19 January 2021

China Wages War NOT Competition

By Bob Howard

“Our traditional way that we differentiate between peace and war is insufficient to [the dynamic of competition below armed conflict].”

“We think of being at peace or war…our adversaries don’t think that way.”

General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

21 September and 5 October 2016 [1]

China at War with the United States

The concept of Great Power Competition (GPC) is flawed. The term GPC leads to an apathetic response by those with a responsibility to act and protect western democratic interests such as businessmen, politicians, intelligence, academia, media, national and international government institutions, and the military.[2] China’s government is waging war against the United States (US); NOT COMPETING.[3]

A frank acknowledgement that the United States and China are now adversaries is a necessary precondition for a realistic strategic accommodation that constrains their rivalry and avoids worst case outcomes. – Dr Alan Dupont [4]

As of late 2020, Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies assessed the following regarding China, “active defense is expected to take on a more offensive nature in the military strategy in the new era. At the same time, it should be taken into account that, as it prepares for these wars, the PLA has proposed warfare methods combining a variety of domains such as “Unrestricted Warfare.” [5]

Competition does not equate to the concept of existential threat - war does. The last time the US ignored the threat of war by an adversary was in 1996. [6] The US failure to engage the threat resulted in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks; the creation of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004; new institutions; an economic crisis in 2008; investments in multi-prong nation building efforts and wars – wars that continue as of 20 December 2020.[7] [8]

A sense of urgency is needed to train, equip and prepare people and organizations to engage issues from a perspective of readiness; if possible, action and mitigation.

Unrestricted Warfare

This, then, is globalization. This is warfare in the age of globalization. [9]

Unrestricted Warfare is a late 1990’s thought piece written by two senior Chinese military officers. Unrestricted Warfare is about, “warfare in the age of globalization.” [10] It sees the west’s 1648 Peace of Westphalia construct ineffective and outdated due interconnectivity of today’s world where boundaries are blurred, and nation-state constructs are unable to meet many demands of governance, economics, diplomacy, etc. Globalism exists on networks, human and technical; China seeks to develop, control, shape and influence those networks. From China’s perspective, China sees whoever secures recurring access/control of the various key global networks (human and technical), will be the global leader.[11] [12]

Unrestricted Warfare can be viewed as a form of strategic maneuver. The maneuver avoids engaging US military strengths, and fills international voids (gaps) left by the US across political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment and time (PMESII-PT). [13] [14]

While Unrestricted Warfare is not considered official Chinese doctrine, elements of the thought piece reveal themselves in many, if not all, issues pertaining to China surfacing in media. [15] [16]

It is likely purposeful China does not overtly recognize the piece as official doctrine since it is warfare which the primary lines of effort and operation lay in time, space and perception, as opposed to material force – acknowledgement may lessen impact. Perception retains primacy specifically psychological warfare, legal warfare and shaping public opinion.[17]

Members of Japan’s defense institutions see the same.[18] Defense professionals from India recognize this as well, and even noted China deliberately obscures its intentions.[19] As of 2017, Indian analysis noted China prefers increasing its economic strength, as well as “to develop its space, electromagnetic, and cyber capability rather than focusing on building up its capability in land, air, and sea.” [20] China recognizes its military is currently unable to take on the US in a direct military confrontation. [21] This may change as China increases its global influence and overtly displays provocative actions so language, perception and action align – this may be a litmus test worth monitoring.[22] Chinese dominance/control over global networks will accelerate the impact of time, space and perception. [23]

The world sees tangible manifestations of Unrestricted Warfare surface in “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy”[24], undersea cable access/control[25] [26] [27], Bridge Road Initiatives (BRI)[28] [29], intellectual property and technology theft[30], buying political votes to not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation in exchange for economic investments that China retains dominant control.[31] Maritime military expansionism is real, but its real desired effect is to carry a powerful psychological message.

That message may be to let Taiwan know its days of democratic freedoms will end and that China will eventually be able to project global military power despite the US. US military power and influence is waning. China also created a military force, the Strategic Support Force (SSF) to secure control and management of information and data networks. [32] One of their many responsibilities involves information warfare. [33] [34] [35] [36]

The concepts associated with Unrestricted Warfare are not new. [37] The 20th century military concepts associated with Unrestricted Warfare aligns with 5th century BC China’s vision of strategic warfare planning and execution which derived from the Art of War, “…The general rule for use of the military is that it is better to keep a nation intact than to destroy it.” [38] .

China’s employment of Unrestricted Warfare is strategic and appears to apply five key components identified by order of importance in Chapter 3 of the Art of War. [39]

Therefore those who win every battle are not really skillful—those who render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.

