By Printus LeBlanc
Two world powers are on a collision course, the United States, and China. For now, the U.S. is the dominant world power, but China is fast approaching economic and military parity. That parity is more likely to bring the two nations closer to war, as the nation that once believed it was weaker sees itself as equal or stronger and is willing to challenge.
To get to the point where China has the capacity to challenge the U.S., the Communist regime has employed a total warfare strategy the likes of which the U.S. has never seen before. The U.S. was so unprepared for the type of warfare waged by China; it actually helped it achieve its current status.
A brief history lesson is needed to understand the state of mind the Chinese leaders are in. For centuries, China was the center of the civilization. While Europe was struggling in the dark ages, China was the pinnacle of civilization. China once held one-third of the world’s population, was the economic center, and technological marvel of the globe for much of the “pre-modern” era (Zhu, 2012). As Europe emerged from the dark ages, it first sought trade with China, then to challenge the middle kingdom for global dominance.
The western world was no match for China until the industrial revolution. The revolution brought Europe to a point it could now not only compete with but surpass China as a global power. The west first exerted power over China in the Opium Wars, mid-19th Century. When China lost the Opium Wars, it began a period in Chinese history known as the Century of Humiliation, to included the Japanese occupation.
The Century of Humiliation is taught extensively in Chinese schools and explored deeply in Chinese films and TV. The establishment of the Communist Party in 1949, led by Mao Zedong, ended the humiliation and began a new plan. That plan is called the Hundred Year Marathon.
According to Michael Pillsbury, author of Hundred Year Marathon, China has lulled America into a false sense of complacency, since 1949, using nine principles of Chinese strategy to achieve its goal of global hegemony:
- Induce complacency to avoid alerting your opponent.
- Manipulate your opponent’s advisers.
- Be patient – for decades, or longer – to achieve victory.
- Steal your opponent’s ideas and technology for strategic purposes.
- Military might is not the critical factor for winning a long-term competition.
- Recognize that the hegemon will take extreme, even reckless action to retain its dominant position.
- Never lose sight of shi.
- Establish and employ metrics for measuring your status relative to other potential challengers.
- Always be vigilant to avoid being encircled or deceived by others (Pillsbury, 2015)
The 1991 Gulf War further proved to the Chinese government it was not ready to take on the United States. The speed, ferocity, and precision of the American military took other military officials across the world by surprise, including the Chinese. Following the Gulf War, China changed its strategy to one of engagement by any means necessary, except militarily, with the United States.
In 1999 the world got a glimpse of the different methods of “engagement” China would use when two People’s Liberation Army Colonels, Qiao Liang, and Wang Xiangsui wrote “Unrestricted Warfare.” The book proposes tactics for developing countries when dealing with the United States to compensate for their lack of military prowess.
The book is a must-read for anyone interested in China or the future of warfare. Two key passages give a glimpse into what Chinese leadership is thinking and the reasoning behind its actions. From page 162:
“The expansion of the domain of warfare is a necessary consequence of the ever-expanding scope of human activity, and the two are intertwined. Mankind’s understanding of this phenomenon has always lagged behind the phenomenon itself. Although as long ago as Cao Gui [hero of the Spring and Autumn period] and as recently as Collins [John M. Collins, author of Grand Strategy: Principles and Practices] there have been farsighted possessors of superior insight who to varying degrees pointed out the mutually restricting relationships among the various domains of warfare, up to now most people involved in warfare considered all the non-military domains where they were as being accessories to serve military needs. The narrowness of their field of vision and their way of thinking restricted the development of the battlefield and changes in strategy and tactics to within one domain. From Kutuzov torching Moscow [before abandoning it in 1812], without pity destroying over half the country in the strategy of strengthening defense works and laying waste to the fields as his way of dealing with Napoleon; to the massive bombing of Dresden and the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, inflicting countless civilian casualties in the pursuit of absolute military victory; to the strategic propositions of ‘massive retaliation’ and ‘mutually assured destruction;’ none of these broke this mold. It is now time to correct this mistaken trend. The great fusion of technologies is impelling the domains of politics, economics, the military, culture, diplomacy, and religion to overlap each other. The connection points are