China Updates Its ‘Art of (Hybrid) War’

| Educate!

Chinese General Qiao Liang argues, ‘If we have to dance with the wolves, we should not dance to the rhythm of the United States’

In 1999, Qiao Liang, then a senior air force colonel in the People’s Liberation Army, and Wang Xiangsui, another senior colonel, caused a tremendous uproar with the publication of Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America.

Unrestricted Warfare was essentially the PLA’s manual for asymmetric warfare: an updating of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. At the time of original publication, with China still a long way from its current geopolitical and geoeconomic clout, the book was conceived as laying out a defensive approach, far from the sensationalist “destroy America” added to the title for US publication in 2004.

Now the book is available in a new edition and Qiao Liang, as a retired general and director of the Council for Research on National Security, has resurfaced in a quite revealing interview originally published in the current edition of the Hong Kong-based magazine Zijing (Bauhinia).

General Qiao is not a Politburo member entitled to dictate official policy. But some analysts I talked with agree that the key points he makes in a personal capacity are quite revealing of PLA thinking. Let’s review some of the highlights.

Dancing with wolves

The bulk of his argument concentrates on the shortcomings of US manufacturing: “How can the US today want to wage war against the biggest manufacturing power in the world while its own industry is hollowed out?”

An example, referring to Covid-19, is the capacity to produce ventilators: “Out of over 1,400 pieces necessary for a ventilator, over 1,100 must be produced in China, including final assembly. That’s the US problem today. They have state of the art technology, but not the methods and production capacity. So they have to rely on Chinese production.”

General Qiao dismisses the possibility that Vietnam, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, and other Asian nations may replace China’s cheap workforce: “Think about which of these countries has more skilled workers than China. What quantity of medium and high-level human resources was produced in China in these past 30 years? Which country is educating over 100 million students at secondary and university levels? The energy of all these people is still far from being liberated for China’s economic development.”

He acknowledges US military power even in times of epidemic and economic difficulties are always capable of “interfering directly or indirectly in the Taiwan straits question” and finding an excuse to “block and sanction China and exclude it from the West.” He adds that “as a producing country, we still cannot satisfy our manufacturing industry with our own resources and rely on our own markets to consume our products.”

In consequence, he argues, it’s a “good thing” for China to engage in the cause of reunification, “but it’s always a bad thing if it’s done at the wrong time. We can only act at the right time. We cannot allow our generation to commit the sin of interrupting the process of the Chinese nation’s renaissance.”

General Qiao counsels, “Don’t think that only territorial sovereignty is linked to the fundamental interests of a nation. Other kinds of sovereignty – economic, financial, defense, food, resources, biological and cultural sovereignty – are all linked to the interests and survival of nations and are components of national sovereignty.”

To arrest movement toward Taiwan’s independence, “apart from war, other options must be taken into consideration. We can think about the means to act in the immense gray zone between war and peace, and we can even think about more particular means, like launching military operations that will not lead to war, but may involve a moderate use of force.”

In a graphic formulation, General Qiao thinks that “if we have to dance with the wolves, we should not dance to the rhythm of the US. We should have our own rhythm, and even try to break their rhythm, to minimize its influence. If American power is brandishing its stick, it’s because it has fallen into a trap.”

In a nutshell, for General Qiao, “China, first of all, must show proof of strategic determination to solve the Taiwan question, and then strategic patience. Of course, the premise is that we should develop and maintain our strategic force to solve the Taiwan question by force at any moment.”

Gloves are off

Now compare General Qiao’s analysis with the by now obvious geopolitical and geo-economic fact that Beijing will respond tit for tat to any hybrid war tactics deployed by the United States government. The gloves are definitely off.

The gold standard expression has come in a no-holds-barred Global Times editorial: “We must be clear that coping with US suppression will be the key focus of China’s national strategy. We should enhance cooperation with most countries. The US is expected to contain China’s international front lines, and we must knock out this US plot and make China-US rivalry a process of US self-isolation.”

An inevitable corollary is that the all-out offensive to cripple Huawei will be counterpunched in kind, targeting Apple, Qualcomm, Cisco, and Boeing, even including  “investigations or suspensions of their right to do business in China.” 

So for all practical purposes, Beijing has now publicly unveiled its strategy to counteract US President Donald Trump’s “We could cut off the whole relationship” kind of assertions.

A toxic racism-meets-anti-communism matrix is responsible for the predominant anti-Chinese sentiment across the US, encompassing at least 66% of the whole population. Trump instinctively seized it – and repackaged it as his re-election campaign theme, fully approved by Steve Bannon.

The strategic objective is to go after China across the full spectrum. The tactical objective is to forge an anti-China front across the West: another instance of encirclement, hybrid war-style, focused on economic war.

This will imply a concerted offensive, trying to enforce embargoes and trying to block regional markets to Chinese companies. Lawfare will be the norm. Even freezing Chinese assets in the US is not a far-fetched proposition anymore.

Every possible Silk Road branch-out – on the energy front, ports, the Health Silk Road, digital interconnection – will be strategically targeted. Those who were dreaming that Covid-19 could be the ideal pretext for a new Yalta – uniting Trump, Xi, and Putin – may rest in peace.

“Containment” will go into overdrive. A neat example is Admiral Philip Davidson – head of the Indo-Pacific Command – asking for $20 billion for a “robust military cordon” from California to Japan and down the Pacific Rim, complete with “highly survivable, precision-strike networks” along the Pacific Rim and “forward-based, rotational joint forces” to counteract the “renewed threat we face from great power competition.”

Davidson argues that “without a valid and convincing conventional deterrent, China and Russia will be emboldened to take action in the region to supplant US interests.”

