‘They’re Going to Challenge Us’: Marine Commandant Speaks on China Threat

China’s military would seek to prevent the United States from mobilizing its forces in the Pacific in the event that war broke out between the two countries, according to the highest-ranking officer of the Marine Corps.“This competition is going to go on for a while, and we’re going to have to figure out a way through it long term,” said Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, during a talk at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, in Washington on July 7. US Marine Corps Modernization Efforts The Marine Corps is currently undertaking a series of dramatic and, at times, controversial changes in its force design as part of an effort to develop advantages against near-peer opponents like China’s People’s Liberation Army. The effort comes after more than 20 years of counter-terrorism operations in which the Corps has often benefited from battlefield superiority in terms of intelligence and materiel. Berger said that the Corps “got comfortable” with such operational superiority during the Global War on Terror, and needed to relearn how to operate in a truly contested environment in which even seemingly simple logistical efforts could be impeded by malign Chinese operations. To do that, he said, it would need to balance its funding and training priorities between meeting threats in the present and preparing for those of the future. “It’s causing us to approach risk in a different way, managing near term and long term,” Berger said. “We could pull everything forward and be absolutely 100 percent focused on this week [but] mortgage the future, or the inverse and not really be worried about this afternoon and just looking down the road.” A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (C), during military drills in the South China Sea, in an aerial photo taken on Jan. 2, 2017. (STR/AFP via Getty Images) Berger added that Chinese military capability is “on a very different level” than it was just 10 years ago, and that the Corps’ extant processes “were not designed with that in mind.” As such, Berger’s efforts to modernize the force have focused on strategically divesting from legacy systems and procuring new platforms needed for extra flexibility in the hopes of being ready for a fight with the Chinese regime by 2030. The new, leaner Corps is hoped to be more decentralized and distributed in preparation for a potential conflict in the expansive Indo-Pacific theater. Logistics To that end, however, Berger said that issues taken for granted when fighting terrorists would be anything but a given when fighting China. Foremost among those issues are logistics and the intensive art of ferrying troops and materiel when they are needed to be across an ocean while under constant pressure from Chinese forces. “When your backside is protected, [logistics is] not your first thought,” Berger said. “But when you assume that your backside is threatened, now it’s in the first part.” When reviewing intelligence reports on potential operational pathways, Berger said, he now asks to see the logistics for maneuvers “in the first paragraph.” “I think logistics in a contested environment is a huge challenge for us,” Berger said. “It’s not insurmountable, but we need to acknowledge that, like we’re going to do to them, they’re going to challenge our sustainment.” With that in mind, Berger said that the United States’ allies and partners would be essential components of national strategy, not just in terms of building a fighting force, but also in sustaining that force. In a potential conflict with China’s communist regime, he said, the United States would need to rely on nations like Japan and Australia to assist in maintaining supply chains and coordinating forces even as China sought to disrupt the nation’s ability to deploy its resources. U.S. Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3d Marine Logistics Group, board a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules at Kadena Air Base, Japan, on Dec. 6, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Hailey D. Clay) “Realistically, [China’s] going to challenge us back in our port[s] or beyond,” Berger said. “They’re going to try to slow our mobilization; they’re going to do everything that they can to slow us down as far back as possible.” Preventing that from happening, to begin with, learning to operate in the so-called “gray zone” of competition and conflict that falls short of conventional military hostilities, Berger said, is of paramount importance. ‘You Can Win Before Firing a Shot’ “We’re learning our way through how do you deter malign activity below the threshold of a hot war and how do you measure that, because it’s not a ‘win,’ [it’s] measuring a negative,” Berger said. As such, actioning intelligence and creating adaptable and resilient systems are vital to the Corps’ ability to defend the nation and carry the fight against the enemy, Berger said. And whether China or America could perform that task better would determine th

‘They’re Going to Challenge Us’: Marine Commandant Speaks on China Threat

China’s military would seek to prevent the United States from mobilizing its forces in the Pacific in the event that war broke out between the two countries, according to the highest-ranking officer of the Marine Corps.

