This toolkit included the construction of islands, the use of advanced weapons systems in disputed areas, the operation of predatory industries, and the alleged state-sponsored theft of military and civilian technology – all activities that the US had previously blamed China for.
Beijing claims almost the entire 1.3 million square kilometer area of the South China Sea as its territory and aggressively claims its share. President Xi Jinping said that it would never give up "every inch of territory." Meanwhile, US military officials have vowed to continue enforcing a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Shanahan said that the Indo-Pacific region is the most important US theater from a security point of view.
"We can not … continue to look away as countries use friendly rhetoric to distract from unfriendly acts." He added that Washginton has a "deeper and wider" network of Indo-Pacific allies and partners than China.
Peter Layton, former Australian military officer and analyst at the Griffith Asia Institute, described Shanahan's speech as "somewhat disappointing."
"It continues to criticize China, but it does not propose a strategy to address the concerns expressed or to operationalize the current Indo-Pacific strategy as expected."
Later, Shanahan referred directly to Beijing, saying that it had once been a US partner to secure the prosperity of the region, but would have to change the way it works to get back this positive partner to be.
"Conduct that undermines the sovereignty of other nations and sows distrust of China's intentions must come to an end," Shanahan said. When he received questions from the room after his speech, he added, "We will not ignore Chinese behavior, people have pointed that out in the past."
"I see no trade war"
At least on one front, Shanahan played tensions in China.
"I do not see a trade war, I see trade negotiations going on," he said.
Shanahan also said that the level of US-China confidence could be improved by working on issues where land should be good, such as sanctions on North Korea. On Friday evening, the US Secretary of Defense met with his Chinese counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, and gave him a "nice book" on "Ship-to-Ship Oil Transfers", stating that the US and China could work together on shipbuilding. Ship-to-ship smuggling in North Korea that circumvented UN Security Council resolutions.
Shanahan also said he had discussed 5G technology with Wei. He said, "Huawei is too close to the government, the integration of civilian companies with the military is too tight, too risky for the (defense) department, we can not trust that these networks are secure." ] To conclude his appearance on Saturday at the Defense Conference, Shanahan asked a question from a Major General of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
The Chinese general asked how Shanahan's previous leadership experience at Boeing could help improve relations between the US and China.
"My experience with Boeing is transferring," said Shanahan. "China was our biggest customer and biggest competitor, you have to understand how to live in this duality, competition means playing by the rules."