Biden announces Pentagon review of China strategy

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President Biden on Wednesday announced a Defense Department review of its China strategy as part of a larger push to decide how his administration will counter Beijing.

“We need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally,” Biden said at the Pentagon in his first official visit to the building as president.

The newly formed Department of Defense China task force will study the U.S. military’s strategy and operation in Asia, technology, force posture, intelligence, the role of allies and partnerships in the region, and defense relations with China, among other areas, according to a fact sheet released Wednesday.

Biden, who was briefed on the task force prior to his remarks, said that over the next few months, the group will provide recommendations to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on “key priorities and decision points so that we can chart a strong path forward on China related matters.”

Austin’s top assistant on China, Ely Ratner, will lead the task force.

Ratner, a longtime Biden aide, will head a team of up to 15 civilian and uniformed employees from across the Defense Department, including the Joint Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the combatant commands and the intelligence community.

The task force will also coordinate with other arms of the federal government — including economic, political and diplomatic — to craft a “whole-of-government approach” toward China.

The increased attention on Beijing marks a shift for Austin, who throughout his military career was largely focused on the Middle East. During his January confirmation hearing, however, he pledged that he would have a “laser-like focus” on competition from China.

“Globally, I understand that Asia must be the focus of our effort, and I see China in particular as a pacing challenge for the department,” he said at the time.

The China task force adds to an already heavy docket of reviews the Pentagon has started in the early days of Biden’s presidency.

Austin has already ordered a review of military sexual assault prevention efforts that is ongoing — one of his first acts as Defense secretary — and military commands are in the midst of conducting one-day stand-downs to evaluate how to root out extremism.

The Pentagon is also leading a probe ordered by Biden of global U.S. force posture and is involved in the administration’s review of the U.S.-Taliban deal, including whether to fully withdraw from Afghanistan by May.

In addition, the Pentagon is evaluating all of its advisory boards to determine which ones are needed after purging Trump loyalists who were appointed at the end of the previous administration.

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