China seeks to mould the world in line with its authoritarian model and national goals, a top Pentagon official said on Tuesday, voicing concerns that Beijing has grown more prone to force other countries, ignoring the frictions in pursuit of its vision.
Observing that China, under the leadership of the its President Xi Jinping has a different vision, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo Pacific Security Affairs Randall Shriver told a Washington audience that Beijing is increasingly developing the tools to pursue its vision and seems willing to accept more and more friction in pursuit of that vision.
"We are competing with China, therefore, because we see China's leaders have assessed that they are in competition with us, both our ideas and our capabilities. Globally, China seeks to shape a world consistent with its authoritarian model and national goals," Mr Shriver said during his appearance at the Brookings Institute, a top American think-tank.
The rule of the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly authoritarian and less respectful for human rights and dignity, he said and alleged they are even beginning to export some of these tools such as facial recognition software and nationwide surveillance capabilities to other countries who are learning from China's governance model.
"We are concerned that China has grown more willing, as I said, to apply pressure against other countries and accept friction in pursuit of its vision," he said.
"We observe China using influence operations to interfere in domestic politics of other countries, undermining the integrity of elections and threatening internal stability using economic coercion, and we've seen certainly recent examples in countries such as Mongolia, Australia, and Canada," he said.
Mr Shriver accused China of "promoting state-sponsored theft of other nations'' military and civilian technologies and exporting the most effective tools from its domestic toolkit to other nations for surveillance and potential use for internal repression".
"We see them extending its military presence overseas and expanding the one belt one road initiative to include military ties with China. We see deploying advance weapon systems to militarise disputed features despite pledges at the senior most level that they would not do so," he added.
Noting that China seek to be a world-class military by 2049, and are making progress toward that goal, he said the Pentagon views military developments in China as seeking to erode the US military advantages.
They are working to become a preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific region while simultaneously undertaking plans to expand overseas presence and develop capabilities to sustain operations further from Chinese shores, he said.
"We see China widening the PLA's operational reach to match what its leaders consider to be the global nature of China's economic and national interest," he said, adding that press reports indicate that China has sought to expand its military basing and access in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific.
Xi Jinping himself has called for the completion of a security system for OBOR to strengthen, protection of its overseas interest to ensure the security of major overseas projects and personnel, said the Pentagon official.
China's Defence Minister has also cited OBOR as a framework for China to increase its military cooperation with other countries, Mr Shriver said.
"While our competition with China takes place on various levels, at the most fundamental and basic level, what we are really competing for is to sustain a position within the regional and international system, which allows us to promote, support, and protect a liberal rule-based order, whose institutions, rules, and norms have fostered peace for decades," he said.
Mr Shriver sad that all of this matters to the US because if China were to be successful and its authoritarian approach were to become ascendant, the world could look much different.
"States will finally have less control of their political and economic decisions. Institutions could become less independent and less effective, such as ASEAN and other regional organisations. Freedom of the seas and overflight in the Indo-Pacific may be challenged, the freedom of those bodies of water," he said.
"We could also see a normalisation of the lack of respect for individual and human rights. All of this portends a less free and less open and more unstable Indo-Pacific region with high potential for these trends to manifest on a global scale," he told the Washington audience.
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