‘Critical to Being Able to Project Power Throughout the Region’: Alex Gray on CCP’s Pacific Threat

In this special episode, we sat down with Alex Gray, senior fellow with the American Foreign Policy Council, and Grant Newsham, senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy. They touch on Asia czar Kurt Campbell’s recent comments on China posing a “strategic surprise” in the Pacific, the importance of the islands in the region, and what this means going forward.

Gray noted that “the perception of U.S. weakness and the perception of a lack of U.S. leadership has global implications. And what maybe in Washington sometimes appears to be a separate issue, oftentimes in the minds of our competitors and our adversaries, is linked. I think it’s really important, getting back again to Dr. Campbell’s comments about ‘strategic surprise,’ nothing that we’re doing or not doing in the Pacific and the second island chain should be viewed as somehow disconnected from our larger strategy vis a vis China. China’s watching all of it, Beijing calculates all of it, they think about our actions or our inactions as part of a broader assessment of U.S. commitment to the region, U.S. commitment to Taiwan. All of it needs to be looked at holistically.”

As for countering China’s growing presence in the Pacific, Newsham said, “You’ve got to have an adequate diplomatic presence all over the place. And you can’t say, ‘Well, we’ll just leave it up to the Australians, or we’ll leave it up to the New Zealanders.’ The Americans need to be there on their own right. And if you’re not there, you’re not interested. And it is about that simple. So that permanent presence is the important thing. Then you need a military presence as well. The U.S. military shows up once in a while and puts on a show, kind of like the Harlem Globetrotters, and it’s entertaining, but if you’re not there all the time, … as I said, you’re not interested, there’s a vacuum, and vacuums get filled.”

Watch the full report online.

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