The roadmap to mitigating Xi’s aggression is called: “Using the BRI as a non-kinetic, Targeting Diagram.
Today: Part I of II: The threat and then Tomorrow: Part II: Recommendations for effective mitigation
Looking at China as a threat, has been on my mind for, long over a decade. Although CT, counterterrorism was my mission until retiring from the Army in 2015, even then I was keeping an eye to the East. I probably have spent, an easy 40% of my research time over the past 7 or so years, deeply diving into assessing Xi’s threat and building recommendations to mitigate them. Sometimes as part of a small team but mostly on my own.
I have great respect for the wide spectrum of expertise that typically formulates policy, regarding national security, but am still fairly frustrated at the lumbering, lack of urgency approach that the US employs in corralling Xi’s worst behavior. In my opinion, they seem to be missing the primary target (s) that would pay the best dividends for US and global security and stability.
COVID, put an exclamation point on my opinion due to Xi’s malfeasance that killed millions and disrupted the global economy and still does. Add to this, Xi’s awkward support for Putin’s genocidal invasion of Ukraine and my concerns have peaked. We cannot keep doing things and using the same concepts we’ve used for decades as a somewhat, unilateral global power.
A little background:
The US, during the Obama administration began what was then called, the “Pivot to Asia.” In 2011, half way through our wars in Afghanistan, with the Iraq war and fight against ISIS raging, we woke up to China’s threat, just before Xi came to power, in 2012. Xi amplified that threat exponentially after solidifying his power in Beijing.
A review of the Obama administration’s efforts during the initial phase of the pivot was described by, Michael J. Green, the CEO of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in a September, 2016 article in Foreign Policy Magazine as:
“A more detailed breakdown of Obama’s Asia legacy highlights one significant achievement, one sub-par performance, one lost opportunity, and one dangerous incomplete.”
- Michael Green
The Trump administration’s INDOPACIFIC strategy’s legacy is one of:
· A potentially catastrophic delay in advancing a serious approach to balancing our interests with the nations of the INDOPACIFIC
o This delay allowed Xi a few extra years to push his aggression without serious opposition
The new NSS, National Security Strategy references China in a variety of ways and there are already, 2 years into the administration, some positive steps that if pursued effectively, will begin the process of renewing the credibility of the US in the region.
The People’s Republic of China harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit, even as the United States remains committed to managing the competition between our countries responsibly.
- White House
- October 2022
The Biden Administration in writing, is not substantially different outside of the fact that it is being actioned. The key piece that is substantially different is the commitment of the US to collective efforts with the rest of the INDOPACIFIC.
The United States is committed to an Indo-Pacific that is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient. To realize that future, the United States will strengthen our own role while reinforcing the region itself. The essential feature of this approach is that it cannot be accomplished alone: changing strategic circumstances and historic challenges require unprecedented cooperation with those who share in this vision.
- INDO PACIFIC STRATEGY of the United States
- February 2022
Like with NATO, the US is currently and, in most aspects, rebuilding the credibility of the US among allies, partners and others to effectively and collectively address Xi’s aggression. The primary weapon for Xi is that instead of building equitable relationships with nations he seeks cooperation from, he bullies them into submission with what we call in the military, non-kinetic activities. Kinetic activities reflect shooting at people and breaking their things.
When I use the phrase, “Xi’s aggression,” I literally mean, active aggression. There are three distinguishing characteristics of this aggression. Below are the three primary non-kinetic tactics that Xi employs to bully nations into what he is trying to establish, a Tributary relationship popular with some of China’s historical Rulers or, “Sons of Heaven.”
The three defining characteristics
Massive human rights abuses
Xi’s narrative of global conquest is best defined as:
The world, All-Under-Heaven, is one, with China / the “Middle Kingdom” at the center and at the pinnacle, is an Emperor or “Son of Heaven”, the sole interface with heaven with no peer. The Han are the “enlightened” while everyone outside is “barbarian” and seeking a tributary relationship with enlightened China for commerce and protection. Those who do not voluntarily seek tributary status must be persuaded or conquered militarily. This will unify All-Under-Heaven under the Chinese paradigm of world order.
- Asia Power Watch
- October 2020
Let’s start with military intimidation.
All across the region and in fact, globally, Chinese military efforts are aggressively intimidating other nations. They not only employ dedicated military vessels, aircraft, satellites, troops (don’t forget balloons) to wield influence with other nations, but there are militarized fishing fleets that literally take over the fishing rights of other nations. Their Coast Guard is a military tool of intimidation via specific methods, their cooperation with Russia in space, their support of genocidal regimes like Myanmar’s to do their dirty work for them.
We see Chinese military intimidation mostly in headlines about “threats to Taiwan” but they exist in several other ways as well. Those all too common, Taiwan headlines though show just how far Xi is willing to go. Were the US and allies and partners not vigilant, those threats may materialize into actions that could alter world history.
