The US always fights the "last war," instead of the one we're in.
China is winning GPC, Great Power Competition, because they don't.
Happy Monday TAT followers,
Around Washington DC for the past few years, the term GPC or Great Power Competition has been in vogue. Like most government concepts, GPC is complicated, often unnecessarily so. More often than not, the over complicatedness of such concepts, is self-imposed due to the Byzantine nature of countless layers of redundant and frequently useless bureaucracy. If we are to get ahead of and stay ahead of our closest competitors, the existing government paradigm, is as useless as, “fighting the last war.” Winning at GPC requires that the US Government, national security community especially, must relearn the art of ethical influence.
China is the most significant, nation-state threat for the foreseeable future, both in GPC and with habitually, recurring threats of actual war. Xi, since rising to power circa 2012, has aggressively pushed his BRI, Belt and Road Initiative as his “tip of the spear” in his immoral quest to become a regional hegemon by 2035 and global hegemon by 2049. The 100th anniversary of the CCP, Chinese Communist Party is symbolic for a variety of reasons. Even the name CCP is meaningless these days due to Xi’s China, not even remotely resembling a communist state. Xi is a ruthless dictator of a system called the CCP but is more in line with the “Legalism” of ancient China.
As described in a deep dive of Chinese, Narrative Warfare, I researched and wrote a couple of years ago, the following quote best describes Xi’s intentions and it’s surely nothing like Communism.
“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.”
I have written often and in-depth on the topic of the Chinese threat, both in research and here at TAT. The shortest version of the threat is that via the BRI, Xi will, if he remains on track and well-enough resourced to achieve his will control most of the primary corridors of commerce, transit, communications etc. He has a very large head-start due to the US and other primary powers failing to devise a strategy to overcome Xi’s head-start.
This long background section leads us to one of Xi’s targeted regions that will play an important role in GPC in the future… the Arctic. To a lesser extent, Antarctica is in a similar, but less decisive role.
Let’s now take a look at why the Arctic matters so critically.
The threat from Xi, in the Arctic
Prior to our advanced stage of global warming, the Arctic was a far less significant player in global, geo-politics. China has built, soft-power inroads into most EU nations and especially some critical ones in regard to Arctic commercial sailing routes. I recommend skimming through the embedded link to a current and excellent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Think Tank. It’s interactive and lays out a succinct understanding to some of the key points, in this TAT.
After Putin invaded his sovereign neighbor Ukraine, the Arctic situation has changed dramatically. China coined the term, “near Arctic State” a few years ago so that they could hold an “observer” role with the Arctic Council, the governing body of the Arctic. China is some 900miles south of the Arctic Circle, but their near Arctic Statehood has worked the same way a bunch of 7th graders use to worm their way into a popular clique at school. They are sticking their noses into everyone else’s business as well.
Since Putin’s genocidal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military’s spectacular unraveling has changed the calculations of the actual Arctic states. Prior to Ukraine, Putin was seen by most, including China as somewhat of a dependable partner for security and a peer. This no longer is true, and Putin has put Russia into a position that makes them more of a tributary state than a peer. Remember that it is part of Xi narrative that all nations eventually become tributary states of Han China. Xi told us where he’s going and, in most cases, how he will get there. We have not paid nearly enough attention.
Putin can no longer achieve anything resembling victory in Ukraine, and the odds for Putin’s survival at home, has taken an ominous turn for the worst. In the mob mentality of Russian oligarchy, Putin’s base, Putin owes Xi a big favor for coming to his rescue. This also changes the calculus of all of the major players involved in GPC. Modi’s India is a prime example due to their support for Putin.
This indirectly puts Modi in the role of partially supporting Xi rather than being his biggest competitor on the continent. The shortest way to express this complication is that two of the world’s biggest economies are both supporting Putin. All three are major nuclear powers with large standing armies. Two are decidedly anti US/ anti West. Modi is a wildcard that I professionally have less faith in than does the US government. Modi’s version of India has shown themselves to be far less than dependable regarding Putin’s threats.
India has long considered themselves to be “non-aligned.” This hasn’t actually been true for decades. India has been far more aligned with Russia than most realized. They share roughly 60% of the weapon systems with Russia. They are fully dependent on anyone who will sell them oil that drives the manufacturing that makes them a serious competitor to Xi. Next door in Pakistan, India’s longtime sworn enemy, now enjoys massive Chinese support sue to being the so-called “crown jewel” of Xi’s BRI.
Nearly every paragraph in today’s TAT would be worthy of a deep dive on the Chinese threat but as we can see, the more we know, the more serious the threats become and not just from Xi. Destabilization on the Asian continent could easily tank the global economy. War on the continent would makes things drastically worse for everyone than just destabilization. This by default means that soft power, the essence of GPC, is king. Currently, soft power is a skill that we are only now, beginning to relearn. I would argue that winning in the Arctic could be an important early step in the trek towards a stable and equitable resolution to the aftermath of Russia’s defeat and Xi’s insatiable quest to rule the world.
Competing successfully in the Arctic denies Xi something that he must have for success, a guaranteed option via Russia, to controlling the Arctic. Again, the issue of a recognized and effective RBIO, rules-based, international order comes into play. Like our NSS, National Security Strategy clearly states, it is a world of responsible law-abiding states, working together that keeps soulless aggressors like Putin and Xi at bay. Neither can take on the world alone but with the budding unity between Russia and China, controlling the voluminous Arctic resources like oil, gas, fishing, commercial shipping routes, strategic basing sites, etc. the world is at risk. Practicing soft power effectively in the Arctic is an achievable and valuable strategy at the moment, but also an opportunity that won’t last forever.
Very little but Putin’s nuclear arsenal, oil and location, interest Xi at this point and China in the Arctic, runs the risk of global destabilization. In all other ways, Putin is worthless to everyone, but even nobodies can do damage when aligned with serial aggressors like Xi. Sadly, the US and many allies have allowed their soft-power, essential skills, to atrophy from lack of use. This is another long and complex topic that can be better understood via the embedded link. They all, in some manner or other, still “fight the last war.”
As Ukraine has shown us all, fighting the last war is a losing proposition in modern times. Influence, technology, superior command and control and all manner of new weapons, are the future. In war, it’s literally a case of, “evolve or die.” This sounds hyperbolic, but there are now over one hundred thousand Russian troops who have learned that this is hardly hyperbole. Maybe a more tasteful phrase would be a quote from perennial favorite of mine, Albert Einstein:
As far as Xi’s BRI threats, some of my writing on this can be found below at the bulleted links:
Godzilla's partnership with King Kong? - by Paul Cobaugh (truthaboutthreats.com)
Seeing Xi's China threat, clearly, - by Paul Cobaugh (truthaboutthreats.com)
A look at Xi's Narrative of Ascencion, via narrative analysis (truthaboutthreats.com)
The roadmap to mitigating Xi’s aggression is called: “Using the BRI as a non-kinetic, Targeting Diagram. (truthaboutthreats.com)
Part II, Denying Xi, his worst instincts - by Paul Cobaugh (truthaboutthreats.com)
Declawing Pooh or... stopping the threat from Xi's global aggression (truthaboutthreats.com)
All my best for everyone’s week,