ready, and the trend towards the merging of the various domains is very clear. Add to this the influence of the high tide of human rights consciousness on the morality of warfare. All of these things are rendering more and more obsolete the idea of confining warfare to the military domain and of using the number of casualties as a means of the intensity of a war. Warfare is now escaping from the boundaries of bloody massacre, and exhibiting a trend towards low casualties, or even none at all, and yet high intensity. This is information warfare, financial warfare, trade warfare, and other entirely new forms of war, new areas opened up in the domain of warfare. In this sense, there is now no domain which warfare cannot use, and there is almost no domain which does not have warfare’s offensive pattern.” (Liang & Xiangsui, 1999)
From page 165:
“From the angle of domains, the domains of the military, politics, diplomacy, economics, culture, religion, psychology, and the media can often be seen as means. And domains can be subdivided. For example, in the military domain, strategy and tactics, military deterrence, military alliances, military exercises, arms control, weapons embargoes, armed blockades, right down to the use of force, these are all without doubt military means. And although economic assistance, trade sanctions, diplomatic mediation, cultural infiltration, media propaganda, formulating and applying international rules, using United Nations resolutions, etc., belong to different domains such as politics, economics, or diplomacy, statesmen use them more and more now as standard military means.” (Liang & Xiangsui, 1999)
Following up on Unrestricted Warfare, a 2014 white paper from U.S. Army Special Operations Command, discusses different methods of warfare being used by various adversaries. Clearly, the authors studied Unrestricted Warfare because in the paper China is specifically singled out stating, “China will use a host of methods, many of which lie out of the realm of conventional warfare. These methods include trade warfare, financial warfare, ecological warfare, psychological warfare, smuggling warfare, media warfare, drug warfare, network warfare, technological warfare, fabrication warfare, resources warfare, economic aid warfare, cultural warfare, and international law warfare…” (United States Army Special Operations Command , 2014)
These are more than abstract theories or war game scenarios. China is engaging in unconventional war against the U.S. Unfortunately for the U.S., only now are a few politicians and policymakers starting to realize the danger China poses and the staggering breadth of the Chinese assault.
One of the more insidious examples of the cultural war being waged against the U.S. by China is the introduction of Confucius Institutes to U.S. universities. The Confucius Institute was started in 2004 by the Beijing government as a public educational organization with the mission to promote Chinese language and culture around the world. Many colleges jumped at the notion because the Chinese government was going to foot large portions of the bill. Adding the institutes would also boost the “prestige” of the universities and making them more attractive to international students, which means higher tuition and fees.
But there is a problem with the institutes. The institutions are not just on an educational mission; the institutions have a propaganda mission. Li Changchun, former senior member of the Politburo Standing Committee and a top official in charge of propaganda, writing in The Economist, stated the Confucius Institutes were “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up,” (Changchun, 2009). The institutes are able to do this because of the deals struck with the universities.
The teachers and academic programs within the institutes are approved by Hanban, the Chinese government entity that runs the program. By controlling the curriculum and the professors that teach it, the Chinese government can push its narrative on world events or refuse to address certain issues at all. Narratives such as Taiwan is not a separate nation from China; it is just China’s largest island. Other issues not discussed at the institutes include the situation in Tibet and the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is one of the leading voices against the Confucius Institute. Earlier this year Rubio spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about the subject and stated, “Beijing is becoming increasingly aggressive in its aim to exploit America’s academic freedom to instill in the minds of future leaders a pro-China viewpoint. Confucius Institutes across the country and my home state of Florida have given China’s communist regime an avenue to covertly influence public opinion and teach half-truths designed to present Chinese history, government or official policy in the most favorable light.” (Johnson, 2018)
The Secretary of Defense James Mattis also sees the institutions as a threat. He spoke about the organization stating, “They are an instrument of the party’s power, not a support for independent scholarship. They can be used to groom academics and administrators to provide a voice for the party in university decision-making,” (Rogin, 2018).
