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July 4, 2019
Notes from the Pentagon

State Department: No civilization clash with China
The State Department is pushing back against a Chinese disinformation campaign that has sought to portray the Trump administration’s new tougher policy toward Beijing as a racist iteration of the outdated, post-Cold War “clash of civilizations” theory.

“The United States does not have a China policy that is based upon academic theories about a ‘clash of civilizations’ or concepts based on ethnicity, religion or race,” Connie Y. Chung, a State Department spokeswoman, told Inside the Ring.

“Together with our allies and partners, the United States seeks to advance transparency, the rule of law, market-based economic competition and other principles that underpin security and prosperity for the world. China has openly committed to upholding these values and principles,” she added.

Ms. Chung said the United States welcomes constructive engagement with China on areas of common interest. But she added, “At the same time, however, the United States will remain forthright in pressing the Chinese government to respect human rights, the rule of law and the Chinese people’s aspirations for freedom.”

Chinese government officials and state-run media have been hammering the notion that the Trump administration’s new China policy is racist. During a speech in Singapore June 2, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe accused the United States of adopting racist policies and asserting that China favors “human civilizations” that are colorful, equal and inclusive.

Under China’s Communist system, however, Beijing’s leaders have promoted the notion of Chinese civilization represents the most superior race in the world and one that is destined to dominate the globe.

“Unfortunately, some people recently pick[ed] up the decadent idea of ‘clash of civilizations,’” Gen. Wei stated. “As racist and narrow-minded as it is, this is not right. How can we tolerate such a regress of history?”

The general was referring to the widely misstated views of Kiron Skinner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s director of policy planning and a key policymaker in the department. Ms. Skinner came under fire in April from anti-Trump critics after remarks she made in a forum on the challenge posed by a newly aggressive China.

Asked to explain the new approach, Ms. Skinner said the threat from China may have deeper historical strategic roots than are commonly known.

In China, she said, “we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn’t expect a couple of decades ago, and I think it’s also striking that it’s the first time that we will have a great-power competitor that is not Caucasian.”

She acknowledged later the comment was partially inaccurate. The United States battled against Japan in World War II and the Vietnamese in the Vietnam War.

Her interlocutor at a security forum, former Policy Planning Director Anne Marie Slaughter, then stated that the comments sounded like the late political scientist Samuel Huntington’s notion of a “clash of civilizations.”

Ms. Skinner, who is black, then responded: “Some of those tenets but a little bit different, and all of those things together are a bit perplexing for the American foreign policy establishment. I think we have to take the rose-colored glasses off and get real about the nature of the threat, and I think we also have to give a kind of respect for, I think, what the Chinese seek to accomplish.”

Despite the fact that Ms. Skinner herself never mentioned the clash of civilizations, China’s state media have falsely portrayed the incident as indicative of racist American policies toward China. China’s global television organ CGTN suggested Ms. Skinner was “being racist” and asked how widespread are these views within the administration.

Chen Weihua, a propagandist with the Communist Party newspaper China Daily, tweeted that Ms. Skinner’s statement was a “Nazi-type racist comment.”

In the United States, pro-China academic Michael Swaine also seized on the comments, tweeting, “This is a rather appalling, racist-based assessment of the nature of the Chinese threat. And coming from the State Dept. makes it even worse.”

Mr. Huntington’s clash of civilization theory was first put forth in 1992. He argued that ideological battles were being replaced by cultural and religious identity clashes and that those would be the main source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.

Since then, China’s brand of “communism with Chinese characteristics” and Russian Soviet-style revanchism have shown that ideological conflict is still driving global competition.

Trump Fourth of July speech
President Trump will preside over a rousing patriotic Fourth of July ceremony on Thursday that will include impressive military displays and military aircraft flyovers of the National Mall by an array of warplanes.

In his speech to the nation during the celebration, the president is expected to put politics aside and instead focus on the greatness of America. “This will not be a political speech,” a White House official told Inside the Ring. “It’s about saluting America, our flag and our great armed forces.”

A highlight of Mr. Trump’s “Salute to America” will be an air show by the Navy’s Blue Angels and then the always impressive huge fireworks display.

The program will honor the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Music displays will include the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Band Pershing’s Own, the Armed Forces Chorus, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team, and others.

The 35-minute fireworks show will be put on by Fireworks by Grucci and Phantom Fireworks, which donated an estimated $750,000 worth of aerial explosives. The Interior Department announced it will open the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, World War II Memorial and Constitution Gardens for better viewing.

The Fourth of July festivities begin with a parade along Constitution Avenue at 11:45 a.m. with marching bands, military unites, giant balloons, and equestrian and drill teams.

The president’s speech will begin around 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial and will include flyovers.

“We’re going to have a great Fourth of July in Washington, D.C. It’ll be like no other. It’ll be special,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “It’s going to be about this country and it’s a salute to America.”

Bradley armored vehicles and M-1 tanks will be on display and the flyover will include F-35 and F-22 stealth jets and B-2 stealth bombers, along with Air Force One, a Boeing 747, and Marine One, a new presidential helicopter designated VH-92.

Mr. Trump defended the show from critics who say it will cost too much. “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth,” he tweeted.

Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific strategy
The Pentagon’s key policymaker on China last week outlined the Trump administration’s new Indo-Pacific strategy, which has a clear focus on Beijing.

Randall Schriver, assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told the Heritage Foundation in a speech that the new strategy represents a government-wide challenge to China’s drive to replace the U.S.-led system of rules, laws and norms.

In pursuit of that goal, Chinese Communist Party leaders, led by General Secretary and President Xi Jinping, are using “a tool kit of coercion” that includes deploying advanced weapon systems to disputed South China Sea islands and influence operations to interfere in the domestic politics of other nations aimed at undermining the integrity of elections and threatening internal stability,” Mr. Schriver said.

“They engage in predatory economics and debt-for-sovereignty deals, oftentimes enabled by corruption which takes advantage of the pressing economic needs to structure unequal bargains,” he added. “And they promote state-sponsored theft of other nations, military, and civilian technology.”

The Chinese global ambition to impose its system of authoritarian rule around the world.

Mr. Schriver noted the protests in Hong Kong against creeping Chinese imposition of its authoritarian model. “The people of Hong Kong bravely spoke out against the controversial extradition bill because they knew it could potentially expose them to China’s justice system and further erode their judicial independence,” he said.

A grouping of security partners — beyond traditional treaty allies — was identified in the report. They include Singapore, Mongolia, New Zealand and Taiwan. On Taiwan, Mr. Schriver said Taipei supports the U.S. strategy by investing in its military and defense needs. The objective is to let Beijing know that it becomes “unattractive” for any Chinese military action to resold the dispute over Taiwan’s status.

“We’re working very closely with Taiwan as a security partner under the Taiwan Relations Act to make sure the Taiwan does have those capabilities,” he said, adding that the partnership is very strong and the Pentagon remains very focused on the evolving Chinese military threat to the island.

On arms sales, Mr. Schriver said the growing threat to Taiwan is driving decision-making on what weapons to sell. A new U.S. arms package to Taiwan worth more than $2 billion is expected to be announced soon.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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