An unclassified 50-page transcript on Advance Policy Questions for Admiral Philip Davidson, USN Expected Nominee for Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, just confirmed the collapse of American exceptionalism in the South China Sea. Adm. Davidson, the likely nominee to replace departing U.S. Pacific Command Chief Admiral Harry Harris, warned that Beijing has the capability and capacity to control the South China Sea “in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”
In written testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee released last Tuesday, Adm. Davidson said China is seeking “a long-term strategy to reduce the U.S. access and influence in the region,” which he claims the U.S. must maintain its critical military assets in the area. He views China as “no longer a rising power,” but rather a “great power and peer competitor to the United States in the region.” Adm. Davidson agreed with President Trump’s recent assessment on China, calling the country a “rival.”
Adm. Davidson warns, that it is Beijing’s clear intent to disintegrate the seventy years of U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region.
“I am also concerned about Beijing’s clear intent to erode U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region. Beijing calls them a relic of the Cold War. In fact, our alliances and partnerships have been the bedrock of stability in the Indo-Pacific region for the past seventy years, and they remain a core element of our defense strategy.”
Adm. Davidson was then questioned about China’s militarization activities in the South China Sea. He responded by indicating Beijing “would easily overwhelm military forces,” because of their strategic weaponized islands in the region.
“China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania. The PLA will be able to use these bases to challenge U.S. presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”
US Senate Armed Services Committee then questioned Adm. Davidson about his stance concerning Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He replied, calling the economic initiative, “predatory” in nature because China’s low-interest loans would enable Beijing to manipulate trade deals.
“The predatory nature of many of the loans and initiatives associated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lead me to believe that Beijing is using BRI as a mechanism to coerce states into greater access and influence for China. The nations that accept China’s offer of low-interest loans, grants, and other financial incentives risk Beijing later manipulating economic deals into future security arrangements, and when these countries are unable to pay, Beijing often offers to swap debt for equity (e.g., the Port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka). Ultimately, BRI provides opportunities for China’s military to expand its global reach by gaining access to foreign air and maritime port facilities. This reach will allow China’s military to extend its striking and surveillance operations from the South China Sea to the Gulf of Aden. Moreover, Beijing could leverage BRI projects to pressure nations to deny U.S. forces basing, transit, or operational and logistical support, thereby making it more challenging for the United States to preserve international orders and norms. “
In response to questions about how the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea should handle the increased military presence in the region. Adm. Davidson advocated for a sustained U.S. military approach, with the increased investment in new high-tech weaponry.
“US operations in the South China Sea—to include freedom of navigation operations—must remain regular and routine. In my view, any decrease in air or maritime presence would likely reinvigorate PRC expansion.”
In regards to the type of weapons, Adm. Davidson outlined some critical technologies for immediate investment:
“A more effective Joint Force requires sustained investment in the following critical areas: undersea warfare, critical munitions stockpiles, standoff weapons (Air-Air, Air-Surface, Surface-Surface, Anti-Ship), intermediate range cruise missiles, low cost / high capacity cruise missile defense, hypersonic weapons, air and surface lift capacity, cyber capabilities, air-air refueling capacity, and resilient communication and navigation systems.”
Adm. Davidson’s testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, provides us with the much-needed knowledge that American exceptionalism is quickly deteriorating in the South China Sea after more than seventy years of control. The transcript reveals how America’s military will continue to drain the taxpayers, as it will need an increasing amount of investments and military assets in the Eastern Hemisphere to protect whatever control it has left. The clash of exceptionalism between Beijing and Washington is well underway, will war come next?