China’s growing military is going to face a much bigger problem than the US

Liaoning China Aircraft Carrier
The Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, sails into Hong Kong, July 7, 2017.

  • US military leaders frequently cited China’s growing military as challenge that’s only going to grow in the coming decades.
  • Those coming decades are also set to see intensifying climate change wreaking havoc around the world.
  • Those effects – flooding, wildfires, heatwaves, and much more – will keep the US and Chinese militaries much busier at home.
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In recent months, Washington has had a lot to say about China’s ever-expanding air, naval, and missile power.

But when Pentagon officials address the topic, they generally speak less about that country’s current capabilities, which remain vastly inferior to those of the US, than the world they foresee in the 2030s and 2040s, when Beijing is expected to have acquired far more sophisticated weaponry.

“China has invested heavily in new technologies, with a stated intent to complete the modernization of its forces by 2035 and to field a ‘world-class military’ by 2049,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testified in June.

The United States, he assured the Senate Armed Services Committee, continues to possess “the best joint fighting force on Earth.” But only by spending countless additional billions of dollars annually, he added, can this country hope to “outpace” China’s projected advances in the decades to come.

As it happens, however, there’s a significant flaw in such reasoning. In fact, consider this a guarantee: By 2049, the Chinese military (or what’s left of it) will be so busy coping with a burning, flooding, churning world of climate change – threatening the country’s very survival – that it will possess scant capacity, no less the will, to launch a war with the United States or any of its allies.

It’s normal, of course, for American military officials to focus on the standard measures of military power when discussing the supposed Chinese threat, including rising military budgets, bigger navies, and the like. Such figures are then extrapolated years into the future to an imagined moment when, by such customary measures, Beijing might overtake Washington.

China Chinese PLA tanks
Chinese Type 96 tanks at the Vostok 2018 military exercise held by Russia and China, September 13, 2018.

None of these assessments, however, take into account the impact of climate change on China’s security. In reality, as global temperatures rise, that country will be ravaged by the severe effects of the never-ending climate emergency and forced to deploy every instrument of government, including the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), to defend the nation against ever more disastrous floods, famines, droughts, wildfires, sandstorms, and encroaching oceans.

China will hardly be alone in this. Already, the increasingly severe effects of the climate crisis are forcing governments to commit military and paramilitary forces to firefighting, flood prevention, disaster relief, population resettlement, and sometimes the simple maintenance of basic governmental functions.

In fact, during this summer of extreme climate events, military forces from numerous countries, including Algeria, Germany, Greece, Russia, Turkey, and – yes – the United States, have found themselves engaged in just such activities, as has the PLA.

And count on one thing: that’s just the barest of beginnings. According to a recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), extreme climate events, occurring with ever more frightening frequency, will prove ever more destructive and devastating to societies around the world, which, in turn, will ensure that military forces just about everywhere will be consigned a growing role in dealing with climate-related disasters.

“If global warming increases,” the report noted, “there will be a higher likelihood that [extreme climate] events with increased intensities, durations and/or spatial extents unprecedented in the observational record will occur.”

In other words, what we’ve been witnessing in the summer of 2021, devastating as it might now seem, will be magnified many times over in the decades to come. And China, a large country with multiple climate vulnerabilities, will clearly require more assistance than most.

The Zhengzhou precedent

Vehicles are stranded in floodwater near Zhengzhou Railway Station, July 20, 2021.
Vehicles are stranded in floodwater near Zhengzhou Railway Station, July 20, 2021.

To grasp the severity of the climate crisis China will face, look no further than the recent flooding of Zhengzhou, a city of 6.7 million people and the capital of Henan Province.

Over a 72-hour period between July 20 and July 22, Zhengzhou was deluged with what, once upon a time, would have been a normal year’s supply of rainfall. The result – and think of it as watching China’s future in action – was flooding on an unprecedented scale and, under the weight of that water, the collapse of local infrastructure.

At least 100 people died in Zhengzhou itself – including 14 who were trapped in a subway tunnel that flooded to the ceiling – and another 200 in surrounding towns and cities. Along with widespread damage to bridges, roads, and tunnels, the flooding inundated an estimated 2.6 million acres of farmland and damaged important food crops.

In response, President Xi Jinping called for a government-wide mobilization to assist the flooding victims and protect vital infrastructure.

“Xi called for officials and Party members at all levels to assume responsibilities and go to the frontline to guide flood control work,” according to CGTN, a government-owned TV network. “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army and armed police force troops should actively coordinate local rescue and relief work,” Xi told senior officials.

The PLA responded with alacrity. As early as July 21, reported the government-owned China Daily, more than 3,000 officers, soldiers, and militiamen from the PLA’s Central Theater Command had been deployed in and around Zhengzhou to aid in disaster relief.

Among those so dispatched was a parachute brigade from the PLA Air Force assigned to reinforce two hazardous dam breaches along the Jialu River in the Kaifeng area. According to China Daily, the brigade built a one-mile-long, three-foot-high wall of sandbags to bolster the dam.

