Posts Tagged ‘political warfare’


October 24, 2013

Washington Free Beacon on October 22, 2013, published comments on a report that shows how Chinese military uses semi-secret front groups, influence operations aimed at ‘disintegrating enemies’. Excerpts below:

China’s military is using covert political warfare operations to influence U.S. policies and opinions toward Beijing while working to defeat perceived enemies like the United States and Taiwan, according to a report on the sub-rosa activities.

The activities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Political Department (GPD) include funding pro-China activities abroad, recruiting intelligence sources, spreading propaganda, engaging in media activities, funding front groups that promote Chinese strategy and goals and supporting perceived “friends” of China.

The report is the first public study of Chinese military political warfare and was produced by the Project 2049 Institute, an Arlington, Va. think tank focused on bringing democracy to China and other Asian countries by 2049.

The report identifies one of the PLA political operations as the Sanya Initiative. That initiative brought together retired senior Chinese and U.S. military officers, including former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Adm. Bill Owens, that have lobbied the Pentagon and Congress using the propaganda theme that China poses no threat to the United States.

The Free Beacon first disclosed last year that a draft report by the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission had identified the Sanya Initiative as linked to the China Association for International Friendly Contact, described in the draft as “a front organization for the International Liaison Department of the PLA General Political Department.”

China’s military also calls its political warfare operations “liaison work.”

“The PLA General Political Department—managed exchanges with foreign senior retired military officers, such as the Sanya Initiative, are only one part of a much broader campaign to manipulate perceptions and policies of foreign governments, particularly regarding Taiwan,” said Mark Stokes, Project 2049 director and co-author of the report.

Stokes said that “for decades, the GPD has effectively conditioned foreign audiences to accept Beijing’s narrow interpretation of One China,” which asserts Taiwan is part of Beijing-ruled China.

“The objective reality is that Taiwan, under its current Republic of China constitution, exists as an independent, sovereign state,” he said…

The report urges U.S. policymakers to develop countermeasures to Chinese political warfare.

“U.S. policy makers may find value in a reinvigorated capacity to counter those who promote visions for an international order that are contrary to American interests and ideals,” the report said.

“Citing the stagnation of U.S. political warfare skills since the end of the Cold War, prominent opinion leaders have indeed advocated in favor of enhancing our ability to win hearts and minds in the Middle East context. China’s experience in political warfare may be instructive as well.”

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the FBI had as one of its missions the countering of such political influence operations. However, as successive administrations adopted pro-China trade-dominated policies toward Beijing, U.S. counterintelligence against China diminished significantly.

Frequent cases of prosecutions of Chinese nationals or sympathizers for illegal exports to China are uncovered regularly. However, the FBI has not arrested or uncovered a single Chinese spy during the Obama administration.

The report states that while all governments seek to shape international opinion, China’s political warfare operations go far beyond traditional public diplomacy.

“Chinese political warfare seeks to shore up legitimacy domestically, reframe international rules of the road, and promote alternatives to widely accepted universal values,” the report said.

Unlike public diplomacy, Chinese political warfare involves both intelligence and influence operations under the strategy of “aligning with friends and disintegrating enemies,” according to the report.

Operations to disintegrate enemies differentiate Chinese political warfare from other propaganda and publicity programs, the report said.

“Leveraging propaganda and other means, disintegration work seeks to undermine an opponent’s national will through targeting of ideology, psychology, and morale,” the report said.

Among the targets are “international elites” who are used to undermine the integrity of groups and people Beijing views as anti-China.

“At the strategic level, a core PLA political warfare mission is countering perceived political challenges that liberal democratic systems, universal values, and Western culture pose to the [Chinese Communist Party’s] legitimacy within China itself and the broader international community.”

China’s communist rulers are engaged in a war of ideas against liberal democracies.

“The United States in particular is singled out as an ideological adversary,” the report said.

Chinese political warriors operate internationally to market the “China model” of authoritarian, anti-democratic rule as an alternative to Western democracy.

In addition to targeting the United States in its political warfare activities, Taiwan is a major target of PLA political warfare.

The goal of the campaign is to undermine the legitimacy of democratic Taiwan whose system poses “an existential challenge” to communist rule, the report said.

The main function of the PLA unit is to serve as a clearinghouse for coordinating party organs, state bureaucracies, military communities, commercial enterprises, and informal networks of prominent elites.

Several Chinese non-government organizations play important roles in PLA political warfare, according to the report.

One stridently anti-American group identified in the report is the Dongfang Yi Cultural Expansion Association that advances China’s notion of “three warfares”: psychological warfare; overt and covert media manipulation; and use of law in political warfare.

Other PLA political warfare front groups identified in the report include the China Energy Fund Committee and Nishan Forum on World Civilizations. The groups seek to seek to play down China’s Soviet and Marxist-Leninist roots, structure and strategies around the world.

The PLA political department also works with prominent opinion leaders to promote China’s political-military interests.

Another element of the political warfare is China’s establishment of Confucius Institutes, the report said.

Several institutes have been established around the world, including in the United States and U.S. officials have said the institutes have ties to Chinese intelligence and military agencies.

