Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attends a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on May 6, 2021.

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WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday instructed the Pentagon to put China and its military armament at the center of American defense policy.

The secret Pentagon-wide directive follows the recommendations of a 23-person task force aimed at evaluating the US military’s China strategy.

The task force presented by President Joe Biden on his first visit to the Pentagon as Commander-in-Chief includes representatives from the sister services, several combatant commandos, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and the intelligence services.

“This ministerial order is ultimately about getting the ministry’s house in order and ensuring that the ministry is moving ahead with its stated prioritization of China as the No. 1 challenge,” said a senior defense official who, on condition that the The announcement spoke anonymity.

Austin’s directive comes as the government and lawmakers of both parties take initiatives to counter China’s international ambitions, from economic and trade policies to security concerns. The Senate passed a comprehensive technology and manufacturing law on Tuesday aimed at curbing China’s growing technological influence.

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Through the guideline unveiled on Wednesday, the Pentagon will evaluate U.S. alliances and partnerships, deterrence, operational concepts, new capabilities, future troop position, technology, and civil and military workforce.

“Sure, China’s influence and global capabilities are important in terms of its military modernization and some of its relationships around the world, and of course we have taken them into account, but we have not assessed financial or economic policies,” the official said.

When asked for more details, the official added that the initiatives created by the directive remain largely secret.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington, the world’s two largest economies, increased under the Trump administration. Over the past four years, former President Donald Trump has blamed China for a variety of abuses, including intellectual property theft, unfair trade practices and the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden previously said that his government is ready for “extreme competition” with China, but that his approach would be different from that of his predecessor. He has also placed more emphasis on working more closely with allies to push China back.

“We will counter China’s economic abuses,” said Biden during his first visit to the State Department in February. “But we are also ready to work with Beijing if it is in the American interest. We will compete from a position of strength by building better at home and working with our allies and partners, ”he added.

The president also said he spent more time with China’s Xi Jinping than any other world leader during his political career.