These units were soon supplemented by others, and eventually some 46,000 soldiers from the PLA and the People’s Armed Police were deployed in Henan to assist in relief efforts, along with 61,000 militia members. Significantly, those included at least several hundred personnel from the PLA Rocket Forces, the military branch responsible for maintaining and firing China’s nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.

People wade across a flooded street following heavy rains which caused flooding and claimed the lives of at least 33 people earlier in the week, in the city of Zhengzhou in China's Henan province on July 23, 2021.
People wade across a flooded street in Zhengzhou, China, July 23, 2021.

The Zhengzhou disaster was significant in many respects.

To begin with, it demonstrated global warming’s capacity to inflict severe damage on a modern city virtually overnight and without advance warning. Like the devastating torrential rainfall that saturated rivers in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands two weeks earlier, the downpour in Henan was caused in part by a warming atmosphere’s increased capacity to absorb moisture and linger in one place, discharging all that stored water in a mammoth cascade.

Such events are now seen as a distinctive outcome of climate change, but their timing and location can rarely be predicted. As a result, while Chinese meteorological officials warned of a heavy rainfall event in Henan, nobody imagined its intensity and no precautions were taken to avoid its extreme consequences.

Ominously, that event also exposed significant flaws in the design and construction of China’s many “new cities,” which sprouted in recent years as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has worked to relocate impoverished rural workers to modern, highly industrialized metropolises.

Typically, these urban centers – the country now has 91 cities with more than a million people each – prove to be vast conglomerations of highways, factories, malls, office towers, and high-rise apartment buildings. During their construction, much of the original countryside gets covered in asphalt and concrete.

Accordingly, when heavy downfalls occur, there are few streams or brooks left for the resulting runoff to drain into and, as a result, any nearby tunnels, subways, or low-built highways are often flooded, threatening human life in a devastating fashion.

The Henan flooding also exposed another climate-related threat to China’s future security: the vulnerability of many of the country’s dams and reservoirs to heavy rainfall and overflowing rivers. Low-lying areas of eastern China, where most of its population is concentrated, have always suffered from flooding and, historically, one dynasty after another – the most recent being the CCP – has had to build dams and embankments to control river systems.

Many of these have not been properly maintained and were never designed for the sort of extreme events now being experienced. During the Henan flooding in July, for example, the 61-year-old Changzhuang Reservoir near Zhengzhou filled to dangerous levels and nearly collapsed, which would have inflicted a second catastrophe upon that city.

In fact, other dams in the surrounding area did collapse, resulting in widespread crop damage. At least some of the PLA forces rushed to Henan were put to work building sandbag walls to repair dam breaches on the Jialu River.

China’s perilous climate future

Coal plant china

The Zhengzhou flooding was but a single incident, consuming the Chinese leadership’s attention for a relatively brief moment. But it was also an unmistakable harbinger of what China – now, the world’s greatest emitter of greenhouse gases – is going to endure with ever-increasing frequency as global temperatures rise.

It will prove particularly vulnerable to the severe impacts of climate change. That, in turn, means the central government will have to devote state resources on an as-yet-unimaginable scale, again and again, to emergency actions like those witnessed in Zhengzhou – until they become seamless events with no time off for good behavior.

In the decades to come, every nation will, of course, be ravaged by the extreme effects of global warming. But because of its geography and topography, China is at particular risk. Many of its largest cities and most productive industrial zones, including, for example, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Tianjin, are located in low-lying coastal areas along the Pacific Ocean and so will be exposed to increasingly severe typhoons, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise.

According to a 2013 World Bank report, of any city on the planet, Guangzhou, in the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong, faces the highest risk of damage, financially speaking, from sea-level rise and associated flooding; its neighbor Shenzhen was described as facing the 10th highest risk.

Other parts of China face equally daunting threats from climate change. The country’s densely populated central regions, including major cities like Wuhan and Zhengzhou as well as its vital farming areas, are crisscrossed by a massive web of rivers and canals that often flood following heavy rainfall.

Wuhan, China flooding
A man rides his bicycle on a flooded street after heavy rainfall hit Wuhan, Hubei province, China, July 23, 2015.

Much of China’s west and northwest is covered by desert, and a combination of deforestation and declining rainfall there has resulted in the further spread of such desertification. Similarly, a study in 2018 suggested that the heavily populated North China Plain could become the deadliest place on Earth for devastating heat waves by century’s end and could, by then, prove uninhabitable; we’re talking, that is, about almost unimaginable future disasters.

China’s distinct climate risks were brought to the fore in the IPCC’s new report, “Climate Change 2021.” Among its most worrisome findings:

  • Sea-level rise along China’s coasts is occurring at a faster rate than the global average, with resulting coastal area loss and shoreline retreat.
  • The number of ever-more-powerful and destructive typhoons striking China is destined to increase.
  • Heavy precipitation events and associated flooding will become more frequent and widespread.
  • Prolonged droughts will become more frequent, especially in northern and western China.
  • Extreme heatwaves will occur more frequently, and persist for longer periods.

Such onrushing realities will result in massive urban flooding, widespread coastal inundation, dam and infrastructure collapses, ever more severe wildfires, disastrous crop failures, and the increasing possibility of widespread famine.

All of this, in turn, could lead to civic unrest, economic dislocation, the uncontrolled movements of populations, and even inter-regional strife (especially if water and other vital resources from one area of the country are diverted to others for political reasons). All this, in turn, will test the responsiveness and durability of the central government in Beijing.

Facing global warming’s mounting fury

china farmer desert sandstorm

We Americans tend to assume that Chinese leaders spend all their time thinking about how to catch up with and overtake the United States as the world’s number one superpower.

In reality, the single greatest priority of the Communist Party is simply to remain in power – and for the past quarter-century that has meant maintaining sufficient economic growth each year to ensure the loyalty (or at least acquiescence) of a preponderance of the population. Anything that might threaten growth or endanger the well-being of the urban middle-class – think: climate-related disasters – is viewed as a vital threat to the survival of the CCP.

This was evident in Zhengzhou. In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, some foreign journalists reported, residents began criticizing local government officials for failing to provide adequate warning of the impending disaster and for not taking the necessary precautionary measures.

The CCP censorship machine quickly silenced such voices, while pro-government media agents castigated foreign journalists for broadcasting such complaints. Similarly, government-owned news agencies lauded President Xi for taking personal command of the relief effort and for ordering an “all-of-government” response, including the deployment of those PLA forces.

Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping walks near a guard of honor at a welcome ceremony for Myanmar President Thein Sein in Beijing, China.

That Xi felt the need to step in, however, sends a message. With urban disasters guaranteed to become more frequent, inflicting harm on media-savvy middle-class residents, the country’s leadership believes it must demonstrate vigor and resourcefulness, lest its aura of competency – and so its mandate to govern – disappear.

In other words, every time China experiences such a catastrophe, the central government will be ready to assume leadership of the relief effort and to dispatch the PLA to oversee it.

No doubt senior PLA officials are fully aware of the climate threats to China’s security and the ever-increasing role they’ll be forced to play in dealing with them.

However, the most recent edition of China’s “white paper” on defense, released in 2019, didn’t even mention climate change as a threat to the nation’s security. Nor, for that matter, did its closest US equivalent, the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy, despite the fact that senior commanders here were well aware of, even riveted by, such growing perils.

Having been directed to provide emergency relief operations in response to a series of increasingly severe hurricanes in recent years, American military commanders have become intimately familiar with global warming’s potentially devastating impact on the United States. The still-ongoing mammoth wildfires in the American West have only further reinforced this understanding.

Like their counterparts in China, they recognize that the armed forces will be obliged to play an ever-increasing role in defending the country not from enemy missiles or other forces but from global warming’s mounting fury.

At this moment, the Department of Defense is preparing a new edition of its National Defense Strategy and this time climate change will finally be officially identified as a major threat to American security. In an executive order signed on January 27, his first full day in office, President Joe Biden directed the secretary of defense to “consider the risks of climate change” in that new edition.

Marines with Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune help push a car out of a flooded area during Hurricane Florence, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Sept. 15, 2018.
US Marines help push a car out of a flooded area in North Carolina during Hurricane Florence, September 15, 2018.

There can be no doubt that the Chinese military leadership will translate that new National Defense Strategy as soon as it’s released, probably later this year.

After all, a lot of it will be focused on the sort of US military moves to counter China’s rise in Asia that have been emphasized by both the Trump and Biden administrations. But it will be interesting to see what they make of the language on climate change and if similar language begins to appear in Chinese military documents.

Here’s my dream: that American and Chinese military leaders – committed, after all, to “defend” the two leading producers of greenhouses gases – will jointly acknowledge the overriding climate threat to national and international security and announce common efforts to mitigate it through advances in energy, transportation, and materials technology.

One way or another, however, we can be reasonably certain of one thing: As the term makes all too clear, the old Cold War format for military policy no longer holds, not on such an overheating planet.

As a result, expect Chinese soldiers to be spending far more time filling sandbags to defend their country’s coastline from rising seas in 2049 than manning weaponry to fight American soldiers.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. He is the author of 15 books, the latest of which is “All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change.” He is a founder of the Committee for a Sane US-China Policy.

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The US Air Force’s special operators are hustling to turn their biggest planes into flying boats

AFSOC MC-130J Commando II float amphibious plane rendering
A rendering of an amphibious modification to an MC-130J Commando II.

  • The prospect of a war in the Pacific has the US military thinking about how to spread out and conduct amphibious operations.
  • Those challenges have renewed the US military’s interest in an old concept: amphibious aircraft.
  • US Air Force Special Operations Command now plans to rapidly develop an amphibious prototype of its workhorse plane, the MC-130J.
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Increasing tension with China has the US military looking for ways to spread out across the Pacific in order to counter Beijing’s growing navy and missile arsenal.