Chinese political warfare also shares roots with the Soviet Union’s use of so-called “active measures” during the Cold War. Those KGB-run operations included spreading lies to undermine the United States, like an operation claiming AIDS was a U.S. biological warfare program.

Soviet active measures also used forged documents to undermine U.S. political figures.

“By contrast, no single [Chinese] authority, with the exception of the Politburo Standing Committee, appears to enjoy an exclusive monopoly over political warfare,” the report said.



August 25, 2013

U.S. News and World Report on August 16, 2013, published an important article by Michael P. Noonan on political warfare. Excerpts below:

There will, Mr. Noonan mentioned in the forthcoming fall issue of the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute “Orbis” appear an article that deals with the very issue of using governmental means to competitively engage with our threats, challengers and competitors abroad.

Mr. Noonan also commented on an article by Nadia Schadlow (“Competetive Engagement: Upgrading America’s Influence, Small Wars Journal, November 5, 2012).

She argues that organizations across the U.S. government that work overseas have to think about the challenge of their operating environments in ways that deal with the competitive nature of those interactions. From her introduction:

Being successful in a competition requires knowing and understanding both one’s competitors and oneself. Yet in those areas where non-military instruments of power dominate, the culture and the organizations needed to act competitively to achieve desired outcomes is generally absent. For the most part, competitive thinking is left to the realm of hard power. Only our military and intelligence agencies are structured to think and act competitively. The imbalance between military and non-military instruments of power is likely to continue unless civilian agencies develop approaches which account for the contested landscapes in which they function.

A posture of competitive engagement would require that the civilian actors who oversee U.S. economic and humanitarian programs account for the fact that new ideas, economic strategies, civic action plans, and even public health-related initiatives are contested by vested interests or ideological or political opponents. This is true in a range of countries—from Pakistan, to Egypt, to Uzbekistan, to Somalia. It requires the recognition that even the building of a girl’s school in Afghanistan or a health clinic in the Sudan is a political act. As the head of the Australian government’s aid agency put it, “aid is 10 percent technical and 90 percent political.”

In order to make these non-military and non-intelligence agencies more capable of operating in competitive environments she argues that:

  1. There needs to be a cultural shift in U.S. civilian agencies: “A shift in the prevailing mindset would recognize that the use of civilian tools to shape, build, or influence often encounters some opposition or generates a contest between competing ideas or approaches.”
  2. Such a shift will make distinct information requirements. But while “intelligence” is seen as anathema to some civilian agencies, “information grounded in history and the political context of any engagement effort is critical. Tools that seek to influence political outcomes require a serious inventory of political actors in the formal and informal domains.”
  3. Such agencies must have the flexibility to respond and change with the unfolding contests on the ground: “This approach recognizes that the character of an engagement will unfold in different ways since U.S. actions generate responses—by allies as well as adversaries.”

She both recognizes and elaborates the barriers in the way of preparing for such competitive engagement, but she advances an important argument. This is particularly the case when one stops to consider just the scope and breadth of competition in the contemporary Middle East.

When examining events across Africa, in Egypt (on both sides of the Suez Canal), in Syria, in Yemen, in Afghanistan and Pakistan and all the way to the South China Sea, it is not hard to grasp the important contributions that preparing American international actors for competitive engagement and also, in certain cases, for the conduct of political warfare abroad. It is important for the United States to at least try to be able to shape events on the ground overseas with as little force as possible or else live with the consequences of outcomes that may call for the use of more force down the road.

 Michael P. Noonan is the Director of the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


July 30, 2013

The US Center for Strategic & International Studies was founded in 1962 by David M. Abshire and Admiral Arleigh Burke. In 2007 its Commission on Smart Power published a report. In it was claimed that America’s image was in decline around the world. Below are excerpts from the report’s executive summary.

To maintain a leading role in global affairs, the United States must move to inspiring optimism and hope.

The United States must become a smarter power by once again investing in the global good—providing things people and governments in all quarters of the world want but cannot attain in the absence of American leadership. By complementing U.S. military and economic might with greater investments in soft power, America can build the framework it needs to tackle tough global challenges.

Specifically, the United States should focus on five critical areas:

Alliances, partnerships, and institutions: The United States must reinvigorate the alliances, partnerships, and institutions that serve our interests and help us to meet twenty-first century challenges.

Global development: Elevating the role of development in U.S. foreign policy can help the United States align its own interests with the aspirations of people around the world.

Public diplomacy: Bringing foreign populations to our side depends on building long-term, peopleto-people relationships, particularly among youth.

Economic integration: Continued engagement with the global economy is necessary for growth and prosperity, but the benefits of free trade must be expanded to include those left behind at home and abroad.

Technology and innovation: Energy security and climate change require American leadership to help establish global consensus and develop innovative solutions.

Implementing a smart power strategy will require a strategic reassessment of how the U.S. government is organized, coordinated, and budgeted.

Comment: Especially public diplomacy and in the Middle East political warfare are important tools in the arsenal. There are already a number of instruments available like the International Republican Institute, National Endowment for Democracy, Radio Free Europe, National Democratic Institute, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. In 2013 a new agency is needed to apply all the means at national command, short of war, to achieve national objectives