by WorldTribune Staff, September 28, 2016
The White House has ordered U.S. defense officials not to speak publicly about military competition with China, a report said.
The directive comes from the National Security Council (NSC) and instructs Pentagon officials to replace the phrase “great power competition” with something less likely to aggravate China in official statements, according to sources who spoke with the Navy Times.
“We always talk about maximizing cooperation to the extent possible … There is no question that some of China’s activities in the maritime realm are generating significant tension, but there are other areas where developments have been extremely positive,” a senior Obama administration official said of the current directive.
The term “great power competition” is characterized by the White House as ignoring U.S.-China cooperation and puts too much emphasis on the negative aspects of the relationship, such as cybersecurity issues, militarization in the South China Sea, and divergent goals for North Korea.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson had described China and Russia as rising challengers reigniting the old fires of “great power competition” in a maritime strategy report in January.
“For the first time in 25 years, the United States is facing a return to great power competition. Russia and China both have advanced their military capabilities to act as global powers. Their goals are backed by a growing arsenal of high-end warfighting capabilities, many of which are focused specifically on our vulnerabilities,” Richardson wrote.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter also noted in February the “return of great power competition” as a result of China’s buildup.
“The Obama administration believes that the expression oversimplifies a relationship involving cooperation and competition. The phrase suggests that China and the U.S., a rising power and an established power, are destined for conflict,” the report said.
“Nothing is preordained about the relationship,” a senior administration official told the Navy Times.
It is not the first time President Barack Obama’s White House has moved to reign in defense officials who have hyped the military challenges posed by China.
The NSC reportedly issued a gag order in March to silence outspoken American military brass who had advocated challenging aggressive and provocative Chinese behavior in the South China Sea. That NSC order was said to have been designed to give Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping “maximum political maneuvering space” at the recent Nuclear Security Summit.