The Book and the Context
The psychological dent that India suffered post Sino-Indian War of 1962 is likely to have somewhat healed the way it stood to China in Ladakh stand-off in which the latter seems to have disengaged looking worse off.
However, China is making relentless and remorseless concerted effort at world domination by trying to relegate America and Western world behind. It is unlikely to ignore a resurgent India which it needs to keep at bay.
Ladakh at the moment seems to have backfired and we do not know as to if and when China will indulge in a conventional warfare and in which varied form!
Post Ladakh stand-off, news had been coming of Shenzen-based Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co. Limited with links to Chinese government indulging in personal data collection related to about ten thousand top Indian persons.
We had other news related to possible Chinese cyber attack on Indian stock market. It unexpectedly did not function for sometime or similar attack on the national electric grid which caused power cuts in Mumbai though the latter was denied by the Indian government. These are possible recent instances of Chinese hybrid warfare though such moves being silent and covert are usually difficult to definitively attribute to the perpetrator and it is always easier for the latter to deny.
The fundamental point is that in addition to conventional military warfare, India remains vulnerable to China's highly developed hybrid warfare!
Further, to make matter more serious for India, the fact stands that China is past-master in the Hybrid Warfare which it seems to have evolved to near-perfection over the decades. This is an additional potent arrow in its quiver which India and more importantly common Indians need to realise as it is often played out through a variety of means at the 'war-theatre' constituted of people. Mind-space itself becomes the battle- ground of opposing sentiments, ideas, interests and ideologies often cleverly planted by the targeting nation to mould the same in its favour.
It involves non-state actors like terrorists, support to insurgencies, social media by, say, fomenting riots and agitations or demoralising the targeted nation through disparaging literature or information or even films.
Cyber warfare is another dangerous means growing in importance and constitutes an important element of what is popularly called as the fifth-generation warfare. Even American intelligence acknowledges that China is ahead of them in this area.
Hybrid warfare is substantially based on the philosophy of the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu as enunciated in his book The Art Of War. He held that in addition to the conventional warfare which included military engagements, indirect methods were also needed to bring down the enemy. It should be a case of defeating the enemy without conventional fighting by taking advantage of the enemy's internal weaknesses! To quote him: "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
China has also been influenced by another book of recent publication "Unrestricted Warfare " written by compatriots Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui enunciating masterplan to destroy America. As the latter is strong in technological - conventional warfare,the options available with China are to go in for the winning war combination taken from trade,finance ,terrorism,ecology,media,technology , even drugs and so on.
With such serious implications of less understood Hybrid Warfare which has brought the war to the level of common masses of the targeted country and China having largely perfected this craft including means as expanded above,the review of the well acclaimed book named "Hidden Hands :Exposing How The Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping The world " by the author Clive Hamilton provides very useful insight into the type of concerted Hybrid Warfare that China is indulging in.
While Hamilton has written in the context of the Western world and Northern America which hold the leading global economic and political powers , there can be very useful learning for India -which at present and potentially remains vulnerable to it .
As the author observes:"The what,why and how of the CCP's influence,interference and subversion in North America and Western Europe(hereafter the West)is the subject of this book .But it's important to keep in mind that the CCP enterprise is geared towards reordering the entire world ,and that while the form varies ,the experience of the West is very similar to that of countries around the globe."
China is into this hybrid warfare in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and other parts of the world as well which it wants to dominate and wean them over to its own purpose in the tussle for pre-eminence in the global order. Methods and means are adapted to suit the specific contexts but the overall strategic objective remains the same."Using the countryside to surround the cities "remains the purpose.
For those who have not heard of Clive Hamilton, he is an Australian author and academician.His books in addition to the present one include Silent Invasion,Growth Fetish,Requiem for a Species:Why We Resist The Truth About Climate Change and Defiant Earth.He is a Professor at Charles Stuart University in Canberra and has held visiting academic positions at the University of Oxford and Yale University .His articles have been published in the prestigious Foreign Affairs,The Guardian ,The New York Times and so on .
In this seminal work ,the author has made an exhaustive study of the way China or rather the Chinese Communist Party often in the garb of Chinese Government has in a highly well co-ordinated and concerted multi -pronged move substantially succeeded in moulding the public discourse and action within democratic institutions ,economic and political elites of these Western democratic countries and America to sub-serve its political ,economic and overall geostrategic interests for becoming the most leading world power pushing America behind . China under President Xi Jinping is using its tremendous economic resources and technology with a lot of diplomatic guile and deception which the latter were slow to see through.
