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

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division, hosted its Leadership and Innovation Lecture Series on May 19, 2022 with guest speaker, Associate Professor Dr. Christopher Twomey – an expert in international relations, security Asia, Chinese foreign policy and strategic deterrence.

NSWCPD Commanding Officer Captain Dana Simon opened the event to over 185 employees participating in the virtual presentation.

“The world is very different today than it was 20, 10 or even a year ago. We have all seen the recent, and still ongoing, example of Russian aggression. China’s naval presence in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea greatly influences our national defense strategy. And the success of our national defense strategy is highly dependent on a fully capable and competent naval force that can project combat power anywhere in the world,” Simon said.

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

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

He is currently a Fellow of the Institute of International Strategic Studies, an auxiliary staff member of RAND, and a consultant for the National Bureau of Asia Research (NBR) since 2009.

Focusing his presentation on the background and key regional issues of China as a global power, Twomey detailed China’s challenges in different fields/areas, not just military-related, and showed comparisons against other great powers.

Outlining China’s policies both in the region and globally, Twomey said, “It’s important to understand both what the policy is and what the Chinese perceptions are. These perceptions determine future behavior, reactions to US policy, and so on.

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

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

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

According to Twomey, the 2018 NDS stated, “The primary challenge to US prosperity and security is the re-emergence 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 that conforms to their authoritarian model, gaining veto power over the economic, diplomatic and security decisions of other nations.

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

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

“Interests and threats dissipate as they move away from home and the closest interests take priority. And today, red lights are flashing all around the perimeter of the large sign, with Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. All foreign policies must support these concerns,” he said.

Twomey stressed that the enduring goal of China’s foreign policy is regime stability, for the regime, not for the PRC, and the party feels threatened. They must ensure the security of the central territory which is defined in fairly consistent terms, dating back to the Qing dynasty. They must engage in the international economy – “this is the key to self-reinforcement while developing regional leadership based on global models,” Twomey added.

“The central regional issue is Taiwan – it’s a primary concern. Reunification with the “renegade province is a major goal,” he said, “Taiwan sovereignty is a contested issue, historically. It has a legacy of Japanese colonialism and American intervention during the 1950 Civil War and the United States still intervening today.

Twomey described Taiwan as still quite “Chinese” in its culture with deep economic integration, and it is this borderline integration from which Taiwan struggles to diversify. “It is nationalism (and contemporary politics) in Taiwan that is the overriding concern in China-US relations.” he said.

As a world power, China’s economy compared to that of the United States has grown significantly in a short time. It rose from 5% in 1989 to 70% in 2020.

“This is a massive change that has effects everywhere. All international institutions are aware of this. It buys you a huge amount of military power,” Twomey said, adding that “As the Chinese economy has grown, they have continued to spend a consistent percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP) on military spending. As this GDP grew by about ten percent per year (for the first two decades and by about eight percent for the last two decades), it allowed for very substantial increases in the Chinese military budget.

Twomey explained that China is pursuing a multi-pronged strategy towards global governance. It supports international institutions and agreements (World Bank, Paris Climate Change Agreement) aligned with its goals and standards, but on issues such as human rights it seeks to undermine these values ​​and create alternative models. China works with other authoritarian powers such as Russia to create standards that reflect their interests.

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

Twomey stressed that he seeks to build a “community of common destiny for humanity”.

“So what does exporting China’s global model really look like through international institutions/orders? It makes the world safe for authoritarianism, with a role for the state in an investment/infrastructure intensive economy or, in more positive terms, it emphasizes economic development as a prerequisite for human rights, and recognizes a diversity of views on how to achieve the two goals,” Twomey said, explaining that China’s efforts appear to be deepening the divisions that undermine multilateral cooperation among democratic countries.

After concluding his keynote address, Twomey took questions from the audience and addressed China’s involvement in Latin America where the United States has not been involved or fails to meet the needs of some developing countries. He said the PRC is actively filling those voids where the United States is absent — and that must be factored into US foreign policy.

The NSWCPD created the Leadership and Innovation Conference Series to welcome government and industry leaders whose experiences and insights can bring new ideas to the workforce. Previous speakers have focused on leadership, innovation, management, teamwork and workplace excellence.

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