The US Air Force in particular is looking to disperse its aircraft and airmen, and the service’s special operators are now hustling to equip their workhorse plane to operate on land and water.

US Air Force Special Operations Command said this week that it will conduct a rapid prototyping effort to increase the “runway independence and expeditionary capacity” of its MC-130J by developing “a removable amphibious float modification.”

MC-130 variants have supported US military operations since the 1960s. The MC-130J is the latest version and is the backbone of AFSOC’s fixed-wing force.

AFSOC MC-130J Commando II float amphibious plane rendering
A rendering of a twin-float amphibious modification to an MC-130J.

The $114 million aircraft has advanced navigation and radar systems that allow it to operate in unfriendly territory, but the MC-130J Commando II Amphibious Capability, as the effort is called, will allow it to support operations at sea and in near-shore areas, according to AFSOC.

MAC “allows the Air Force to increase placement and access for infiltration, exfiltration, and personnel recovery, as well as providing enhanced logistical capabilities,” Lt. Col. Josh Trantham, AFSOC’s science, systems, technology, and innovation deputy division chief, said in a release.

Seaborne operations offer “nearly unlimited” places for landing and would extend the reach and survivability of the MC-130J and the commandos who use it, Trantham said.

AFSOC is working with the Air Force Research Lab’s Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation directorate and with private industry. The command plans to use a five-phase rapid prototyping schedule that will allow it to conduct an operational capability demonstration in 17 months.

AFSOC and private-sector representatives are already testing prototypes in the Digital Proving Ground, a virtual setting that includes virtual-reality modeling and computer-aided design – “paving the way” for more digital simulation and testing and the use of advanced manufacturing, the release said.

AFSOC MC-130J Commando II float amphibious plane rendering
A rendering of a twin-float amphibious modification to an MC-130J.

The effort also intends to “de-risk” the concept for potential use in a future program to give MC-130Js or other C-130 variants an amphibious capability.

The last US military seaplane left service with the US Coast Guard in 1983, 16 years after the Navy retired its last seaplane. Amphibious aircraft played an important role in World War II, but technological advances during the Cold War made them less valuable.

Interest in amphibious aircraft has increased in recent years, however. Several countries – including Russia and Japan – still operate them, and China’s development of the AG600, the world’s largest seaplane, is steadily advancing.

China has invested heavily in its fleet of military airlift planes in order to support long-range operations, and the AG600 provides “some niche but important capabilities,” Timothy Heath, a senior international defense researcher at the RAND Corporation, told Insider earlier this year.

AVIC AG600 Kunlong floatplane
China’s AG600 floatplane.

“An amphibious plane allows you to reach areas that otherwise are hard to get to. They can also support ships that are stranded at sea or just if it needs to connect with some ship at sea where there is no runway,” Heath said.

China is expected to use the AG600 for search-and-rescue, transport, and firefighting, among other operations. It would be especially useful in the South China Sea, supporting operations around the island bases China has built there.

AFSOC officials have said amphibious aircraft would be a valuable capability in an era of great-power competition, and Trantham echoed that view in the release.

“MAC will be able to be used by our sister services, allies, and partners,” Trantham said, and its use “alongside other innovative tools will provide even more complex dilemmas in future battlespaces for our strategic competitors.”

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The US, UK, and Australia are teaming up to develop new defense technology – including nuclear-powered subs

President Joe Biden, joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announces the new trilateral security initiative “AUKUS” at the White House on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.
President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce a new trilateral security initiative at the White House, September 15, 2021.

  • President Joe Biden announced a new security partnership – dubbed “AUKUS” – with the UK and Australia.
  • The trilateral security partnership deepens cooperation on defense technology, including nuclear-powered subs, cyber, and artificial intelligence.
  • Officials told Politico that a subtext of the agreement is countering China.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden announced a new security partnership with the UK and Australia at the White House on Wednesday, joined virtually by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The three countries will work together to “strengthen the ability of each” to pursue their defense interests through cooperation on defense technology.

“We have always seen the world through a similar lens,” said Morrison. “We must now take our partnership to a new level.”

Morrison said the first major initiative of AUKUS would be to deliver a new nuclear-powered submarine fleet to Australia, working together over the next 18 months “to seek to determine the best way forward to achieve this.” The subs will be built in Adelaide, the prime minister said.

Morrison stressed that Australia is not seeking nuclear weapons or to develop a civil nuclear capability and would adhere to its nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

“This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world, lasting decades and requiring the most advanced technology,” Johnson said, hailing it as “a new chapter in our friendship.”

The AUKUS acronym “sounds strange,” Biden said in his remarks, adding “but this is a good one.”

Biden said the three countries will work together to improve their “shared ability” to take on 21st-century threats.

“We’re taking another historic step to deepen and formalize cooperation among all three of our nations because we all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long-term,” Biden said.

