• The United States already is losing positional advantage to China in the Western Hemisphere, in our own “neighborhood,” warns Adm. Craig S. Faller, USN, commander, U.S. Southern Command, testifying before Congress on March 16.
     The United States already is losing positional advantage to China in the Western Hemisphere, in our own “neighborhood,” warns Adm. Craig S. Faller, USN, commander, U.S. Southern Command, testifying before Congress on March 16.

China Advances Dominance and 5G Interests in the Western Hemisphere

March 17, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
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U.S. leaders warn of the country’s considerable efforts to seek a global advantage and push its 5G and information technology to dominate in the region.

China is using the COVID-19 pandemic to progress its goal of global dominance. The adversary is using its vaccination program and assistance to poorer countries in the democratic Western Hemisphere to cement the use of China’s 5G communications and information technology, especially in the Caribbean and Central and South America, leaders say. The problem is that what starts as a veiled commercial interest ends with a significant military application and connection—given that the commercial companies, like Huawei, are all state owned, explained Adm. Craig S. Faller, USN, commander, U.S. Southern Command.

Russia and Iran are also seeking to solidify greater positions in “our neighborhood,” Adm. Faller said. “In order to gain more access, presence and influence in the region, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and Russia are taking advantage of the pandemic, deploying medical diplomacy and disinformation campaigns—often overpromising and under delivering,” the admiral stated.

The admiral testified yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Gen. Glen VanHerck, USAF, commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, and appeared before the media in a press conference at the Pentagon later in the day.

“The very democratic principles and values that bind us together are being actively undermined by violent transnational criminal organizations and the PRC and Russia,” Adm. Faller stated. “We are losing our positional advantage in this Hemisphere and immediate action is needed to reverse this trend.”

The pandemic has hit the region hard, with Latin America and the Caribbean having among the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world. In addition, Central America has faced two successive hurricanes, creating even greater economic strain.

As the United States has seen in Asia and Africa, the PRC, in a “very insidious” manner, has stepped in to exploit fragile countries in the Western Hemisphere as a way to gain further global dominance. “We have seen many of these same tactics in Asia and Africa over the last few decades and we are well aware of the results,” the admiral stressed. “We must act now to avoid those same results in our own hemisphere.”

It is a comprehensive, organized effort by the PRC “to increase its self-serving activities to gain global influence and leverage across all domains in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility: cyber, space, extractive and energy industries, transportation hubs, roads, infrastructure, telecommunications, legal and illegal fishing, agriculture and military training, including Spanish and Portuguese-language military education,” Adm. Faller warned. Also, the PRC is “gifting” security supplies and equipment as a way to advance access and win favor with security forces in the region.

Meanwhile, Russia is leveraging the pandemic to increase its influence in places in which it previously had limited access, Adm. Faller continued. “COVID-19 has also provided Russia with another avenue by which to expand its campaign to outcompete the U.S. in the information domain, pushing narratives about U.S. mismanagement of COVID-19 and claiming U.S. government sanctions are choking the Venezuelan people at their most vulnerable time,” he said.

In addition to offering personal protective gear and medicines, the PRC is offering $1 billion in loans to the region for COVID-19 vaccine and improvements to medical infrastructure. The country has already secured agreements with Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, the admiral said. In Venezuela, China holds a large amount of the country’s debt and Iran is helping to exploit its vast oil resources and skirt trading policies. In other parts of South America, the PRC is gaining hold of water resources and food production as leverage to push China’s view of a rules-based order.

“This will further indebt the region to the PRC, which already holds $165 billion in loans,” Adm. Faller stated. “The PRC aims to enhance medical exchange programs, exploiting the pandemic to advance its One Belt One Road initiative in trade, technology and infrastructure. Beijing is also using COVID-19 as a pretext to ‘donate’ Huawei technology that integrates with its 5G networks and Safe City programs—touting its social monitoring model as an effective and inexpensive contact tracing solution.”

Moreover, Adm. Faller is alarmed by the PRC’s growing naval presence in the hemisphere and is concerned over China’s effort to add 40 more ports, especially deep water, or so-called blue water ports.

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