If an enemy is shaping the minds of U.S. students, how can the U.S. be surprised when the students lean towards socialism and don’t allow different points of view on campus?
China is adept at bending the U.S. and international law to achieve its goals. China will cite international law as a reason for acting while ignoring decisions handed down by international bodies. Recently the U.S. has seen Russian interests fund U.S. based environmental groups to limit U.S. shale exploration and production (Mooney, 2018). The more oil and natural gas the U.S. produces, the less influence Russia is likely to have on Europe and the less government revenue the petrostate will acquire.
It appears China has learned something from Russia and is using the same strategy to target the U.S., specifically the U.S. Navy. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has developed a suspicious and cozy relationship with the Communist Chinese government. It is suspicious because there is no greater threat to the environment than China.
It is Chinese demand that is causing poachers to go to extreme lengths to kill rhinos for the horn and elephants for their ivory. It is also Chinese demand putting fisheries around the world in danger (Jacobs, 2017). Not to mention, the dozens of reefs China is destroying in the Paracel and Spratly Island chains for the construction of military outposts (Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, 2018).
Despite the threat China poses to the global environment, the NRDC spends much of its time attacking the U.S. The NRDC has a particular disdain for the U.S. Navy and its sonar. In fact, the NRDC has sued the U.S. Navy to stop the development of new sonar technology (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2016). This is a great advantage to the Chinese military as it sees the U.S. Navy as its primary adversary in gaining control of the South China Sea.
Thankfully this scheme may be unraveling. Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) sent a letter to the NRDC addressing the issue of China. The letter notes the hypocrisy displayed by NRDC stating:
“When engaging on environmental issues concerning China, the NRDC appears to practice self-censorship, issue selection bias, and generally refrains from criticizing Chinese officials. … Of note, the NRDC collaborates with Chinese government entities that are deeply involved in Chinese efforts to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea in contravention of international law.
By contrast, the NRDC takes an adversarial approach to its advocacy practices in the United States. In fundraising materials, the NRDC claims to have ‘sued the [U.S. government] about once every 10 days’ since President Trump was inaugurated. Over the last two decades your organization has also sued the U.S. Navy multiple times to stop or drastically limited naval training exercises in the Pacific arguing that navy sonar and anti-submarine warfare drills harm marine life. We are unaware of the NRDC having made similar efforts to curtail naval exercises by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (Bishop & Westerman, 2018).”
The committee should get to the bottom of this issue, or at the very least expose the NRDC as an environmental lobbying group doing the bidding of the Chinese military.
China has waged perhaps the most impressive political warfare campaign the U.S. has ever seen. While the mainstream media is focusing on Russia for some Facebook memes, China is not only pushing its agenda in the capital of the free world; it is succeeding in the capital of the free world.
The Chinese government, and by extension Chinese companies, have a substantial presence in Washington D.C. The presence is necessary because Beijing needs protection from its own activities. Chinese companies routinely dump their products on the market to kill competition while receiving subsidies from the central government. While the Chinese government is subsidizing its companies to put the competition out of business, it is also manipulating its currency.
Robert E. Scott of the Economic Policy Institute describes currency manipulation as, “an artificial subsidy to the host country’s exports (making their goods artificially less expensive) and as a tax on all U.S. exports, which undercuts the competitiveness of U.S. products, especially manufactured goods,” (Scott, 2016).
Of course, Washington D.C. has the power to do something about China’s actions, but this is where lobbying comes into play. China is using revolving door strategy in Washington D.C. When Members of Congress and other high-ranking officials leave office, they often stay in D.C. to work in a lobbying shop.
Former House Representative Charles Boustany (R-La.) went to work for Capitol Counsel as a lobbyist, after failing to win the Louisiana Senate seat. Boustany is representing the Las Vegas-based U.S.-China Transpacific Foundation, which is also sponsored by the Chinese government. The former Louisiana representative has also registered as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
It didn’t take long for former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) to land on his feet after leaving Capitol Hill. Not only did it not take long, he didn’t go very far. Boehner signed up with the highly prestigious lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs.