“This effort reflects the broader trend of key European countries playing a supremely important in the Indo-Pacific,” Biden added, citing France as having “a substantial” presence in the region, where it has several overseas territories.

According to Australian media, Canberra will abandon a roughly $66 billion deal with France for 12 state-of-the-art conventionally powered attack submarines. A French firm was picked to build the subs in 2016, but the deal fell apart amid local disputes, rising costs, changing designs, and delayed schedules.

Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to the US, tweeted that the US and the UK “have stabbed [France] in the back in Australia.”

Biden also emphasized that Australia was not seeking a nuclear weapons capability.

“We’re not talking about nuclear-armed submarines. These are conventionally-armed submarines that are powered by nuclear reactors,” Biden said. “This technology is proven. It’s safe.”

Details of the agreement were reported earlier on Wednesday by US and Australia media.

US officials stressed that the partnership was “not aimed or about any one country,” and China wasn’t mentioned during the leaders’ remarks, but a White House official and a congressional staffer familiar with the matter told Politico that countering China is an important subtext of the new partnership.

The leaders on Wednesday stressed the joint nature of the effort, but the agreement comes as countries in the region seek to bolster the ability of their militaries to operate together and individually. Australia has already announced plans for major defense investments and to add new military capabilities, including long-range missiles.

Australia’s efforts and those in other countries have grown recently, spurred by China’s rapid increase in military strength.

It’s become clear over the last four years that the US and Australia “publicly now agree and recognize that the United States’ military preponderance in the Indo-Pacific is passed,” Ashley Townshend, director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said at an event earlier this month.

Washington and Canberra “are now very much in a Plan B-era where both countries are working together collectively alongside other committed regional security partners … to advance a networking agenda that can in some way offset and compliment the United States’ extended security guarantees to Asian countries going forward,” Townshend added.

Long-range missiles remain a focus, but submarine construction and presence in Australia are both important for Australia, Townshend said Wednesday, calling the new partnership a “surprising and very welcome sign of Biden’s willingness to empower close allies like Australia with highly advanced defence tech assistance.”

US export controls and concerns over defense industrial issues may still limit the extent of cooperation, but the three leaders stressed their need to cooperate against common threats.

“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” Biden said.

Watch the leaders’ full speeches here:

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Biden set to join British and Australian prime ministers to unveil new advanced tech-sharing security partnership to counter China

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his plan to stop the spread of the Delta variant and boost COVID-19 vaccinations, in the State Dining Room of the White House complex on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Biden is set to announce a new security partnership – dubbed “AUUKUS” – with the UK and Australia.
  • The new working group will allow the countries to collaborate on AI, cyber, and nuclear infrastructure.
  • Officials told POLITICO that the agreement that the subtext of the agreement is countering China.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden is set to announce a new security partnership with the UK and Australia in a speech at the White House at 5pm ET, where he will be joined virtually by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.

The new working group – reportedly dubbed AUUKUS, incorporating each country’s initials – will allow the 3 Anglophone countries to share advanced technologies including artificial intelligence, cyber, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities, according to POLITICO.

According to a White House official and a congressional staffer familiar with the matter, countering China is an important subtext of the new security partnership.

Watch Biden’s announcement at 5pm ET here:

This is a developing story. Please check back for further updates.

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Pentagon defends Milley’s calls to top Chinese general in final months of Trump presidency, saying such calls are vital to avoiding conflict

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley

  • The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that Gen. Milley made two calls to his counterpart in China in the final months of the Trump administration.
  • A Joint Staff spokesperson said the calls were aimed at maintaining stability.
  • The White House said that it has complete confidence in Milley, whom critics are accusing of “treasonous” behavior.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The top US general called his counterpart in China twice in the final months of the Trump administration to reassure the Chinese and avoid conflict, the Pentagon said Wednesday, characterizing the interactions as a vital part of his duties but not addressing specific quotes attributed to him in recent reporting.

Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in the new book “Peril” that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made two secret phone calls to his counterpart in China’s People’s Liberation Army, Gen. Li Zuocheng, in part because there were concerns that President Donald Trump had declined mentally and might spark a war.

One call was just days before the presidential election, and the other was two days after the Capitol riot.

Milley reportedly told Li during their first phone call that he wanted to assure him “that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay.” Milley told the Chinese officer that “we are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

The book also said that the general pledged to give the Chinese advanced warning of an attack.

During the second call, Milley told Li that “we are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” The call reportedly did not alleviate Li’s discomfort.

donald trump mark milley
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Army Gen. Mark Milley looks on after getting a briefing from senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House on October 7, 2019.

Amid news reports on Milley’s call, the general began to face criticism from Trump, who appears to have been unaware of the calls, as well as Republican lawmakers, who have said that if Milley acted as described, then his actions were “treasonous.” The general has faced several calls to resign.

