Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told civilian leaders of the US military on Wednesday to remember "China, China, China." Many US media used his words as headlines. As the Pentagon cited China as "a strategic competitor" a year ago, Shanahan's remarks show again that Beijing is Washington's priority to guard against.
A major country's security affairs are usually sorted by importance and urgency, and China may have become the US' most important goal. But Washington seems to neglect urgency. It focuses only on China, losing interest in Afghanistan and Syria. The trade war reflected the hard-line US attitude toward China in 2018. Whether Washington will add military pressure on Beijing in 2019 still remains to be seen.
By saying "remember China," Shanahan may mean to prevent China narrowing the China-US military gap.
The US may conduct more military provocations against China in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. In 2018, Washington conducted "free navigations" in the South China Sea and sent warships to the Taiwan Straits.
China needs to hold onto its principles while staying calm. China must understand that Washington is strategically on guard against Beijing. It is trying to stop China's "expansion" through tactical harassments and warnings. What China and the US need to do now is sound each other out, explore one another's tolerance and form a new balance in the current phase.
China has no capability to infringe on the US, but the country has sufficient power to make Washington pay an unbearable price if the US infringes on China, so as to form a powerful deterrent against the White House. When Shanahan shouts "China, China, China," Beijing must respond by accelerating construction of a deterrent against the US. China must make good use of deterrence, learning to make others feel fearful without being furious.
The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. We look forward to seeing the public debut of Chinese deterrence's trump card, the Dongfeng-41 intercontinental ballistic missile.
China should carry out more maritime combat exercises with live ammunition, especially training to strike aircraft carriers. There is no need to worry that doing so would make Washington unhappy. Making them concerned is the whole point of the exercise.
To promote peaceful reunification, the People's Liberation Army should also carry out more preparations to respond to a military crisis across the Taiwan Straits, formulate various plans such as a military blockade around the island, destroying military facilities there and preventing external military interventions, which can be disclosed to the outside world appropriately when necessary.
In the face of strategic US pressure, peaceful development does not mean grin and bear it. Confronting malicious provocation, China must resolutely clarify our attitude, not being afraid to pay some prices, in order to set up rules that all external forces must respect China's core interests.