The firm represents multiple Chinese government interests including the Sinopec Group, a Chinese government-owned oil company (Wilson, 2017). Boehner going to a firm with Chinese ties was no accident.
Boehner spent much of his congressional career advocating for U.S.—China engagement, believing it would improve China’s human rights record and open it up to trade. In the late 90’s, Boehner was the House GOP Conference Chair and worked with President Bill Clinton to renew the most favored nation trade status of China (King, Curley, & Glasser, 1998). In 2000, China would be granted Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) (China Trade Deal, 2000). When Congress attempted to tackle Chinese currency manipulation, Speaker Boehner was there to stop an effort in 2011 (Sink, 2011). Boehner killed the measure despite the bill having bipartisan support and passing in the Senate.
These are just a few of the former officials hired to do work on behalf of the Chinese government. The list is extensive and includes intelligence officers, past administration officials from both parties, and high-level government bureaucrats. They may not even realize they are helping the Chinese government.
While the media is only paying attention to Russia meddling in U.S. elections, no one is paying attention to what the Chinese government is doing.
The U.S. and China are in the middle of a trade dispute right now. The President wants free trade with China, while the communist nation wants to continue exporting goods to the U.S. without tariffs but continue to with heavy tariffs on U.S. goods. The President has put tariffs on certain Chinese goods to force the government to the bargaining table. China has reacted, and it is a purely political move aimed at targeting the President in the upcoming midterms and the 2020 election.
China has an extremely large and growing middle class. The central government will do anything to keep this population happy because an angry middle class starts revolutions. Part of keeping the middle class happy is access to different foods from around the world. Chinese citizens have come to expect this access. Cutting off access to what the people have become accustomed to is very dangerous. Despite the danger, China has instituted tariffs on two products designed to have an impact on U.S. elections.
One of the first products the Chinese government retaliated against was soybeans. Soybeans are very important to the growing middle class in China. But soybeans are also one of the major cash crops for Iowa. China is Iowa’s top export market for its soybeans, and the tariff fight is likely to cost Iowa farmers $624 million (Eller, 2018).
Iowa is also the first state in the Presidential primary. Several anti-Trump Republicans have hinted at challenging the President in the Republican primary. The first two primaries, Iowa and New Hampshire, are extremely important in gaining momentum for the grueling primary. The two states are so important, only one person has won the Presidency but lost both states, Bill Clinton (Montanaro, 2016).
By targeting Iowa, the Chinese government is trying to turn Iowa against the President in hopes of an upset in the 2020 primaries, which could turn the tide and get New Hampshire to go against the President also. If President Trump is the nominee in 2020, the move still hurts the President in the general election and opens the state for a challenger.
The Chinese government isn’t just waiting for the 2020 election; it is also meddling in the upcoming midterms. The 2018 midterms are perhaps the most important in history. As the President’s opponents have stated many times, if the Democrats gain control of the House and Senate, they intend to pursue impeachment.
Obviously, a President facing impeachment will be entirely too distracted to function in office, if the President decides to stay in office at all. To accomplish this, the Democrat Party needs to take control of 218 seats in the House and 51 seats in the Senate. The Democrats currently occupy 193 seats in the House and 49 Democrats, including King and Sanders.
One state the opposition party is putting its hopes on is California. The state is extremely left-leaning, and the Democrat party believes it can get seven districts to flip (Stewart, 2018). Apparently, China agrees and is also targeting California.
CGTN is an international language news channel run by the Chinese Central Television. It is the international propaganda arm of the Communist Chinese government. On August 17th the station tweeted out a video with a specific target, California voters. The 2:31 minute long animated video depicts California suffering because China levied tariffs against its almonds (CGTN, 2018).
The video tries to stir up dissension amongst different states telling Californians they are intentionally being hurt by the President and it is the Republicans fault, hinting to fix their problems they should vote Democrat.