Therefore the superior militarist strikes while schemes are being laid.

The next best is to attack alliances.

The next best is to attack the army.

The lowest is to attack a city. Siege of a city is only done as a last resort.

The Art of War [40]

China relies on different tools for armed conflict, and violence through other means. Though one think tank’s perspective assesses “use of measures short of war is neither unrestricted nor warfare” from the American context, that perspective may be irrelevant. [41] Adversaries always have a vote in the fight. The above quote from a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff underscores this. As we debate China’s intentions, China continues to act.

The Purpose of Waging Unrestricted Warfare - China Replacing Westphalian Order With Warfare Via Globalism

China wants to be a global leader, the global leader, in a world that will accept cultural values antithetical to western democracies, freedom of speech, human rights being two of them. A clash of cultures already exists.

This is as China pursues to ascribe to Sun Tzu’s dictum“… render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.” [42] [43]

The primary asymmetry China exploits is perception. This is because China’s means and methods of waging modern war does not match with western standards of waging war.

To succeed replacing the Westphalian Order by dominating the developing Globalist Order, numerous observations indicates China exploits the asymmetries of time, space, and perception between the east and the west as defined in the conclusion of a Chinese military thought piece, “Unrestricted Warfare”; warfare executed in the age of globalism. [44] [45]

The main effort of this China-US war is nonmilitary. China does not wish a physical military confrontation, exceptions may be areas such as Taiwan- when the time is right. China’s military will likely be used to consolidate and secure gains AFTER it succeeds defeating the United States via nonmilitary means.

Excerpts from the conclusion of Unrestricted Warfare [46]

Global integration is comprehensive and profound. Through its ruthless enlightenment, those things which must inevitably be altered or even dispelled are the positions of authority and interest boundaries in which nations are the principal entities. The modern concept of "nation states" which emerged from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is no longer the sole representative occupying the top position in social, political, economic and cultural organizations.

The emergence of large numbers of meta-national, trans-national, and nonnational organizations, along with the inherent contradictions between one nation and another, are presenting an unprecedented challenge to national authority, national interests, and national will.

At the time of the emergence of the early nation states, the births of most of them were assisted by blood-and-iron warfare. In the same way, during the transition of nation states to globalization, there is no way to avoid collisions between enormous interest blocs. What is different is that the means that we have today to untie the "Gordian Knot" are not merely swords, and because of this we no longer have to be like our ancestors who invariably saw resolution by armed force as the last court of appeals. Any of the political, economic, or diplomatic means now has sufficient strength to supplant military means.

Faced with warfare in the broad sense that will unfold on a borderless battlefield, it is no longer possible to rely on military forces and weapons alone to achieve national security in the larger strategic sense, nor is it possible to protect these stratified national interests. Obviously, warfare is in the process of transcending the domains of soldiers, military units, and military affairs, and is increasingly becoming a matter for politicians, scientists, and even bankers. How to conduct war is obviously no longer a question for the consideration of military people alone.

This, then, is globalization. This is warfare in the age of globalization.

Although the boundaries between soldiers and non-soldiers have now been broken down, and the chasm between warfare and non-warfare nearly filled up, globalization has made all the tough problems interconnected and interlocking, and we must find a key for that. The key should be able to open all the locks, if these locks are on the front door of war. And this key must be suited to all the levels and dimensions, from war policy, strategy, and operational techniques to tactics; and it must also fit the hands of individuals, from politicians and generals to the common soldiers.

We can think of no other more appropriate key than "Unrestricted Warfare."

Bottom line

China wages war with the United States; not competition. China's goal is to be the global power. China's primary efforts against the United States and its democratic allies are nonmilitary. China does not wish a physical military confrontation, with the possible exception being Taiwan- when the time is right.

China employs maneuver on the legal, psychological, and perceptual dimensions, avoiding engaging American military strengths- these activities appear mostly subtle and nonthreatening. China fills international voids (gaps) left by the United States across political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment and time. The gaps affords China the means to infiltrate, subvert and control US and allied interests by intertwining itself into the inner fabric of global human and technological networks.

China moves about subtly like cancer until it can metastasize to a point treatment may not be possible. Democracies are at risk, as the Chinese government does not support any entity that obstructs its interests, interests that are often at odds with democratic ideals.

The concept of Unrestricted Warfare serves as a general framework to understand Chinese intentions, lines of operation and lines effort, though not known to be official Chinese policy. The concepts associated with China's form warfare in the age of globalism are not new. The concepts employed by China align with 5th century BC China’s vision of strategic warfare planning and execution which derived from the Art of War, “…The general rule for use of the military is that it is better to keep a nation intact than to destroy it.”

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