My personal belief at the moment is that Taiwan is not an imminent threat, for a wide variety of reasons. Among those are:
- China’s military is untested. We all see how badly everyone misjudged Putin’s military which also had little to no, combat experience.
- China’s military hardware that shares compatibility with Russia systems an is roughly 70% the same as Russia’s has embarrassed Putin in Ukraine… badly. The truth is, Russia, hence China and India’s that are much the same, now know that Russian systems are not top tier when up against that of other world powers and militaries. The evidence is strewn across Ukraine and in hospital wards in Russia.
- China’s economy has lost much of its agility and influential clout, due to poor decision-making by Xi and China’s failure to address COVID promptly, honestly and effectively.
- China has few, if any trusted friends. Most are coerced into partnerships based on transactional diplomacy, not an overlap in beliefs. Xi is also making inroads with established US and allied partners such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc.
This last item provides a nice segue into the next identifying feature of Xi’s aggression.
We’ve all heard expressions like, “debt-trap-diplomacy.” While this only applies to a few cases, economic coercion on far larger and more sinister scale, is at the heart of Xi’s aggression. Largely speaking, Xi builds a symbiotic relationship with nations and corporations, then, once they are somewhat dependent on China’s markets, products, manufacturing, etc. Xi springs his trap. First, he ignores contracts and obligation. He follows with a variety of coercive tactics like, threats to takeaway anything good in the relationship. Of course, he structures his threats so as to only hurt the opposition. China risks little. The embedded link at the beginning of this paragraph, is a must read for the full details of Xi’s economic tactics and strategy.
I also highly recommend this embedded link which is:
“Statement before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “How China Uses Economic Coercion to Silence Critics and Achieve its Political Aims Globally” A Testimony by: Bonnie S. Glaser Director, Asia Program German Marshall Fund of the United States December 7, 2021”
Within this report is a table which clearly demonstrates some of the forms that Xi’s economic coercion takes.
The EU, European Union has actually taken direct policy measures to mitigate the effects of Xi’s economic coercion. They published their analysis late 2022 which can be found at the embedded link. Another excellent background read. The following chart demonstrates clearly the exponential increase in punitive measures by Xi.
The bottom line to this issue is that Xi, is the world’s most committed, global bully regarding economic coercion.
Human rights violations on a massive scale:
Words fail me to describe the inhumanity exhibited by China under Xi. China’s 4-5 thousand years of history is infected with countless evidence of indifference to human rights. Xi is just behaving like most of China’s emperors have for millennia. The difference is, he has the technology to move this disdainful Chinese identity trait, to a scale that includes genocide. Remember, Xi’s narrative requires that only Han Chinese are truly Chinese. Others are minorities and labeled in his narrative as barbarians, to serve the emperor, or “Son-of-Heaven.”
Those who don’t abide by this narrative are definitive targets of his government. The Uyghur issue is the perfect example, but they are far from being alone as a target. Xi embraces other foreign leaders in what he considers a “tributary state” that employ human rights assaults as a method to keep in power, those who will serve his interests. Putin, Iran’s Ayatollahs, Myanmar’s Junta etc. are good examples.
China’s massive human rights crimes, including a genocidal approach to her millions of Uyghur citizens, imprisoned in concentration camps where they are slave labor, tortured, killed and “reprogrammed” to give up their cultural identity. Don’t forget, everyone in China’s historical borders must be Han.
Let’s begin summing this up with the “so what” to all of this background.
Xi’s strategy has at its core, the BRI, Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI is built on the historical Silk Road, of Marco Polo’s fame. All of the key corridors of the BRI are called SRs or Silk Roads. For example, there are the: Digital SR, the Healthcare SR, the overland transport infrastructure SR which includes bridges, roads, railroads etc. There are also the space SR, the maritime SRs, financial SRs and any other manner of other SR. Without a functioning BRI, Xi’s pipe dream of a 2035 domination of the region and a 2049 global domination are mere pipe dreams. No Silk Roads, no China Dream for Xi.
This issue of what do we do about this China Dream pursuit of Xi’s, which literally threatens the globe, is tomorrow’s article. Tomorrow’s article though would not make sense without today’s, the briefest possible background of the threat, the weapons employed and the relevant foundational knowledge. Yes, this is as complex a threat as we have seen since WWII. We must muster the energy and resources to address it properly and with the right focus. This threat is, at the moment, a non-kinetic threat. This is the best way to address the threat as well.
I look forward to hearing back, if this helps us to better understand precisely what we are facing. The goal that makes the most sense is to modify China’s behavior. Destroying her would also inflict serious wounds on much of the world. Let’s use that space between our ears, before we line up ships, planes, missiles, satellites etc. To use some baseball terms, military deterrence is the backstop and non-kinetics is the playing field.
Hope you’ll be back tomorrow for Part II