go well there, he said, global business — including China's — will suffer.
Navy admiral in white uniform shakes hands with one of several Vietnamese military personal lined up wearing green uniforms.
Davidson said the United States and other countries have no desire to see the Chinese economy collapse or to ''decouple'' with China on a diplomatic, economic or military level. Nations just want China to offer a fair playing field and to play by the rules of international norms, he said.
As it engages in great-power competition with China and Russia, Davidson said, the United States draws strength through its numerous alliances and partnerships.