“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia,” Col. Dave Butler, a spokesperson for the Joint Staff, said in a statement. “These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of US national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”

“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,” the statement read. “All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reported late Tuesday that there were at least 15 people on the video teleconference calls. In addition to the calls to China, Milley also reportedly made more than a dozen calls to NATO allies in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot.

“Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution,” Butler said in his statement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also defended Milley, saying on Wednesday that the reports on Milley are “anonymous unconfirmed reports about conversations with limited context.” She added that the president has “complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our Constitution.”

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Republicans call Gen. Mark Milley ‘traitor,’ and say he should be fired or court-martialed for a report that he secretly intervened to avoid war with China

General Mark Milley testifies in front of Congress.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

  • Milley reportedly sought to assure China that the US would not start a war with them following Trump’s defeat.
  • Joining former President Trump, some Republican members of Congress accused the top general of treason.
  • A spokesman for Milley confirmed the calls, arguing that they were in keeping with his duties to “maintain strategic stability.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following new reports that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley called his Chinese counterpart twice to assure him that the US would not start a new war with their country, some congressional Republicans are joining former President Donald Trump in accusing Milley of treason, while others are calling for his firing, resignation, or even for the top general to be court-martialled.

According to “Peril,” a forthcoming book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley called his counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng on both October 30 and January 8, reportedly telling him in one call: “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

A spokesman for Milley confirmed the calls on Wednesday, arguing that they were in keeping with his duties to “maintain strategic stability.”

But Republicans said these reports show Milley had overstepped his authority as the top military advisor, and possibly even offered a tip-off to a top US adversary.

“The Chairman of the JCOS working to subvert the military chain of command and collude with China is exactly what we do not accept from military leaders in our country,” wrote Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on Twitter. “He should be court martialed if true.”

A court-martial is a trial conducted in a military court of paneled by the accused’s peers for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in contrast with a civil court, which all Americans are otherwise subject to. The accused can be convicted by only two-thirds of panel’s members, which in a civil trial would prompt a hung jury.

Paul was echoed by far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who simply tweeted, “Court-martial Mark Milley.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida simply called for the top general to be fired, writing in a letter to the White House arguing that Milley had set a “dangerous precedent” through his actions and had “contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party.”

While other GOP senators such as Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Roger Marshall of Kansas have also called for Milley’s firing, most GOP senators appear not to have commented on the matter yet.

On the House side, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida called for Milley’s ouster, suggesting on Newsmax that Milley had “broken some very good laws.

Meanwhile, several other congressional Republicans called for Milley to be either fired or to resign, including Reps. Chris Stewart of Utah, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, and Doug Lamborn of Colorado.

Other Republicans went even further, accusing Milley of treason. Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia falsely claimed Milley “conspired with a foreign power in a coup d’état,” while Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona said that the general “should go down in history as a traitor to the American people.” And Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida released a statement saying Milley’s actions were “next to treasonist,” apparently misspelling “treasonous.”

Congressional Republicans aren’t the only ones calling for Milley’s removal. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in Trump’s first impeachment and a long-time critic of the former President, said that Milley “usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military.

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Gen. Mark Milley told his Chinese counterpart the US was ‘100 percent steady’ after the Capitol riot but privately thought the siege was ‘treason’: book

donald trump mark milley
Trump and Gen. Mark Milley.

  • Gen. Mark Milley told his Chinese counterpart the US was “100 percent steady” after the Capitol siege.
  • But he privately believed the riot amounted to “treason,” a new book says.
  • He also thought Trump was still looking for his “Reichstag moment,” according to the book.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two days after the deadly Capitol siege, Gen. Mark Milley spoke to his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the US was still in good shape.

But privately, he believed differently, according to “Peril” by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, an early copy of which was obtained by Insider.

In his call with Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng, Milley said the US was “100 percent steady” and that the January 6 insurrection was an example of how “sloppy” democracy can be, the book says. But in reality, Milley thought the riot was “a coup attempt and nothing less than ‘treason,'” and that then President Donald Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment'” in the wake of his election loss. That refers to the 1933 fire at the German parliament that Adolf Hitler used as a pretext to consolidate power into a dictatorship.

It’s one of several instances Woodward and Costa reported in which Milley grappled with how to ward off a national security crisis while remaining within the confines of his advisory role as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

According to the book, Milley made two calls to Li, one on October 30 and the second on January 8. The January call came amid a heightened sense of urgency because the Capitol siege “had not only stirred up China but also caused Russia, Iran, as well as other nations to go on high alert to monitor the American military and political events in the United States,” the book said.

“Half the world was friggin nervous,” Milley said, according to the book. The general was said to be on high alert and told the Joint Chiefs to keep an eye on things “all the time.” He also told NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone to keep his “needles up” following the phone call with Li, and he told CIA Director Gina Haspel to “aggressively watch everything, 360,” according to the book.

Milley’s main concern with China was that it “could choose to do what’s called a ‘first-move advantage’ or a ‘Pearl Harbor,’ and conduct a strike,” the book said. His first call to Li, on October 30, was prompted by US intelligence suggesting that China believed the US was readying for a military strike amid increased military exercises in the South China Sea and Trump’s harsh rhetoric toward the country.

