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Anti-China Senator Holds Important Position of Sea Power, US Maritime Containment of China Cannot be Ignored – Analysis on Sen. David Perdue Taking Over the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Sea Power


On January 19, 2019, Sen. David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia was elected to be chairman of United States Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Sea Power. This subcommittee, which is one of the most important subcommittees of the Senate, supervises and guides the development of the US navy. Under the background of the fierce competition between US Republican Party and Democratic Party before the 2020 general election, Perdue taking Over Senate Sea Power Subcommittee shows that the Republican Party wants to gain support from marine town Georgia and that the Trump administration will further strengthen their Maritime containment of China.


ⅠBackground of David Perdue becoming the chairman of the US Sea Power Subcommittee

According to the latest US Defense Strategy Review, the US Navy’s strategic focus and strength will focus on the Western Pacific, South China Sea and Indian Ocean. So, they need a leader who is more familiar with China, East Asia and Southeast Asia to make the US Navy strategy. This is the general background of Perdue becoming the chairman of the Sea Power Subcommittee. Specifically, Perdue’s appointment has two specific reasons –

On the one hand, Trump’s 355-ship navy national policy now faces difficulty. During his campaign, Trump promised to expand US navy fleet to 355 ships. The former chairman of Sea Power subcommittee Sen. Roger Wicker is a supporter of this policy. Recently, with the Republican Party wining the majority in the House of Representatives, this policy is criticized. Besides, the White House begins to cut the defense budget. So the navy ship plan may be deterred or be stopped to save money for building nuclear submarines.

On the other hand, at present, the US two parties are in a fierce competition, and Perdue taking over the Sea Power Subcommittee is an important move by the Republican Party to gain support from the Georgia constituency. Perdue’s Georgia State is a US naval town with nine military facilities, including the 40-year-old Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, which is the most important strategic submarine base along the East Coast. Perdue’s appointment as chairman of the Sea Power Subcommittee is a positive effort by the Republican Party for Georgia.


Ⅱ David Perdue’s distinct personality and anti-China stand

(Ⅰ) Personal experience: a merchant like Trump

David Alfred Perdue, born on December 10, 1949, is a republican. He has a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering (1972) and a master's degree in operations research (1975), both from Georgia Tech and serves as the junior United States Senator from Georgia since 2015.He is the typical southern US elite white landlords and the only congressman who got the Fortune 500 title.

Just like Trump, Perdue is a successful merchant before he entered politics. He has been Reebok’s CEO for ten years and helped some famous US companies to improve their products and expand business. Perdue is known on Wall Street as a turnaround specialist who helps revive brands and reap rewards for investors.


The Perdue family is powerful in both political and business field. David Perdue’s cousin Sonny Perdue is former Governor of Georgia and current United States Secretary of Agriculture. In 2011, David Perdue and Sonny Perdue co-founded a global trade company-- Perdue Partners, LLC, which dedicated to promote US goods and service export through trade cooperation, consultation service and strategic acquisition. The company may be a white glove company of Perdue family to realize their political resources. It provides international sales and trade services for food ingredients, finished food and beverage products, finished consumer products, and industrial products. The company also provides consulting services in economic development strategies, international business development, public policy, government performance and efficiency, and employee development. The main objective is to conduct business with emerging market countries. At the same time, David Perdue was one of the executives of US Alliant Energy Corporation.

(Ⅱ) Personalities: Particular anti-establishment

Just like his ally Trump, Perdue is a person with distinct personalities and behavior style, they are:

(1)    Proponents and practitioners of the "China threat theory"

In Perdue's various anti-China remarks, there is always a main line running through, that is "China threat." For example, he repeatedly attacked China on issues such as trade, human rights, and freedom of religious belief. After Change 4 successfully completing the moon back mission, he even publicly declared that China would "dominate space." He always regards China as an "enemy" of the US, interpreting all normal behaviors of China as "threatening behaviors targeting the US and humankind"

(2)    Representative of “war hawk” in national defense and foreign affairs

Perdue attaches great importance to the national security of the US. He criticized the "incompetence" of the former government. The incompetence has led to the insufficient investment in national defense, the failure of foreign policy, putting the country in danger, decreased economic development potential, and the high debts, threatening national security. He advocated increasing defense investment, adopting more rigid diplomatic means and adopting the America first economic rules. At the same time, he blamed China for “the decline of the United States".