Differing Perception of the Economic Relationship
The West and America on their part, guided by political gullibility coupled with economic greed have remained oblivious of or underplayed their weakening aspects of the geostrategic and security position in the relationship .For them business was business unlike for China which used it to sub-serve overarching objectives related to world domination.
A fairly large section of the elite , particularly those who have economically benefited from the Chinese connection had the self-serving avowal that the Chinese economic and political integration with world order would gradually lead to their playing the game by the hitherto established rules of global order and the totalitarian regime would gradually but eventually give way to liberal democratic institutions.Whatever justifiable optimism was
there in some such quarters has been belied as situation has worsened much further under President Xi with increased totalitarianism within and blatant aggression without while violating international norms to suit its purposes !
Recent developments in Hongkong , violation of maritime laws as well as threatening postures in East and South China Seas , cynical exploitation of the vulnerabilities of other countries due to what is widely believed to be Wuhan Virus and what looks like an impending attack on Taiwan in not too distant future to merge it with China present compelling counter narrative against it.
According to the author China continues to remain totalitarian as it has always been and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) behind the facade of the Chinese Government , calls all the major shots.Unlike the Western world, the distinction between the Government and the Party is blurred with the latter driving the agenda to make China the pre-eminent power.
Also large Chinese Corporates act subservient to and align themselves to the objectives of the Party .Hence, when large Corporates enter into financial deals with the outside world the same have to serve the strategic interests of China while for the West or America it is just a financial deal and usually apolitical in objective . This has been a grave mistake committed by the latter in the context of China.
Author warns the western world not to be smug about the traditional belief that democracies are politically sustainable systems while the communist totalitarian systems tend to eventually collapse due to their own contradictions and,hence, may be allowed to run their course out . He opines:'Democratic systems have proven to be more fragile than imagined ,and are vulnerable to the new weapons of political warfare now deployed against them '.
A democratic country which otherwise takes pride in its diversity that often enough degenerates into deep dissensions and divisiveness ,is an easy target for such hybrid warfare . Its liberal system which encourages debate and right to dissent finds itself less self- aligned and at times internally acting at cross- purposes when pitted against a determined and almost completely aligned totalitarian country like China !One can see the difference in diametrically opposed policies of Donald Trump and Joe Biden with people rallying behind them staunchly and raucously!
Indeed ,a liberal system that goes with democratic norms provides unintended political and legal shield to such hidden elements thereby making their job easier. Thus, a concerted and spirited response to effectively neutralise the stratagems of the targeting country like China is lacking and inherently difficult to muster for countries like America or Western Europe.
Interestingly ,the author Hamilton holds: "Ignorance explains some of the difficulties the West is having in coming to grips with the threat of the CCP,as does the fact that it has not previously had to contend with such an adversary --with deep economic relationship."
When the Western world and the USA are being deemed as ignorant, it is a warning bell for a country like India in addition to others to understand the geostrategic game that China plays and how to be able to counter it.
Indeed in one of the interviews with Nitin Gokhale of respected StratnewsGlobal , the author Hamilton wished that someone in India should write a book about the China's inroads into this country.
As one may observe, India thinks of China mostly in terms of conventional military warfare largely oblivious of the vulnerabilities of hybrid warfare being waged against it.The same is still not a part of general public or political discussion and popular imagination.
Some Important Segments:
The author goes into the different important segments of the Western society and how the same have been influenced by China to the latter's advantage .Some of those are dealt with below.
Mentioning the overall objective being followed doggedly, the author states: "The Chinese Communist Party is determined to transform the international order,to shape the world in its own image ,without a shot being fired.Rather than challenging from outside,it has been eroding resistance to it from within ,by winning supporters ,silencing critics and subverting institutions."
Incidentally unlike India,none of these Western or North American countries share border with China thereby substantially reducing the possibility of a conventional military warfare.Complex and evolving Hybrid Warfare becomes the viable natural option for China which can be waged from a distance for a long period as a 'continuum'.
'The Dark Arts of Economic Statecraft’
China is using what the author calls as 'the dark arts of economic statecraft ' due to its large economy . The growing dependence of the Western world and America on the same to propel their own growth and prosperity has resulted in a fairly influential section of elites there to espouse the cause of China based on quite often specious arguments and self-interests.
