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May 13, 2021
Notes from the Pentagon

'Crimes against humanity': State Department highlights China genocide

By Bill Gertz
The State Department on Wednesday declared that the Chinese government continues to engage in genocide and crimes against humanity through the repression of predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in western China.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the assertion while introducing the department’s annual assessment of global religious freedom.

“China broadly criminalizes religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minority groups,” he said.

The annual report outlined widespread abuses by the Chinese government against the estimated 200 million religious believers, including Christians, Muslims and Buddhists.

Despite Mr. Blinken’s statement, the annual report said the department is reviewing the genocide designation announced earlier this year by his predecessor, Mike Pompeo. That indicates the Biden administration is still weighing whether to back away from the label, which has drawn intense criticism from the Chinese government. Beijing denies its actions amount to genocide.

The State Department has said crimes carried out in China’s western Xinjiang province include mass imprisonment, forced sterilizations, torture, forced labor and draconian restrictions on religious freedom and freedom of movement.

The U.S. government estimates that Chinese authorities since April 2017 have detained more than 1 million Uyghurs, along with ethnic Kazakhs, Hui and members of other Muslim groups, and some Christians, in internment camps and converted detention facilities.

The repression has been carried out by Chinese authorities under the guise of a national counterterrorism law and a regional counterextremism policy, according to Wednesday’s report.

Mr. Blinken also announced that the State Department is sanctioning a Chinese Communist Party official in the Chengdu area of Sichuan Province for committing “gross violations of human rights” against the anti-communist Buddhist religious group Falun Gong.

Daniel Nadel, the State Department official in charge of religious freedom, said during a briefing for reporters that China’s genocide continues.

Mr. Nadel said evidence of abuses includes testimony from survivors of repression as well as Chinese government documents. “At the end of the day, it is absolutely clear what horrors are taking place in Xinjiang,” he said. “We will continue to speak out.”

Mr. Nadel said the Chinese government has shifted from its previous position of “outright denial” about the genocide to attempting to justify the activities as an internal security issue. “Of course, the world isn’t buying it,” he said.

Chinese propaganda has gone into overdrive in recent months with stories in state media attempting to show Uyghurs as happy and content.

Asked whether the U.S. will boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics over the genocide issue next year, Mr. Nadel said the department is reviewing options and messaging related to the games and is consulting Congress and allies.

Mr. Pompeo, meanwhile, argued while serving as secretary of state under President Trump that Beijing’s atrocities in Xinjiang are “an extreme affront to the Uyghurs, the people of China and civilized people everywhere.”

“If the Chinese Communist Party is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world in the not-so-distant future,” Mr. Pompeo said.

In Hong Kong, where China imposed a draconian national security law last year, religious freedom is threatened but so far has not been undermined by mainland authorities, according to Wednesday’s report.

The report warned that the future of religious freedom in the former British colony is endangered by Xia Baolong, the new Beijing-appointed chief of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office who led a 2014 campaign of repression against churches in China’s Zhejiang province.

The Chinese Communist Party constitution nominally permits freedom of religion but limits practicing faith to unspecified “normal” activities. Additionally, all party members and People’s Liberation Army troops must be atheists and are prohibited from engaging in religious practices.

Austin queried on Marine writer
Two Republican House members on Wednesday wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asking how a Marine Corps civilian adviser was allowed to pen an article for the Global Times, Beijing’s most ardent anti-U.S. propaganda outlet, arguing that the U.S. military would be defeated in a conflict with China over Taiwan.

The Washington Times reported Saturday that Franz Gayl, a retired Marine major who is now a civilian science adviser, wrote the opinion article without authorization from the Pentagon or Marine Corps.

Mr. Gayl’s article referred to U.S. regional partner Taiwan in terms used by Chinese propaganda, such as “separatist,” and then outlined why he believed the United States would lose in a war with China over Taiwan, the self-governing island that is partially protected against mainland aggression under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

Spokespeople from the Pentagon and the Marine Corps said Mr. Gayl did not have authorization to write the April 27 Global Times piece, which appeared derived from an article published by the Marine Corps Gazette in January.

“The fact that an administration official would so openly, brazenly and repeatedly promote [Chinese Communist Party] propaganda without repercussion is outrageous,” wrote Rep. Thomas P. Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican, and Rep. Scott Perry, Pennsylvania Republican. “The fact that he remains employed is frankly, mind-boggling.”

The letter asked Mr. Austin whether Pentagon officials are permitted to communicate openly with CCP functionaries and whether Pentagon officials have questioned Mr. Gayl about his article and whether he holds a security clearance.

Mr. Tiffany and Mr. Perry asserted that since the United States has never recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, “Mr. Gayl has effectively advocated for the national interests of a hostile foreign power — one that has been labeled as a perpetrator of genocide by human rights groups and the U.S. Department of State.”

The lawmakers called on Mr. Austin to explain whether any disciplinary action has been taken against Mr. Gayl.

Air Force chief: U.S. could lose next war
Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., chief of staff, warned Congress recently that a rapid modernization program for his service is urgently needed in preparing to fight any future conflict with China or Russia.

“I have personally seen the reemergence of great power competition and how the character of war has changed,” Gen. Brown told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. “The strategic environment has rapidly evolved, and we haven’t changed fast enough to keep pace.”

China, particularly, “has recognized modern warfare as a contest among citizens, not individual units or platforms,” thus making it the most significant threat, he said, adding that competition with China and Russia will be carried out across the many domains, including air, land, sea, space and cyberspace.

To address the challenges, the Air Force needs to upgrade faster than it has in the past, said Gen. Brown, who told lawmakers that new advanced weapons and capabilities are urgently needed and must be rapidly fielded to deter and win future wars — with the Air Force of the future becoming so agile, resilient and connected that it can conduct “near instantaneous” strikes, at any place and any time.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, or ISR, need modernization so air and space forces can “sense, make sense and act,” the general said, adding that past and current ISR platforms have suffered from a lack of modernization.

In a prepared statement, he said China and Russia continue “aggressive efforts to negate our long-standing war fighting advantages while challenging America’s interests and geopolitical position.”

Both have studied America’s war fighting methods during 20 years of the U.S. war on terrorism. “They studied, resourced and introduced systems specifically designed to defeat Air Force capabilities that have strengthened the joint force for a generation,” Gen. Brown said.

“That is why the Air Force must accelerate change now, so we can protect the American way of life in 2030 and for decades to come,” he said. “Simply put, if we do not change, we risk losing. We risk losing in great power competition, we risk losing in a high-end fight, and we risk losing quality airmen and families.”

Coupled with an advanced battle management system, Air Force next-generation capabilities should entail what Gen. Brown described as increased survivability, lethality and persistence of forces, using a mix of manned aircraft, drones and optionally manned aircraft armed with advanced long-range missiles and other strike weapons.

The new advanced battle management system is a key element of the Air Force’s modernization and will create a “military internet of things” to decentralize command and control nodes and allow decision-making and communications even when fractured by an enemy attack.

The new attack strategy also will use artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Air Force also will be the first service to deploy a hypersonic missile capable of striking targets anyplace around the globe within minutes and against heavily defended targets.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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