The latest development is very disturbing because a weakened President Trump is exactly what China wants and appears to be instigating with its political warfare.
Another form of warfare being waged by China is ecological. In the race to catch up and pass the U.S. economy, China abandoned the most basic environmental rules. This has led to China being one of, if not the most, polluted country in the world. The amount of pollution is so great; it is a national security concern for the Chinese government, specifically fresh water.
Water is the building block of civilization. The liquid is a basic necessity needed for survival, and it is quickly becoming a prized commodity within the Middle Kingdom. Water is becoming so valuable because China has so polluted its own freshwater, much of the water is beyond cleaning. The water table in Beijing has decreased by 1,000 feed in 40 years (The Economist, 2013).
The crisis has led to China taking drastic measures that could lead to a war that eventually pulls in the United States. China is diverting the glacial melt from Tibetan Plateau towards its rivers and large cities in the East. The plateau is extremely important, as the Yellow, Yangtze Kiang, Mekong, Salween, Sutlej and the Brahmaputra rivers all begin in the occupied plateau. The rivers provide fresh water, food, and transportation for over 2 billion people in the region (Lehmann & Ninkovic, 2013). Some of the rivers also religious importance to nations they flow through.
The Chinese projects directly threaten the economic, food, and water security of all nations downstream, not to mention the cultural, and religious significance. Many are going to wonder why this is important to the United States after all the rivers are in Asia, not North America. It is important to remember almost no war stays local. WWI and WWII are perfect examples of that. Not to mention three of the countries that could become involved in a water war are nuclear powers, Pakistan, China, and India, and nuclear war on any continent is bad for the world.
Without a doubt, China’s greatest weapon is its economy. While no one was paying attention, China’s economy quickly exploded to pass Japan and established European nations to become the second largest economy, and by some measurements the largest, in the world. The size of the economy and the potential of the Chinese market have made it the envy of economies across the globe. This has given the Chinese government immense economic power, and it has become adept at using it to wage war.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the latest Chinese weapon in the economic warfare domain. The BRI is an ambitious development project spanning the globe. Through a series of Chinese financed ports, roads, and railroads stretching from mainland China to Europe, China is exerting control. The project will connect China to 65 percent of the global population and 40 percent of worldwide GDP giving it more leverage than ever before.
China has already used the BRI to exert pressure and influence policies. China’s COSCO Shipping took a 51 percent stake in Greece’s largest port in 2016. One year later, Greece would block a European Union statement on human rights abuses by China in the UN (Carassava, 2017). It was the first time the EU failed to make such a statement at the UN. Many directly attributed the move to Chinese pressure.
The BRI has also exposed another weapon being used by China. It is the “debt trap.” The trap occurs when one of the Chinese-financed projects cannot be paid back. Once default is imminent, China offers to forgive the debt for long-term leases.
Sri Lanka is one of the latest examples. Hambantota is on the southern side of Sri Lanka. China convinced officials to take loans for massive projects the city didn’t necessarily need, including a massive port. Once the tiny nation, off the coast of India, reached a point it couldn’t pay the debt back, China sprang the trap. In July 2017 China agreed to a debt-for-equity swap with a 99-year lease for control of the port (Hurley, Morris, & Portelance, 2018). China now has control of a port strategically located off the coast of one of China’s greatest rivals in Asia, India.
China has over two dozen such projects reaching into the Mediterranean. The ports form a string of strategic bases ensuring China has access to resources, a lesson learned from Japan in WWII. The bases will also likely challenge the supremacy of the U.S. Navy on the high seas.
Trade warfare is a subset of economic warfare. Because China has become the factory of the world, it is able to use its manufacturing capability to force other nations to bend to its will. It is also able to force the transfer of technology, forgoing the years and cost of research and development. One of the primary ways China does this is with Rare Earth Elements (REE)
REEs are a group of 15 elements between atomic numbers 57 and 71 that have unusual physical and chemical properties, giving them multiple applications in the defense industry and civilian market. The U.S. military enjoys an immense technological advantage against any foe it goes up against, and that technology has an Achilles’ heel, REEs.
