New U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said China is on their radar as the “No. 1 priority,” and they are closely monitoring Beijing. In an exclusive interview with Fox News on Aug. 21, Esper said in his first interview since being appointed as Pentagon chief in July, that China has been involved in the “greatest theft of intellectual property in human history,” adding that it’s a “big, big problem.” Esper considers China a bigger threat than Russia, its economy is stronger, as are its ambitions.

“China is the number one priority for this department. It’s outlined in the National Defense Strategy, why we think it’s a long-term strategic competitor and one that is pursuing a maximization campaign, if you will, throughout the Indo-Pacific Theater, whether it’s politically, economically, or militarily,” he told Fox News. “They are clearly professionalizing and expanding the capacity and capabilities of the military in order to push the United States out of that theater.”

President Donald Trump reviews troops as he attends the Full Honors Ceremony for Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on July 25, 2019, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Shealah Craighead/Official White House Photo)

“They’ve studied us, and they’ve learned about how we employ weapons; they’ve learned about our doctrine,” Esper added. “And so, that is something that we watch very carefully.”

China is continuing to steal intellectual property (IT) from the United States, “It’s a state-run organized effort to go after technologies, whether they are defense or non-defense technologies, to go up against other—all other types of intellectual property, even commercial goods,” he explained. “So, it really requires enforcement. And this is where […] I applaud the president for pushing back against China and all their trade activities that are outside the bounds of what should be expected.”

Beijing has appealed to Washington to end the trade war after President Trump told reporters on Wednesday he was “taking on China on trade.” 

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, attends the Full Honors Ceremony for Secretary of Defense Esper Thursday, July 25, 2019, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
President Donald Trump, at the Full Honors Ceremony for Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, on July 25, 2019, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Tia Dufour/Official White House Photo)

A foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said he hopes they can “work out a resolution that is acceptable to both sides on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment,” adding, “We hope the United States will meet China halfway.”

The U.S./China trade war escalated on Aug. 24 with the announcement from China of new tariffs of five to ten percent, to apply on US$75 billion of US products. In a tweet on Saturday, Aug. 24, the president said,  “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing… your companies HOME and making your products in the USA. I will be responding to China’s Tariffs this afternoon”.

“This is a GREAT opportunity for the United States” tweeted the president.