During the October call, Milley assured Li that “the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay. We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you,” the book said. He also reportedly added: “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

But the January 6 Capitol siege only intensified China’s fears that the US was unstable and that Trump, seething over his election loss and behaving erratically, could authorize a military strike.

Milley’s reported conversations with Li drew sharp condemnation from Trump, some of his advisors, Republican lawmakers, and some ex-military members.

“If this is true GEN Milley must resign. He usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military,” tweeted retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former Trump impeachment witness. “It’s an extremely dangerous precedent. You can’t simply walk away from that. #dotherightthingintherightway.”

However, Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reported that there were 15 people on Milley’s video teleconference calls with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, including a State Department representative. Griffin added that notes detailing the two calls were shared with the intelligence community and went through the interagency process.

Nayyera Haq, a former senior advisor at the State Department and senior director of Cabinet affairs at the White House, also added: “The only thing secret about the discussion was the classification. It’s literally how government and diplomacy are supposed to work.”

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Taiwan adds another stealthy ‘carrier killer’ corvette as it strengthens its defenses against China

Taiwan navy corvette
A Tuo Chiang-class corvette during an official ceremony in Yilan, Taiwan, December 15, 2020.

  • A second Tuo Chiang-class corvette has entered service with Taiwan’s Navy.
  • They are fast, multi-mission ships armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, close-in weapon systems, torpedoes, and a deck gun.
  • Their speed, design, and armament lead some to call them “carrier-killers”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The new Tuo Chiang-class corvettes are swift, stealthy, and deadly.

A threat to the PLAN?

During a christening event that saw Taiwan’s second Tuo Chiang-class corvette enter service with the Republic of China Navy, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said that the corvette “proves that on the path to becoming independent in national defense, no matter what difficulties arise, we can overcome them one by one.”

The Tuo Chiang-class corvette, represented by just two vessels, offers several capabilities that Taiwan believes could help the small island nation on China’s doorstep fend off an amphibious assault from Beijing.

Tuo Chiang-class corvette

The class are fast, multi-mission ships that have several features that help in mitigating their radar signature.

Capable of sprinting at 45 knots thanks to a wave-piercing catamaran hull design, the two ships would rely on hit-and-run tactics to harry Chinese ships headed toward Taiwan rather than take on a Chinese armada face-on.

The ship’s structure is quite rounded and smooth compared to other similar corvettes and helps minimize radar-bounceback. In addition, the ship’s exhaust is cooled to reduce their infrared signature and the threat posed by heat-seeking munitions. As a result, it is unlikely that the ships would be undetectable.

However, these design considerations would greatly help blend into background “chatter” or movement detected by radar and help the ships blend into their surroundings.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen waves her hand as she boards the nation's first domestically built stealth-missile 500-ton Tuo Jiang twin-hull corvette at Suao Naval Base in Yilan, Taiwan June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
President Tsai Ing-wen aboard Taiwan’s first domestically built Tuo Jiang corvette at Suao Naval Base in Yilan, Taiwan, June 4, 2016.

The ships are heavily armed and sport several indigenously-made anti-ship missiles, anti-air missiles, close-in weapon systems, torpedo launchers, and a 3-inch deck gun.

Aft, both corvettes also have a small landing pad, presumably for a helicopter of some kind. As a result, some have called them carrier-killers, capable of taking down the largest warships in existence.

If reports hold true, Taiwan will be able to field five more of the Tuo Chiang corvettes by 2023, bringing the total hulls to 7.

Although China considers Taiwan a renegade Chinese province, the two countries have functioned independently since 1949 and the end of the Chinese Civil War. Still, China officially claims that it would like to reunify with Taiwan peacefully.

However, rhetoric from the Chinese leadership and the clear goal of recent Chinese military exercises point to a willingness to use force if necessary.

Postscript

Tuo Chiang-class corvettes are not invincible; there are, after all, only two of them.

On their own, they would clearly not be able to stop a Chinese invasion fleet from sailing right up to Taiwan’s beaches; the odds are just too lopsided in China’s favor.

However, what they would do is raise the cost to China and alter the calculus of an invasion. And with five more on the way, China may take serious note of the Tuo Chiang-class corvette.

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Trump claimed without evidence that China and Russia are examining helicopters the US abandoned in Afghanistan to steal their secrets

Donald trump on full measure
Former President Donald Trump.

  • The US left aircraft, vehicles, guns, and other equipment in Afghanistan during the troop pullout.
  • Trump claimed on Sunday that China and Russia were studying abandoned US helicopter.
  • “They’re taking them apart so they can make the exact same equipment,” he said without providing evidence.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former President Donald Trump has claimed, without providing evidence, that China and Russia were seizing helicopters abandoned by the US military in Afghanistan and plundering their secrets.