(3)    Sharp merchant who is good at dealing with crisis

Judging from Perdue’s successful business cases in the past, he is good at business and management. He is good at lifting companies out of difficulties. He can use various strengths and advantages to improve the company's operations and make profits. At the same time, Perdue also promised to work hard to reform Washington to make it operate more like a company in his campaign.

(4)    Anti-establishment person with distinct behavior style

During his campaign, Perdue was once known as man to "breaking the Washington deadlock." In the 2014 Senate election in Georgia, Perdue used "baby" as a metaphor to criticize the childishness of his rival. The campaign advertisement was reported as the best advertisement in 2014. His campaign slogan was "Washington needs real leadership", which reflects the different behavior style of Perdue's compared to traditional politicians. When talking about "breaking the Washington deadlock" in January 2018, Perdue emphasized that the government should reject professional politicians. He said: "Washington has been distracted by the noise of the national media debate and the election process. In fact, professional politicians did not really exist until the second half of the last century, but now some people regard this as their own occupation, I personally think this is wrong.

(Ⅲ) Political view point: anti-China running through it

(1)    Unswerving anti-China attitude

David Perdue has an anti-China attitude on almost all issues and has always claimed to be a "China watcher". He believes that there are two most difficult things in the United States: one is China, the other is debt. In Perdue’s view, China is a global threat. He predicts that the China’s economy will overtake the United States within five years, and its middle class population will be three times more than the US middle class. At the same time, Perdue believes that China wants to bring the United States to insolvency, just like the US strategy toward the Soviet Union in the past. He believes that China's behavior of loan to the Africa at 31 ports is intended to take advantage of the country's feature of easy to default to abrogate their right of redemption and possess the ports. Therefore, China's “port lending strategy” in South and Central America is disquieting because it allows the Chinese military to enter these ports and bases. He also accused that the US-China trade of causing "losses of manufacturing jobs" in the US.


(2)    Worries that the current US national defense capacity is incapable in coping with China

Perdue is very dissatisfied with the current US defense forces and advocates that the US expand its defense force. He believes that the US now has the lowest level of armed forces- "We now have the smallest army since World War II, the smallest navy since World War I and the oldest and smallest air force ever." He also says that powerful navy is vital to stopping global aggression, spreading power outwards, and supporting allies. Perdue holds that the Obama administration’s incompetence has put the US in the dangerous situation today.

Since 2016, Perdue has been paying attention to China's surface warships. In April 2017, in a dialogue with US Pacific Commander Harry Harris, Perdue expressed concern that China has built up six times more maritime military power than the United States in just 15 years, fearing that US status would be replaced by other rising powers. Perdue believes that the US Navy faces a threat from China. Therefore, he strongly advocates the US Navy to expand its scale and prepare for the "China threat" and calls for the development of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to "respond to China."

Perdue advocates that the United States adopt more proactive policies and actions in Asia to deal with China's active economic and military expansion. In Perdue's view, as China's influence in Southeast Asia is growing, the US's free navigation in the South China Sea will be considered as invasions.

(3)    Using “free trade” and “free navigation” as excuses for US to involve in Asian affairs

In 2018, Perdue traveled to Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, where he touted the U.S. military’s role in securing free trade and safe shipping lanes. He also emphasized (1) the important role of the United States in reducing global poverty through protecting  regional waterways; (2) the United States advocated a "fair playing field" and was willing to help Singapore develop; (3) the powerful military power of the US can help the population of Southeast Asia to alleviate poverty, develop free trade, conduct safe navigation; (4) protecting the interests of the American people; (5) advocating peace; (6) supporting the region in the context of China's rapid economic development; (7) various economic alliance approaches are not necessary ways to rebalance trade. The key to adjusting trade is to compete fairly with other regions.

(4)    Resolutely support President Trump

Perdue was once called "the bridge between the Senate and President Trump" by the US media and was a loyal supporter of Trump. In Perdue’s view, “Trump is a destined person, he came here at an important moment when we need to change Washington,” and said that Trump’s election was “a chance for a generation”, calling him a rare real outsider who "understands our feelings."