“This competition is going to go on for a while, and we’re going to have to figure out a way through it long term,” said Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, during a talk at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, in Washington on July 7.

US Marine Corps Modernization Efforts

The Marine Corps is currently undertaking a series of dramatic and, at times, controversial changes in its force design as part of an effort to develop advantages against near-peer opponents like China’s People’s Liberation Army.

The effort comes after more than 20 years of counter-terrorism operations in which the Corps has often benefited from battlefield superiority in terms of intelligence and materiel.

Berger said that the Corps “got comfortable” with such operational superiority during the Global War on Terror, and needed to relearn how to operate in a truly contested environment in which even seemingly simple logistical efforts could be impeded by malign Chinese operations.

To do that, he said, it would need to balance its funding and training priorities between meeting threats in the present and preparing for those of the future.

“It’s causing us to approach risk in a different way, managing near term and long term,” Berger said.

“We could pull everything forward and be absolutely 100 percent focused on this week [but] mortgage the future, or the inverse and not really be worried about this afternoon and just looking down the road.”

China Navy
A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (C), during military drills in the South China Sea, in an aerial photo taken on Jan. 2, 2017. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Berger added that Chinese military capability is “on a very different level” than it was just 10 years ago, and that the Corps’ extant processes “were not designed with that in mind.”

As such, Berger’s efforts to modernize the force have focused on strategically divesting from legacy systems and procuring new platforms needed for extra flexibility in the hopes of being ready for a fight with the Chinese regime by 2030. The new, leaner Corps is hoped to be more decentralized and distributed in preparation for a potential conflict in the expansive Indo-Pacific theater.

Logistics

To that end, however, Berger said that issues taken for granted when fighting terrorists would be anything but a given when fighting China. Foremost among those issues are logistics and the intensive art of ferrying troops and materiel when they are needed to be across an ocean while under constant pressure from Chinese forces.

“When your backside is protected, [logistics is] not your first thought,” Berger said. “But when you assume that your backside is threatened, now it’s in the first part.”

When reviewing intelligence reports on potential operational pathways, Berger said, he now asks to see the logistics for maneuvers “in the first paragraph.”

“I think logistics in a contested environment is a huge challenge for us,” Berger said. “It’s not insurmountable, but we need to acknowledge that, like we’re going to do to them, they’re going to challenge our sustainment.”

With that in mind, Berger said that the United States’ allies and partners would be essential components of national strategy, not just in terms of building a fighting force, but also in sustaining that force. In a potential conflict with China’s communist regime, he said, the United States would need to rely on nations like Japan and Australia to assist in maintaining supply chains and coordinating forces even as China sought to disrupt the nation’s ability to deploy its resources.

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3d Marine Logistics Group, board a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules at Kadena Air Base, Japan, on Dec. 6, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Hailey D. Clay)

“Realistically, [China’s] going to challenge us back in our port[s] or beyond,” Berger said. “They’re going to try to slow our mobilization; they’re going to do everything that they can to slow us down as far back as possible.”

Preventing that from happening, to begin with, learning to operate in the so-called “gray zone” of competition and conflict that falls short of conventional military hostilities, Berger said, is of paramount importance.

‘You Can Win Before Firing a Shot’

“We’re learning our way through how do you deter malign activity below the threshold of a hot war and how do you measure that, because it’s not a ‘win,’ [it’s] measuring a negative,” Berger said.

As such, actioning intelligence and creating adaptable and resilient systems are vital to the Corps’ ability to defend the nation and carry the fight against the enemy, Berger said. And whether China or America could perform that task better would determine the outcome of such a conflict.

“You can win before firing a shot,“ Berger said. “If you’re organized for it. If you can think deeply enough about it.”

“We have to be actively learning because the world is moving at a velocity where if you think you’re comfortable today or tomorrow, you’ll be left behind.”


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Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.