During its swift pullout from Afghanistan, the US military left behind aircraft, land vehicles, guns, and scores of other equipment.

“I guarantee that China, Russia already have our Apache helicopters, and they’re taking them apart to find out exactly how they’re made. They’re the best in the world by far,” Trump said during an interview with “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson” aired Sunday.

“And they’re taking them apart so they can make the exact same equipment. They’re very good at that. It’s a disgrace.”

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Speaking from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump offered no evidence for his remarks, but when asked if he still received US intelligence briefings, he said: “I get if I want. I get what I want. I hear what’s going on.”

“By the way, you don’t need intel briefings. All you have to do is read the news or turn on the television,” he said.

Trump went on to slam the Biden administration’s handing of the Afghanistan pullout.

“It’s the most incompetently handled withdrawal in history. There’s never been anything like this, where we gave them $85 billion worth of brand new, beautiful equipment,” he said.

Trump’s reference to the $85 billion worth of equipment is inflated: As The Washington Post previously reported, that figure appears to be a high estimate for all spending appropriated for Afghanistan since 2001, and only a fraction of that went to equipment. The value of the equipment left behind in Afghanistan and seized by the Taliban is also unclear.

The US military said last month that it had permanently disabled more than 150 vehicles and aircraft before it left so they could “never be used again,” though Taliban fighters have been able to capture other arsenal.

Earlier this month a Times of London journalist reported that the Taliban used US-made weapons and handcuffs in their battle for Panjshir, the last Afghan province resisting their rule.

Republicans, including Trump, have blamed President Joe Biden for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, while Biden officials have blamed Trump and Afghan forces.

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China is already sending aid to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, filling the gap the US left

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the ceremony to present the July 1 Medal, the Party's highest honor, to outstanding Party members at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, June 29, 2021.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.

  • Western countries froze aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban took control on August 15.
  • China, meanwhile, pledged $31 million in aid last week and kept its embassy in Kabul open.
  • Beijing reportedly hopes to access Afghanistan’s vast mineral deposits and secure its own borders.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

China is already sending aid to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, filling the financial gap left by the US and other world powers.

Since the Taliban took Kabul on August 15, the Biden administration has frozen as much as $10 billion in Afghan reserves held by US banks.

Simultaneously, western countries like the US, UK, and Germany suspended their aid programs to the country, largely citing the need to not legitimize the Taliban. The World Bank and NATO have also done so.

On the ground, Afghan civilians are in desperate need of help, with the United Nations warning on September 7 of a “looming humanitarian catastrophe.” It said $200 million was needed to plug the gap.

Last week, China pledged $31 million worth of food, medicine, and COVID-19 vaccines, to Afghanistan, the first sizeable foreign-aid promise from a major nation since August 15.

What China wants from the Taliban

For China, the new Taliban regime signals a chance to extend its reach and access natural reserves. On September 3, the Taliban said China had promised to keep its embassy open and “beef up” relations. In late July, as the US was withdrawing from Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted Taliban leaders in his country, in a clear sign of warming relations between the two powers.

“With the US withdrawal, Beijing can offer what Kabul needs most: political impartiality and economic investment,” Zhou Bo, a former colonel in the China’s People’s Liberation Army, wrote in The New York Times.

“Afghanistan in turn has what China most prizes: opportunities in infrastructure and industry building – areas in which China’s capabilities are arguably unmatched – and access to $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits.”

Taliban meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi
Taliban political chief Abdul Ghani Baradar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin, China, on July 28, 2021.

Senior Asian diplomats told the Financial Times that China was promising the Taliban hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild infrastructure in Afghanistan.

China also wants the Taliban’s cooperation in preventing Islamic extremism, particularly from the East Turkestan Independence Movement, near its borders, the FT said. ETIM is a political group fighting for the independence of what China calls its northwestern Xinjiang region.

China has long claimed that Muslim minority groups, like the Uyghurs and other ethnic Turkic people, pose a security threat. Since 2016, it has detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs at hundreds of prison-like camps across Xinjiang.

In their July meeting, the head of the Taliban Political Commission, Abdul Ghani Baradar, told China’s foreign minister that the Taliban would never allow any forces to use the Afghan territory to endanger China, according to a Chinese government statement on the meeting.

‘Our most important partner’

The Taliban have welcomed China’s embrace.

“China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on September 3. “It is ready to invest and rebuild our country.”

In mid-June, before the US military had left Afghanistan for good, CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told the Military Times that China’s intentions were clear.

“I think they would like to get in for the mass mineral deposits that exist on the ground in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said.

As of early September, the US has resumed funding some aid operations in Afghanistan, including about $260 million to programs like the UN World Food Program, The Wall Street Journal reported. Those programs work through local staff rather than the Taliban, a US Agency for International Development representative told The Journal.

Alongside China, Pakistan – which has long been accused of supporting the Taliban, and is a close ally of Beijing – is also working to help Afghanistan, sending at least four planeloads of aid since August 15.

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