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NEWS | June 1, 2022

NSWCPD Hosts Leadership and Innovation Speaker Series with Discussion on China as a Global Power and its Impact on Our Defense Strategy

By Gary Ell

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division hosted its Leadership and Innovation Speaker Series on May 19, 2022 with guest speaker Associate Professor, Dr. Christopher Twomey – an expert on International Relations, Asian Security, Chinese Foreign Policy, and Strategic Deterrence.

NSWCPD’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Dana Simon, opened the event to more than 185 employees participating in the virtual presentation.

“The world is quite different today than it was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, even one year ago. We've all seen the recent, and still ongoing, example of Russia aggression. China’s naval presence in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea is greatly influencing our national defense strategy. And the success of our national defense strategy is highly dependent on a fully capable and competent Naval force who can project combat power anywhere around the world,” Simon said.

He continued, “The success of future naval operations greatly depends on the engineering capability of NSWCPD today.”

Keynote speaker Twomey, who supports the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Policy) and the State Department on a range of diplomatic engagements across Asia, advises the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (PACOM), U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), and the Office of Net Assessment.

He is currently a member of the Institute of International Strategic Studies, a member of the Adjunct Staff at RAND, and has consulted for the National Bureau of Asia Research (NBR) continually since 2009.

Focusing his presentation on the context and core regional issues of China as a global power, Twomey detailed China’s challenges across different domains/issue areas, not just military-related, and showed the comparisons relative to other great powers.

In characterizing China’s policies in both the region and the world, Twomey stated, “It is important to understand both what the policy is and what Chinese perceptions are. Those perceptions drive future behavior, reactions to U.S. policy, etc.”

He explained that the United States finds itself in a period of renewed great-power competition with a rising People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the post-Cold War international security and economic landscape. China is seeking out ways to carve out their own spheres of influence and vision for international order.

“The PRC presents a great challenge given its expansive military, economic and development power,” Twomey said.

He shared the National Defense Strategy (NDS) from 2018 and summarized the 2022 defense strategies, and how they differ due to today’s climate.

According to Twomey, the NDS from 2018 stated, “The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers. It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.”

However, “The summary of the NDS, from March 2022 treats the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as our most consequential strategic competitor and the pacing challenge for the Department,” he continued.

“What keeps Xi up night?” Twomey asked, stating that all politics are local, and foreign politics and policies serve local interests, too, as well as “Xi has a lot of territory to cover.”

“Both interests and threats dissipate the further away from home they are and closer interests are prioritized. And today, red lights are flashing all around the perimeter of the big board, with Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. All foreign policies need to support these concerns,” he said.

Twomey pointed out that the enduring goal of China’s foreign policy is regime stability, for the regime and not the PRC, and the party feels under threat. They have to provide security of core territory that is defined in fairly consistent terms, dating back to the Qing Dynasty. They have to engage with the international economy – “it’s the key to self-strengthening while growing regional leadership based on global models,” Twomey added.

“The core regional issue is Taiwan – it’s of paramount concern. The reunification with the ‘renegade province is a major goal,” he said, “Taiwan’s sovereignty is a contested issue, historically. It has a legacy of Japanese colonialism and U.S. intervention during the civil war of 1950 and the U.S. still intervening today.”

Twomey described Taiwan as still being pretty “Chinese” in culture with deep economic integration, and it’s this integration verging on dependence from which that Taiwan is struggling to diversify. “It’s the nationalism (and contemporary politics) in Taiwan that is the paramount concern in Sino-U.S. relations.” he said.

As a Global Power, China’s economy relative to that of the United States, has grown tremendously in a short time. It is up from five percent in1989 to 70 percent in 2020.

“This is a massive shift and has effects everywhere. All international institutions are cognizant of that. It buys you a tremendous amount of military power,” Twomey said, adding that “As the Chinese economy has grown, they have continued to spend a consistent percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on military expenditures. As that GDP has grown about ten percent a year (for the first two decades and around eight percent for last two decades), it has allowed very substantial increases in the Chinese military budget.”

Twomey explained that China is pursuing a multipronged strategy toward global governance. It supports international institutions and agreements (World Bank, Paris Agreement on climate change) aligned with its goals and norms, but on issues such as human rights, it seeks to undermine those values and create alternative models. China is working with other authoritarian powers such as Russia to create standards that reflect their interests.

This global concept traces back more than two millennia and implies that China is the cultural, political, and economic center of the world. Now that China has reemerged as a major power, the world’s second largest economy and a world-class military, it increasingly asserts itself, seeking to regain its centrality in the international system and over global governance institutions.

Twomey pointed out that it seeks to build a “community of common destiny for humankind.”

“So what does exporting China’s Global Model through international institutions/order really look like? It makes the world safe for authoritarianism, with a state role in an investment/infrastructure-heavy economy or, put more positively, it emphasizes economic development as a pre-requisite for human rights, and acknowledges a diversity of views on how to achieve both goals,” Twomey said, explaining that China’s efforts appear to be deepening divides that undermine multilateral cooperation between democratic countries.

After he concluded his keynote remarks, Twomey took questions from the audience and addressed China’s involvement in Latin America where the U.S. hasn’t been involved or not meeting the needs of certain developing countries. He stated that the PRC is actively filling these voids where the U.S is absent – and that needs to be addressed in U.S. foreign policy.

NSWCPD established the Leadership and Innovation Speaker Series to host government and industry leaders whose experiences and insights can bring new ideas to the workforce. Past keynote speakers focused on leadership, innovation, management, teamwork, and excellence in the workplace.