Watch People’s Congress

From the point of view of large swathes of the Global South, the current, extremely dangerous incandescence, or New Cold War, is mostly interpreted as the progressive ending of the Western coalition’s hegemony over the whole planet.

Still, scores of nations are being asked, bluntly, by the hegemon to position themselves once again in a “you’re with us or against us” global war on terror imperative.

At the annual session of the National People’s Congress, starting this Friday, we will see how China will be dealing with its top priority: to reorganize domestically after the pandemic.

For the first time in 35 years, Beijing will be forced to relinquish its economic growth targets. This also means that the objective of doubling GDP and per capita income by 2020 compared with 2010 will also be postponed.

What we should expect is an absolute emphasis on domestic spending – and social stability – over a struggle to become a global leader, even if that’s not totally overlooked.

After all, President Xi Jinping made it clear earlier this week that “Covid-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available,” won’t be subjected to Big Pharma logic, but “will be made a global public good. This will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.” The Global South is paying attention.

Internally, Beijing will boost support for state-owned enterprises that are strong in innovation and risk-taking. China always defies predictions by Western “experts.” For instance, exports rose 3.5% in April, when the experts were forecasting a decline of 15.7%. The trade surplus was $45.3 billion, when experts were forecasting only $6.3 billion.

Beijing seems to identify clearly the extending gap between a West, especially the US, that’s plunging into de facto New Great Depression territory with a China that’s about to rekindle economic growth. The center of gravity of global economic power keeps moving, inexorably, toward Asia.

Hybrid war? Bring it on.

  • 0040

    Excellent article . Nixon’s folly now come back to bite us ! I can still recall my nausea at the sight of him on his knees in Peking kissing Mao’s “ring” as he surrendered Vietnam and Indochina to to him , as the beaming Kissinger looked on. .

  • Nylene13

    I want to discuss why Bernie is forcing his own delegates to sign a paper stating that they will say nothing critical of Biden or the Democratic Party.

  • John Schoonover

    Hegemons come and go.

  • kevinzeese

    Because Bernie is a leader of the Democratic Party. He is the number 5 position in the Senate where he is tasked with outreach. If his supporters leave the Democratic Party he is not dong his job.

  • Who D. Who

    Great to see Pepe Escobar being picked up by this website. To me he is a first-rate geopolitical analyst, with style and humor to boot.

    And there’s this: “After all, President Xi Jinping made it clear earlier this week that “Covid-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available,” won’t be subjected to Big Pharma logic, but “will be made a global public good. This will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.”

    Not so sure about China’s invasive “health police,” but I’ll trust a Chinese vaccine before I trust a Bill Gates vaccine.

  • kevinzeese

    We publish Pepe often. He covers global issues well.

  • mwildfire

    But is he no longer officially Independent? And if he has a “job” within the DP, and does it assiduously against the desires and interests of his supporters–after the DP jerked the nomination away from him, AGAIN, which led once and will likely lead again to a Republican win–well that means he IS a sheepdog, and I welcome the exodus of his supporters from the DP. Not because I think a third party could be viable in this country–it’s all too thoroughly controlled. How we can get out of this nightmare I don’t know but i don’t think the ballot box can be part of it. The sooner we stop wasting our time, energies and money trying “to get good people elected” tyhe sooner we can find ways to actually make change.

  • Alan MacDonald

    The brewing confrontation, which the media gins-up as “The New Cold War”, is between a posture of global democracy or Global Empire.

    It remains to be seen which global element — America or China — will come down (and be perceived as being) a global democracy or a Global Empire.

    Xi Jinping has gone on the record in past National People’s Congresses as focusing on “socialism with Chinese characteristics” — where as Emperor Trump is clearly focused on a double faced and tonged posture of being the Emperor of the World, but deceitfully hiding his lust for a Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Empire, which would continue to allow and enable the the global UHNWIs to loot without end.

    Or as Pepe describes: “From the point of view of large swathes of the Global South, the
    current, extremely dangerous incandescence, or New Cold War, is mostly interpreted as the progressive ending of the Western coalition’s hegemony [Empire] over the whole planet.

  • Alan MacDonald

    Let’s agree on calling them what they are — EMPERORS (I would add “insane Emperors”, but that’s not necessary)

  • Alan MacDonald

    mwildfire, IMHO 2020, will be not so much an election, but a Second American Revolution, but a people’s peaceful and completed “Political/economic & socialist Revolution Against Empire” — but without the muskets.

  • Nylene13

    Outreach? I can’t imagine any Bernie Delegate signing that paper.

    I think it is outrageous and against everything Bernie says he stands for.

    Of course his supporters will leave rather than support Biden.

    We did not become Bernie supporters to support Biden.

  • Jon

    “as he surrendered Vietnam” Wrong. It was the refusal f the Vietnamese to be conquered, together with a mutinous US military the officers could not control that determined the outcome.

  • 0040

    Certainly an accepted version of truth from the Vietnamese and their allies’ point of view.

  • RickW

    The DNC (again) made the error of discarding Bernie (too radical! too radical!) in favour of Republican Lite Biden – and now it is scared to death that Biden isn’t up to the job.
    The problem (looking at it from outside) is that the really big movers and shakers in the DNC will go on making money even if Trump gets re-elected. They don’t none of them have “irons in the fire”.

  • Jon

    Reality matters! So does Truth. They are related!

  • 0040

    Maybe ? However , global elites have worked long and hard to prove reality and truth are secondary to their need to grind out profits, somewhat successfully as the Panic-demic has shown . Further , humans with their severely limited sensory arrays are incapable of understanding absolute truths or reality . We project a form of reality based on subjective hard-wiring and use objective experiences to support our beliefs. More often than not we kill or subjugate those that disagree with us.