China had learned from watching the United States go to war in the Middle East and was using those lessons to advance the development of its own military, current Army Chief of Staff Gen. Milley, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“China went to school with us,” Milley said, responding to a question from Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
“They watched us very closely in the First Gulf War, the Second Gulf War. They watched our abilities. And in many ways they emulated them, and they adopted many doctrines and organizations.”
Milley was answering questions about how he would function as the president’s top military adviser and handling the pressure to give his own opinions in the Oval Office.
If confirmed, he will succeed outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, to become the highest-ranking military officer in the United States and the president’s top military adviser. The transition would come at a time when the Trump administration faces various geopolitical challenges, including the continued expansion of Chinese military power, as seen in regions such as the South China Sea.
“China is upgrading its military very, very rapidly – in space, air, cyber, sea and land,” Milley said. “They spend more than us on research and development and procurement… We, the United States, have to make sure that we don’t lose our advantages that we have over other countries, especially over China.”
However, Milley was careful to point out that “China is not the enemy”, but rather a “competitor”.
The term “enemy” means “you are at war”, he added. “We’re not there. We don’t want to be there. We want peace, not war, with China.”
Kaine was not the only senator to raise questions about China. When Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia asked if China’s rebuilding of his military posed a long-term threat, Milley replied, “I think China is the biggest national security challenge for the United States over the the next 50 to 100 years. I think a historian in 2119 is going to look back on this century and write a book and the central theme of the story is going to be the relationship between the United States and China.”
Milley, who was chosen by Trump to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last December, has commanded units from the 10th Mountain Division and 101st Airborne and has served several combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After becoming Army Chief of Staff in 2015, Milley helped oversee the Army’s transition away from large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, se focusing instead on challenges close to the peers of Russia and China.
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