China with a growing economy and military power has started to become a serious threat for United States of America, as there are several reports indicating that Beijing is involved in covert operations against White House through a soft power strategy that Washington never thought would be used against it to such good effect.
We are living in a world of complex international relations, where one cannot clearly point out who is with you or who’s up against you. Today, states without firing a single bullet can wreak havoc like a termite eats log silently – the damage is being done but it is not visible.
This is an era of political warfare, to use soft power to obtain political goals; direct confrontation is now seen as too much of a risk.
Covert political warfare
According to a group of experts, Beijing is involved in covert political warfare, to spread its influence not only in the region but also in other parts of the world.
For most part of the 20th century, US was the sole biggest producer of goods around the globe, with almost half of the world’s products being manufactured by US. However, all this started to change slowly as other nations came into the picture. China, along with Far East Asia, experienced rapid industrialization in the last two decades of the 20th century and entering the new millennia, it was China that really came into the picture as a worthy adversary to the United States in terms of production and manufacturing of goods.
China, in a bid to make sure that it wrenches the crown of the one true industrial king from the grips of US, is involved in several political operations that allow it to enjoy economic gains US cannot.
Keeping in line with the ideals given by the likes of Sun Tzu and Marxist-Leninist approach, two schools of thought that emphasize upon the importance of being a soft power in order to obtain political objectives, China is now reaping the rewards. This warfare was uncovered by the Project 2049 institute, a think tank on a mission to introduce democracy in China and other parts of the region.
The study done by this institute shows that Chinese bureaucracy, with the help of the communist party and the People’s Liberation Army, is heavily involved in secretly running political and propaganda departments in a bid to achieve the country’s goals.
Started small, now going big
According to the executive director of Project 2049 Institute Mark Strokes, China’s political warfare targets initially included Taiwan and then Japan. Now, Beijing has its eyes set on US and the process has already begun.
This however, is not a new issue to the US as in past, Washington has experienced several covert operations, some of which it was able to stamp its authority on without much trouble. Back in the 1980s, US had a whole department within the Federal Bureau of Investigation to counter such operations and today, that department is active again.
This type of political warfare intends to unite allies and bring them on the same page while disintegrating the enemy slowly in a process that is way more dangerous than conventional warfare if the success rate is taken into account. Today, this is a methodology that has been applied by many states to achieve their national interests with the current situation in the Middle East being a really good example to serve as a reminder to the deadly consequence of this activity.
The element of power for any state has evolved over the ages – from territorial expression to military power and now it is associated with economy. Currently, a state with strong economy, will be carrying the crown of leading the world in its desire direction. And China is playing a game in a rather clever manner and although this activity is morally wrong, it is not illegal either. Every state has the right to promote its culture and values and to conduct trade and it’s a free market but the means to do so is an entirely different story.
Dirty business but effective nonetheless
It is a dirty bit of business but it becomes really hard to stop a state from doing that when you are also involved in the same business from time to time.
In recent years, Chinese political warfare in the United States has become much more complex and now, it seeks to influence three main groups – “old friends” of Beijing who were rewarded with dialogues and business ventures; elites or “influentials” in business, diplomats and the military who were courted through visits, exchanges, and joint research projects; and “mass perceptions” swayed through mass media.
“It has become more sophisticated,” says Princeton University professor, Aaron Friedberg. “The focus is still at the top, but activity is now at all levels.”
Most of the instruments of political warfare have been cleverly disguised such as the China-United States Exchange Foundation which was founded in 2008 to developed understanding and trust between the two states. However, it is not the benign type of organization it has been made out to be. It is a foundation that is being funded by state-owned enterprises and tycoons from Hong Kong and gathers support from entities that are essentially linked to the government such as the Shanghai Institute for International Studies and PLA Academy of Military Science.
“This is not anything like the Ford Foundation or the Rockefeller Foundation,” Friedberg added.
Randy Schriver, the CEO of Project 2049 Institute, says that Beijing’s insistence to keep history selective pays complete disregard to events such as a the US-Japan alliance that brought so much prosperity to the region and also erases important people from the history books if their actions do not appear to be in tandem with Chinese political agenda.
“They are probably the greatest abusers of history,” Schriver, who was also a former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs during the George W. Bush administration, said.
However, Friedberg says that although Chinese political warfare activities are completely legal, it is important to harden the US against it. The experts conclude that in order to defy Chinese political warfare, the best mechanism would be through increasing transparency in order to undermine Chinese attempts and expose their weaknesses.
“It seems to me transparency is the best defense,” he said.