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Wittman Hammers Biden Administration on Weak Chinese Communist Party Deterrence Strategy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) on Thursday participated in the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party’s hearing titled "The Biden Administration's PRC Strategy,” where he posed tough questions to administration officials. The witnesses’ answers revealed the Biden administration’s failure to adequately invest in the U.S. military at a level that would effectively deter aggression from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and send a strong message that America will not tolerate the Chinese Communist Party’s hostile agenda.

While Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, claimed that the administration is investing in military modernization to secure “combat credible deterrence,” President Biden’s original defense budget request for Fiscal Year 2024:

  • Allows the Air Force to divest 801 fighter aircraft from FY 2023 to FY 2028 while purchasing only 345 new fighter aircraft over the same period of time
  • Disregards Congress’ direction to the Navy to maintain a minimum of 31 amphibious warships
  • Builds only nine ships while retiring 11 ships

Rep. Wittman: 

“The Biden administration talks about the pursuit of guardrails in the U.S.-People’s Republic of China (PRC) relationship. As I know you’re aware, this last year represented a historic high in PLA incursions in Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). We also know that the PLA Navy is engaged in the largest naval peacetime buildup in the history of the world. We also know that despite years of trying, the PLA has so far refused to establish a crisis communication channel with the United States military. 

“Can you tell me within that realm, how then this policy of guardrails has resulted in fewer incursions in [Taiwan’s] Air Defense Identification Zone? 

“Has it in any way, shape, or form influenced the massive military buildup, including ships for the PLA Navy?

“Can you tell me how it’s encouraged in any way, shape, or form, the Chinese to open a crisis communication channel so we don’t have this miscalculation that you all talk about? 

“There’s nothing that’s happened that avoids that miscalculation. Can you tell me how the guardrails are functioning, how they’re going to get us to a place where all these things are de-escalating to a point where we can feel like we’re making some progress?”



“The principal response of the Department of Defense to the trends you’re describing is to reinforce our own combat credible deterrence in terms of our own capability and alongside our allies and partners. So, that’s how we’re responding to China’s military modernization. The notion of guardrails and the notion of military-to-military communications is intended to do a few things. (1) To – during periods of crisis – establish those kinds of communications, (2) to be able to inject strategic messages when necessary, but they are not the singular or primary response to PLA military modernization.”



“It seems to me though there are contradictory statements coming out where you say that the effort is to deter … the Chinese from these sorts of actions, yet we see that there’s no deterrence there. We see them continuing massive buildups, we see an increase in very aggressive behavior in those areas. We talk about wanting to avoid miscalculations yet we do nothing to force the issue on crisis communications. And then on the other side, we say that we’re going to go out there and do this constructive engagement that results in nothing other than our military having to continue massive amounts of buildup ourselves and that too we’re told is a policy that’s going to deter the Chinese. 

“Can you reconcile how you look at both of those and say that none of this is having an effect on the PLA?”



“When you’re talking about deterrence, we’re talking about combat credible deterrence, and our central goal is to prevent the PRC from initiating aggression against the United States and our allies and partners and being prepared to prevail if they miscalculate and make that decision. The actions you’re describing are acts of coercion, gray zone activity is described. We do focus on that and so far we are working to conduct our own operations to ensure we are able to retain the ability to operate consistent with international law and we are enabling our allies and partners, including Taiwan, to be more resilient and to be able to respond to that kind of behavior.”



“But in that realm, we don’t even look at it’s great to have military-to-military buildup and talk about what are we going to do in that deterrent realm, but there hasn’t even been an assertion or a conversation about where China’s going. By 2030, they’ll have 1,500 nuclear weapons and somehow we’ll think that our strategic deterrence in the conventional realm is the only place that we need to be and that we’re not even having conversations about how we’d limit the military buildup not just on conventional but on the nuclear side. 

“So, tell me what’s the policy for us besides the deterrence from us building up the military to say we want to get to a point where each side stops building up – there has to be a point where you say, maybe we want to have a conversation about where the stopping point is. Even with Russia, we had that.”



“That is one of the reasons we are interested in talking with the PLA, particularly as it relates to new domains like space and cyber to understand the escalatory potential there and so we can both shape our actions and policies accordingly. As it relates to nuclear weapons, I will just say that the president’s budget seeks more than $37 billion for modernization of the nuclear triad. We are taking China’s nuclear modernization seriously.”


Watch the full hearing here.