Such elites are in the highest echelons of the economic and political power of the concerned country and lobby at the highest national level.Such individuals have generally worked for organisations which have deep economic links with China and earn huge profit from there. China also encourages some of these influential persons to hold top positions in the forums floated by it , at times jointly with the local entities in the countries concerned, under the beguilingly politically palatable aegis of peace,economic co-operation , think- tank and so on camouflaging its true strategic intentions. Such elites often benefit in prestige and also monetarily in the process.One example is the way the name of Hunter Biden who is the son of American President Joe Biden has repeatedly cropped up for having taken substantial monetary benefit from China . Author has given several other examples in the book.
On the economic front ,the game is being played out by China making the world increasingly more dependent on it economically, by punishing those individuals ,institutions and countries which do not fall in line with China's objectives and the well-known flagship Belt and Road Intiative (BRI) visualised and introduced by President Xi.
Through BRI China intentionally loosens the purse strings on liberal terms for the building of infrastructure like ports, roads and so on in other countries only to tighten the 'strings' into a noose when the recipient country fails to fulfil the terms of debt(so-called 'Debt Trap').It has been happening often enough now with the receiving countries having taken loans beyond their repaying capacity and also spending money on non-viable projects.
So many European countries and even Australia are now facing difficulties arising out of it.
To cite recent examples, on default in loan payment,SriLanka had to give China on lease for 99 years the strategically located port of Hambantota . In Kenya, fear of losing Mombasa port to China due to again default in debt payment has become a serious issue.
Unlike the European and other countries which particularly initially saw BRI as an economic activity , for China it has been a well thought- out political and strategic initiative with larger global ambition.Many of these countries seemed to realise late to wriggle out of the debt trap or negative security implications. Australia under the prime minister Scott Morrison is now strongly confronting China in regard to its BRI programmes in that country souring the relationship in the process.
Of late, even otherwise the relations between China on the one hand and Western Europe , America and Canada,on the other, have gone down. The latter's basic dilemma and compulsion are that they have grown so very much dependent on the large Chinese market for their prosperity and crucial supply chain that they are finding it difficult to severe the same without serious implications for their corporates and economy at large.
For example, to-day Wall Street heavily depends on China for its financial well being and is an important lobbyist for them! Goldman Sachs and J.P.Morgan find special mention in the book carrying forth the objectives of the CCP. Quite a few executives particularly of the former find their way to the top positions of the American President's team and there they advocate for the Chinese interests.China always approaches such financiers for guidance and if needed seek help to persuade the government.
Further , these financial institutions at the Wall Street provide employment to even non-deserving children and relatives of the CCP's senior functionaries as quid pro quo in order to curry favour.
'Sinicising' The United Nations
China has managed to increase its influence substantially within the United Nations to be able to manoeuvre several of its Organs in its own favour. Many member-countries are financially obliged to China.For example, the world witnessed severe criticism of World Health Organisation for showing bias in favour of China while dealing with what is often called as Wuhan Virus.
Likewise China is trying to strengthen its position with great success in most other global multilateral insitutions.
Hamilton states "Through international bodies the CCP can set technical standards,gain support for policies like BRI,insert 'Xi speak'into discussions ------and spread its alternative definitions of 'human rights', 'terrorism' and 'internet governance'.This makes these bodies ideal platforms for increasing the Party's 'global discourse'and for spreading the China model."
Exploiting Chinese Diaspora
China has a large diaspora outside the country and many of them are influential and wealthy. China is exploiting their position for its gain. Though there is nothing wrong in it,the distinctive element is that China uses coercive methods with the Chinese staying abroad when they do not fall in line with the objectives to steal or share data, pass on IPR matters or present China in positive light in different local fora including educational institutions and universities. One of the ways employed by CCP to browbeat such Chinese people staying outside is to punish or torture their families who still might be there back in China.
To quote the author: "CCP's obective in the West is to 'induce,co-opt and coerce' those outside the Party for a united front that act in ways that suit the Party's interest. ---to use Chinese outside as according to Xi ,they are patriotic ,rich in capital ,talented .--- Chinese population is
relatively large and successful..".
In addition,with growing prosperity,China sends a very large number of students to the outside Universities particularly in the USA and the West. Indeed, many of these universities over a period of time have developed financial dependence on such outside students which heavily includes Chinese.
CCP exploits the same to its advantage.Many of these students end up spying for China or reporting any China-adverse comment given by a fellow Chinese student or local academicians.Some of these research scholars in prestigious universities have been known to steal confidential details. A part of these students or research scholars have links with PLA (People's Liberation Army) which again is under the control of the Party CCP. The American FBI holds that there are large number of open cases related to Chinese technology theft.
(View Expressed here is by Pradeep Kumar Sinha, a JNU alumnus)
(Pradeep Sinha can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Part 2 To be continued----)