As important as these elements are, the production of REEs is controlled by one country and has been used as an economic weapon recently. China produces more than 80 percent of all REEs used today (GlobalData Energy, 2018). In a dispute over uninhabited islands that resulted in Japanese detention of a Chinese fishing captain, China halted shipments of REEs to Japan. The action sent a shock wave around the world. Suddenly, China had the power to bring the economy of a foreign power to a grinding halt.
After years of disputes in the WTO over the actions, China decided to flood the market with REEs. Flooding the market with cheap REEs ensured no other mines in the world could compete with China, including a U.S. mine, Mountain Pass mine owned by Molycorp, that would go bankrupt in June of 2015.
The U.S. military is wholly dependent on rare earth minerals for a large assortment of weapons systems. The smart weapons that allow the military to use one bomb for one target while reducing collateral damage use guidance systems. The motors and fin actuators that steer the weapons use rare earth elements, specifically neodymium magnets.
The Congressional Research Service listed defense-related applications for REEs:
- fin actuators in missile guidance and control systems, controlling the direction of the missile;
- disk drive motors installed in aircraft, tanks, missile systems, and command and control centers;
- lasers for enemy mine detection, interrogators, underwater mines, and countermeasures;
- satellite communications, radar, and sonar on submarines and surface ships; and
- optical equipment and speakers (Grasso, 2013).
Writing for Breaking Defense, Richard Whittle noted the importance of REEs in the defense industrial base:
- Each nuclear-powered SSN-774 Virginia-class fast attack submarine requires about 9,200 pounds of REEs;
- Each DDG-51 Aegis destroyer needs about 5,200 pounds;
- Each F-35 Joint Strike fighter needs about 920 pounds (Whittle, 2016).
Not only do REEs play a key role in national defense, but they also play an irreplaceable role in the modern communications industry. A single iPhone contains eight different rare-earth metals (Rohrig, 2015). The speakers, screen, and vibration feature would not work without REEs. The elements are also used in televisions, computers, light bulbs, and catalytic converters. It is not a stretch to say REEs are the foundation of our modern society.
China has used excessively harsh regulations in the U.S. to corner the rare earth market. China refuses to export the material, forcing the companies to relocate to the mainland for manufacture. This is how China came to dominate the electronics manufacturing market. The market for rare earth elements is only expected to reach $10.9 billion (Grand View Research, 2015) in 2020, and China turned it into a technology manufacturing industry valued at $4.8 trillion (Neill & Speed, 2012).
On the surface, this may seem like free trade, but it isn’t. China forces foreign companies to partner with local companies, including the “sharing” of intellectual property, to operate on the mainland. Once the Chinese company masters the production, the foreign company simply goes away.
Former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander called Beijing’s practice, “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimates the United States loses about $180-$540 billion per year from IP theft, most of the theft coming from China (Pham, 2018).
This technique has allowed China to skip generations of technology development, catching up to the United States, while at the same time getting paid to do so.
China’s unrestricted warfare has put the Communist nation in direct competition with the United States. Of course, no one wants confrontation, but China will initiate a fight when it feels strong enough to win. It is for that reason when politicians and policymakers discuss China; they must be made to understand it is not so easy as “free trade.”
It is clear China’s actions have one goal and one goal only, to become the center of the world again. If it has to dominate the United Nations, it will do so. If it has to flood markets with cheap goods, at a loss, to hurt competing economies, it will do so. “Free trade” with China has not made it more democratic, if anything it has made it more authoritarian while giving it more international power.
Politicians and policymakers must realize just because no bullets are flying, and bombs are not dropping, that does not mean the United States is not at war. The purpose of the report is not to advocate for specific action against China, the purpose was to advise. China is at war with America; it is time to recognize that fact.
Printus LeBlanc is the legislative director at Americans for Limited Government.
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