Aformer Navy SEAL commander has warned that China’s break-neck military development is quickly making the huge nation America’s most significant global rival.
Retired Admiral William McRaven—who headed the Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 and oversaw the operation that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden—described Chinese military evolution as a “holy s***” moment for the U.S. during a Council on Foreign Relations event on Wednesday to mark the release of a new report, Business Insider reported.
Beijing has invested huge sums over recent decades to transform its military from an enormous but low-tech force into a modern one capable of force projection in East Asia and further afield. Between 1996 and 2015, Chinese military spending jumped some 620 percent and the country now has the second largest military budget in the world behind the U.S.
The Center for a New American Security has warned that Chinese technology is nearing, or has already reached, parity with its U.S. rival in multiple areas.
This will allow China to compete directly with the U.S. to try and dominate its local theater, displacing U.S. hegemony in Asia that has been the norm for decades. Taiwan and the South China Sea are areas of particular importance for Beijing, as well as the busy south east Asian sea lanes through which vital energy imports flow.
Discussing the report released Wednesday, McRaven suggested “we need to make sure that the American public knows that now is the time to do something” about Chinese advancements which are threatening American national security.
Discussing the report on MSNBC on Wednesday, McRaven explained that while the research does not say China has surpassed the U.S., “we need to pay attention to the rise of China.”
McRaven suggested that “the gap” between U.S. and Chinese technology and innovation “is narrowing.” The report discussed on Wednesday cited commercialization of 5G technology as an example of China’s edge over the U.S. America has been pressuring its allies to block Chinese tech company Huawei from operating in their countries, fearing that its 5G services could compromise Western security.
China is also competing with the U.S. through more nefarious means, such as intellectual property theft. For decades, Beijing-backed hackers have been consistently accused of stealing technology from U.S. companies, using the information to produce cheaper versions of the same products and match American capabilities.
The Council on Foreign Relations report stressed the need for greater federal funding and Pentagon support for technological innovation. The report argued this would allow the U.S. to better compete with China, where the authoritarian system means there are few barriers between the military and civilian technological research.
McRaven argued that America’s “Sputnik moment”—referring to the U.S. realization it was lagging behind the Soviet Union in the space race—regarding China is now. “If not now, when?” he asked. “And oh, by the way, it’s just going to get harder as we get further into the future.”