Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alarming, or alarmist?

Recently ran across an article 'Chinese Military Engaged in Political Warfare Against the United States.'At first blush it looked extremely alarming, full of "warfare," "propaganda," "front groups," "disintegration," and the like... However, by the time the article was read it really didn't appear to have any real or serious substance to it. In fact if you substituted some less alarming or inflammatory language (e.g. "attempting to influence U.S. policies..." as opposed to "... using covert political warfare operations to influence U.S. policies...") it turned out to be rather dull! 

You be the judge, here is part of the article, reformulated with a few less alarmist terms (words in  red added, words and phrases in red strike-through deleted): 

"China’s military is attempting 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 this 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 influence 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. “Two legitimate governments—authoritarian [People’s Republic of China] and democratic [Republic of China]—exist on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”  

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 their alternatives to widely accepted universal values,” the report said.  

Unlike public diplomacy, China Chinese political warfare involves uses both intelligence and influence operations under the strategy of “aligning with friends and disintegrating countering enemies,” according to the report. Operations to counter disintegrate enemies differentiate Chinese political warfare approaches from other propaganda and publicity programs, the report said. “Leveraging propaganda and other means, disintegration work seeking to undermine an opponent’s national will through targeting of ideology, psychology, and morale,” the report said.

“Contemporary political warfare public relations augments people-to-people, government-to-government, and party-to-party relations to promote [the Chinese Communist Party’s] political legitimacy and defend against perceived threats to state security,” the report said.  

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

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