Retired Vice-Adm. Charles W. Martoglio returned to the Coronado Roundtable podium to deliver another of his highly-popular assessments of American-Chinese relations and what the future may hold. Speaking before a large in-person and Zoom audience, the noted national-level strategist, operational planner and recognized expert on Indo-Pacific matters, his presentation was entitled “China and America: Cooperation, Competition, Confrontation…or Conflict?”
Referring to China as the single greatest influence on the world after the United States, he discussed how to cooperate, compete and manage confrontation in order to avoid conflict. Citing military power, economics, diplomacy and Information management as the four principal elements of national power, Martoglio emphasized economics as the most important.
In his remarks, which tactfully steered clear of political issues, the speaker said that engagement usually should begin with cooperation and good leaders listen to people who understand the relevant issues and look for common-sense, pragmatic solutions. It is usually, but not always, best that they follow the will of the people, he said.
He listed four things that he hoped his audience would take away from his presentation. First, the U.S. and China represent distinctly opposite sides of a great power competition that neither side will likely win but neither can afford to lose. Second, China is determined to grow because it must in order to fulfill its promises to its citizens but faces increasing headwinds, including growing alliances pushing back against Chinese aggression and abuses. Third, economics is the most important factor and our economy is our biggest strength. Finally, America must be hardened in terms of cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, medical readiness and border security. We are no longer a secure sanctuary isolated by oceans, he added.
America will remain in a dominant position globally if it uses its unique attributes wisely, Martoglio said. We have significant advantages. China’s global debt is large and greater than ours. Lack of sufficient financial resources could eventually inhibit the growth it needs to continue the increase in living standards and keep the Communist Party securely in power. The party fears a restive population, causing it to crack down heavily on dissent, fueling yet more restiveness. China also faces the disadvantage of a rapidly aging population owing to past policies limiting the number of children families could have. This creates a sense of urgency among leaders to accelerate growth before demographics start to inhibit it.
Another advantage for America is the recent growth of strategic alliances between Indo-Pacific powers like the U.S., UK. Australia, India, Japan and others pushing back against Chinese aggression in the South and East China Seas and trade practices. Such alliances could be an effective deterrent against a Chinese attempt to occupy Taiwan. Martoglio described himself as an unapologetic internationalist who strongly favors working with allies when it is in our interest to do so. He noted that we have more of them than does the People’s Republic.
Before taking questions, Martoglio closed by predicting continued competition between the two great powers in the global contest between our different models of governance and economics, resulting in a largely bi-polar world. He believes that we can maintain our leadership if we use our many attributes wisely and maintain faith in America’s robustness. Martoglio, a member of the Coronado Roundtable Board of Directors, served in cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers in his distinguished 40-year Navy career which included numerous assignments on senior policy-making staffs. He commanded an Aegis destroyer, a destroyer squadron and the RONALD REAGAN Carrier Strike Group, all homeported in San Diego. A 1978 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he holds a master’s degree with highest distinction in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College. He and his wife Darlene reside in Coronado. He was introduced by Roundtable President Kirk Henry who presided over the well-attended meeting.
The Coronado Roundtable presents prominent speakers on a variety of topics at its monthly meetings on the fourth Friday of each month except November and December. The November meeting is on the third Friday and there is no meeting in December. Meetings are held in the Winn Room of the Coronado Public Library and begin at 10 a.m. The public is cordially invited.