At a June 13 hearing, House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) noted that although China has not “adequately revealed its full defense spending,” he “continues to believe that China is not necessarily destined to be a threat to the United States.” The latest Pentagon report on China’s military, however, was less sanguine. At Wednesday’s hearing, Richard Lawless, DOD’s Asian and Pacific Security Affairs chief, acknowledged that the US-China relationship, including military-to-military exchanges, “continues to improve,” however he countered that DOD sees “a deliberate effort on the part of China’s leaders to mask the nature of Chinese military capabilities.” He also pointed to “significant strides in cyber-warfare.” At a Washington breakfast for defense reporters, the Air Force lead on developing USAF’s Cyber Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, declared that many intrusions into US security and financial networks are easily traced to China. He also said China is heavily invested in taking on the US in the cyber domain. Oddly, Beijing doesn’t seem intent necessarily on covering its tracks. “If China wanted to, they could probably mask it better, but it’s almost like they want us to know,” said Elder, adding, I’m sure they do some redirection, but they’re perfectly content to let you know what they’re doing. … So it seems.”
These are the complete remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Dec. 3, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif.