The Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Command recently unveiled a software application that military officials say will monitor the Chinese military’s anger over US activities in the region in an attempt to reduce tensions.
Some analysts warn the app represents a step backwards in US policies aimed at appeasing China, whose Communist leaders have used fear of upsetting Beijing to manipulate US policymakers.
The software tool is designed to systematically assess Chinese military responses to U.S. actions in the region, such as arms sales to Taiwan, naval and air maneuvers in disputed sea areas, and congressional visits, officials said. defense and spokespersons. The software measures US-China “strategic friction”, said a defense official who spoke to Reuters on board a flight with Assistant Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks last week.
The computer software assesses information from early 2020 on important activities that could trigger tensions in US-China relations. Pentagon military leaders and policymakers will use it to predict how Beijing will react to US actions. The software is part of the Biden administration’s policy to curb Chinese aggression while at all costs preventing open conflict between the world’s two most powerful countries and the two largest economies.
“With the specter of conflicts and challenges stretching all the way to the gray area, what you see is the need to look at a much larger set of indicators, weave them together and then understand. the interplay of threats, “Hicks told Reuters. while discussing the software.
An Indo-Pacific command official said the tool will be used to avoid inadvertently provoking conflict with China.
“The American Indo-Pacific Command provides security and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific,” the official told the Washington Times. The command’s combined military force “responsibly manages competition to prevent conflict in the region. One of the best methods to achieve this is centered on examining the complex and overlapping geopolitical, operational and strategic environment, ”added the official.
The command “will continue to refine methods, including decision aids, to responsibly manage competition with our stimulus challenge # 1 while supporting national defense priorities.”
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy did not respond to an email request for comment.
A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment. “This is an Indo-Pacom program,” he said.
Critics among US experts watching China have expressed concern that the software will allow Beijing to manipulate US policies and weaken US responses to threats posed by China, with the US bending over backwards to not to offend China or trigger a crisis.
Kerry K. Gershaneck, a retired Marine and former Pentagon policy maker with extensive intelligence experience, said the “appeasement app” would offer the Chinese leadership a victory in the political war.
“China’s political war is, in part, aimed at conditioning naive opponents to do what the Chinese Communist Party wants them to do, of their own accord, without Beijing actually telling them to do it,” Mr. Gershaneck. “With this” appeasement app, “it seems the CCP has masterfully succeeded in conditioning top US defense officials.”
Such an approach will only invite further Chinese aggression and demoralize military personnel, he said.
“The application appears to be one-sided and self-defeating: it tells the US military – and only the US military – to always back down, to withdraw and not to do anything that could possibly ‘upset’ China,” said Mr. Gershaneck.
Retired Captain Jim Fanell, former Pacific Fleet Intelligence Chief, said the software tool is designed to guide military commanders and diplomats and will systematically erode the US defense of its national interests in the region. – a key objective for Beijing.
“This tool should be removed immediately, and US commanders and diplomats should be allowed to operate as the environment demands, allowing maximum flexibility and assurance that will keep Chinese Communist Party policymakers on their feet when they do. will act to pursue their strategic objectives, objective of pushing America out of the Indo-Pacific, ”he said.
Miles Yu, a State Department official responsible for Chinese policy under the Trump administration, described the US approach to China as flawed “anger management” based on false fears of Chinese reactions and bluffs rather than proactive US initiatives.
“For decades our Chinese policy has been conducted on the basis of an ‘anger management’ mode – that is, we have formulated our Chinese policy by calculating how far the CCP might be. anger at us, not what is best in the US national interest, ”Mr. Yu said in a recent interview.
Proactive and reactive
The tool was unveiled during a briefing for Ms Hicks at Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu. Included in the briefing were the theater’s senior commander, Adm. John C. Aquilino; Commander of the Pacific Fleet Adm. Samuel Paparo; General Charles Flynn, Commander of the Army of the Pacific; and other senior leaders of the frontline military forces dealing with China.
Over the past five years, US military forces in the Pacific have stepped up their proactive actions designed to push back Chinese military encroachments. Activities began under the Trump administration.
Chinese military forces, in turn, have sharply stepped up aggressive and threatening operations, primarily against Taiwan and against rival contenders for sovereignty in the South China Sea.
Towards Taiwan, China has stepped up military flights and naval maneuvers near the autonomous island. US officials described the actions as coercive and threatening.
China has waged war games, including long-range missile testing, on disputed islands in the strategic South China Sea.
Chinese Navy ships have sought to drive US warships out of the sea when the Navy conducts “freedom of navigation operations” through contested waterways.
Last month, the State Department warned China it was facing a military response after Chinese coast guard ships blocked the Philippines’ efforts to resupply a military post in the Spratly Islands.
Mr. Yu argued that the failed policies are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Chinese leadership is trying to manipulate the United States. First, the Chinese express their anger and rage at US actions, and then see how the US reacts. The process allows the Chinese to calibrate American policy responses according to their interests.
“Unfortunately, too often, we have fallen into the trap of this CCP fallacy and designed our Chinese policies to appease CCP sensitivities and outrage in order to avoid an often imagined and exaggerated direct confrontation with the seemingly enraged CCP.” , did he declare.
More broadly, Gershaneck said, the adoption of the app sends a terrible message to frontline U.S. military personnel that they must always back down and never risk angering China. Instead, the military should invest in software that will help military officers and diplomats exploit Chinese weaknesses and engage in a successful political war against Beijing, he added.
The software’s disclosure followed reports that General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was so concerned about the Chinese military’s misperceptions of a US attack that he called a Chinese general to tell him that the United States would inform him of any military incident. attacks in the difficult days following the 2020 US presidential election.
A spokesperson for General Milley did not respond to a request for comment on the app.
Gordon Chang, an expert on Chinese affairs, said that the “appeasement application” is a political gift for the Chinese military.
“We should send the Chinese flag officers an app that sends them alerts whenever they are about to do something that is going to make us angry,” Chang said.
Captain Fanell, former director of intelligence for the Pacific Fleet, said the emphasis on “strategic friction” software reflects an institutionalization within the Indo-Pacific command of a central tenet of pro-China policies. first introduced by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and more recently adopted by the Obama administration. This policy calls for avoiding all military and other activities that could provoke China or lead to Beijing’s perception of “containment”. The overall goal was to maintain positive ties.
“During my time in uniform, we saw the US government, both State and Defense Departments, impose self-induced constraints on the exercise of US military and diplomatic operations so as not to provoke the PRC “said Captain Fanell, who retired in 2015.
U.S. reconnaissance flights near China’s shores and requests from regional allies to push back Chinese hegemony have been canceled or curtailed over fears they endanger the broader U.S.-China relationship.
“These same conciliators proclaimed that the ‘relationship’ with China was the most important relationship to America’s national security and so we had to restrict our actions,” said Captain Fanell. He added that officials “were actively promoting a policy of prostration towards the Chinese Communist Party and its bad behavior.”