During an exclusive interview, Military General Laura Richardson, the leader of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), informed Newsweek that China has launched an ambitious and multifaceted campaign in the Western Hemisphere to establish its presence in the region.
While much global attention is focused on the escalating U.S.-China competition in the Asia-Pacific region, where Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) is responsible for strengthening defenses through an island-based strategy developed during the Cold War, Richardson cautioned that Beijing’s efforts have accelerated closer to U.S. shores, “right under our nose.”
Richardson stated, “They are nearing the goal line, approaching the homeland. One could say they have reached the first chain of islands, similar to their presence in INDOPACOM, equipped with all the tools of national power that the People’s Republic of China possesses: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic.”
She emphasized the significance of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an extensive network of infrastructure projects that has garnered the support of over half of the 31 countries within SOUTHCOM’s operational area. Given the vast scale of the BRI, Richardson noted that the United States is competing against numerous Chinese state-sponsored investment proposals aimed at addressing the region’s infrastructure needs, including telecommunications, deep-water ports, and even metro systems.
Now, as the second woman in history to be promoted to the rank of Army general in October 2021 and the third to lead a combatant command, Richardson highlighted her mission to showcase what “Team USA” has to offer to the region.
“We are an integral part of this hemisphere, closely connected with the Americas. It is crucial for all of us,” Richardson emphasized. “Team USA possesses a wealth of capabilities. We simply need to demonstrate and unify the full spectrum of national power. We need to improve our performance in achieving that.”
“Our allies and partners prefer to collaborate with us over anyone else,” she added. “We must be present at the right time and place.”
A photo illustration depicts Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on October 23, 2022, alongside the East Coast’s landscape.