Perdue was one of the first and most prominent elected officials in Georgia, and he became a campaign assistant for Trump. Moreover, several of Perdue’s allies eventually joined Trump’s campaign, including Nick Ayers, who later became vice president Mike Pence’s chief of staff. After Trump won the election, Perdue was once nominated as a potential business minister candidate. Trump’s legislative affairs director, Marc Short, told The Washington Examiner that “in the Senate, there is no more enthusiastic support for the president than Perdue” “He has been helping us in all aspects."


Perdue almost supports all of Trump’s political claims, including recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and opposing the reception of immigrants. The Perdue family’s business is mainly about international trade. Perdue himself supports lowering tariffs, but when Trump raises tariffs, Perdue also expressed his support. Perdue voted for the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), despite strong opposition from big companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, Perdue also opposes gun control, the US “common core” education initiative, and same-sex marriage, and publicly calls the public to oppose socialist and socialist parties on the Internet. These political positions are highly consistent with Trump.

Ⅲ The influence of David Perdue taking over the Sea Power Subcommittee

The Grandview Institution holds that the US Sea Power Subcommittee mainly changed its chairman this time, but this subcommittee is still controlled by the Republicans. The former chairman Roger Wicker and most of its staff remain in the subcommittee, so the past Sea Power strategy may still be in force and this subcommittee will continue to support Trump Administration.

(Ⅰ) Influence on the US maritime policies

(1)    Continue to advance US navy expansion plan

After Perdue taking office, he is likely to continue the US navy expansion plan. After the US navy proposed the 355-ship navy plan, the Sea Power Subcommittee strongly support this plan and try hard to win fund for it. Perdue himself also support this pan, but he also paid attention to the construction of the Columbia-class submarines, for he wanted to gain profit for his constituency. Columbia-class submarine is the fifth-generation of Nuclear Ballistic-missile Submarine, used to replace the Ohio-class nuclear power submarine.

Considering that the US Navy had previously believed that the current demand for underwater strategic capabilities improvement in the US was not large, instead, it needed to expand the formation of surface ships to cope with China’s “increasingly powerful fleet”. In order to balance the Navy's demand for surface ships and complete the 355-ship navy plan under a limited budget, Perdue may consider another way. For example, form a joint fleet with an ally in a specific area and gain the indirect or direct command of the Allied ships to complete the US Navy's ship distribution target in that area.

(2)    Emphasis more on Sea Power competition

Perdue will continue to promote the strategic transformation of the US Navy's “regain sea supremacy”. The Trump administration has replaced "non-traditional security threats" with "major power competition" as the primary threat to the US. The US Navy strategy is also shifting from "sea to land" after the Cold War to "regain sea supremacy", that is, establishing a navy that can compete with powerful opponents for sea supremacy to ensure the freedom of the US military in global waters and prevent its opponents from posing threats to US interests by ocean.


(Ⅱ) Influence on China’s peripheral security

At present, the US military is still advancing the aim to deploy 60% of sea and air forces in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. Perdue’s appointment also indicates that the US-China bashers will push their security borders to the periphery of China more unscrupulously, which will greatly increase the possibility of military conflict in the waters around China. It can be expected that in 2019, the US will further promote the regular deployment of combat troops in the South China Sea. The frequency of "regular cruises", "free declarations" and military joint performances of US warships in the South China Sea will further increase. The Western countries will continue to support US, and Southeast Asian countries will continue to adopt a "two-side bet" cooperation strategy between China and the US to seek national security.

It is worth noting that Perdue is a pro-Taiwan politician. He visited Taiwan in 2018 to meet with Tsai Ing-wen and supported the provisions of the National Defense Appropriation Act which support Taiwan. If Sino-US relations continue to deteriorate, the US policy toward Taiwan may move from the current relative prudent to risky. The Congress may also promote arms sales to Taiwan and military exchanges between the US and Taiwan, allowing US warships (especially aircraft carriers) to pass through the Taiwan Strait. On January 24, 2019, a US Baker-class destroyer and a supply ship passed through the Taiwan Strait, reflecting the tough stance of the US military on the waters around China this year.


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