The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 24, 2007

Is China preparing for war with U.S.?


All eyes in Washington are focused on the Middle East as the war there continues, the troop surge in Iraq nears its climax and the ever-elusive Osama bin Laden, assuming he’s still alive, continues to evade capture. Iran is rattling its sword and the hawks in Washington are demanding satisfaction. The 2008 election countdown has started and politicians on both sides of the aisle have begun the traditional blame game of finger pointing, name calling and jockeying for political advantage. The American political process is once again paralyzed by the politicians’ lust to retain power. Forget the business of running the nation; there’s an election to be won! And so it will go until November of next year.

Meanwhile, in a country far, far away, the political, military and economic downfall of the United States is being planned by an intelligent, patient, industrious enemy who hopes never to fire a shot in anger, yet fully expects to win. Its goal: To replace the United States as the world’s reining superpower. The war, by all indications, may have already begun.

China’s grasp of history

China counts its history in millennia. It has seen enemies come and go, yet one thing remains constant – China continues. Why should the Chinese expect America to be different from their enemies of yore? Chinese politicians and military officers study history. They know the writings of Sun Tzu, a legendary warrior-philosopher whose 6th century BC military treatise “The Art of War” is mandatory reading for military officers worldwide.

Sun Tzu has dozens of notable quotes, but the greatest may be, “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

The Chinese may have already begun a campaign to subdue the United States following Sun Tzu’s model. As Sun Tzu said, you can subdue an enemy without fighting. In fact, it is best to win without having to go to war. Some would argue that this is what diplomacy is about. Certainly, diplomacy is part of the strategy, but there is far more to the Chinese game plan.

Reflecting Sun Tzu’s philosophy, many recent Chinese writings have focused on asymmetric warfare as a means of defeating a militarily superior enemy. Asymmetric warfare uses political, economic, informational and military power. Military power is the least emphasized.

A different kind of war

Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, two colonels in China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army, published a treatise in 1999 titled “Unrestricted Warfare.” The treatise was not an official publication of the Chinese government, but it was published by the official PLA publishing house, indicating at least some degree of acceptance. “Unrestricted Warfare” contains chilling instructions on how to defeat an enemy using asymmetric attacks in such a manner that the enemy may not even realize they are under attack until it is too late to respond effectively. The techniques they describe include cyber warfare, attacks against financial institutions and critical infrastructure, terrorism, manipulating the media, biological warfare, chemical warfare and a variety of other ruthless methods.

Developments since “Unrestricted Warfare” was published seem to suggest that China may be waging such warfare today. China now faces many of the same problems that Germany faced in the buildup to World War II. Like Nazi Germany, China has a booming economy, a growing population and a hunger for energy and other resources to fuel its economic growth.

The Germans needed to expand their “lebensraum” (living space) to attain the natural resources needed to fuel their economy. China appears to be implementing a sort of “lebensraum” program of its own. As the United States was engaged in returning the Panama Canal Zone to Panama, China was busy establishing a beachhead there. Through land deals with Panama, the Chinese have gained control of both ends of this critical waterway, today controlling port facilities in Balboa, the canal's only Pacific port, and a major Atlantic port in Cristobol. The agreements allow China to run them for the next half-century.

China’s hunger for natural resources

China also is stretching out to grasp resources needed to fuel its economy. In January 2005, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (no friend of the U.S.) and Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong signed 19 agreements covering oil, agriculture and technology. These included five agreements between Venezuela and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. In 2006 China signed an oil exploration agreement with Nigeria, one of the largest oil exporters to America. Today China is conducting a diplomatic “love-in” across Africa.

The BBC reported in January 2006 that there were an estimated 700 Chinese-funded ventures in Africa. Many are in the fields of energy and natural resources, including oil and gas development, copper, cobalt, coal and gold mining. Unlike many Western powers whose diplomatic policies prevent or restrict dealing with ruthless regimes, China has no qualms about making deals with repressive governments having human rights issues. The Chinese are busy cutting deals to gobble up resources in such countries in Africa. For example, the U.S. Public Broadcasting System reported in April 2006 that China imports 10 percent of its oil from Sudan. Not surprisingly, China has worked diligently in the U.N. Security Council to water down potential punitive measures against Sudan, thereby helping to prolong the Darfur crisis.

Cuban oil is in China’s crosshairs as well. While environmentalists continue to block offshore drilling along Florida’s coastline, China is moving to capitalize on Cuba’s oil potential. In February 2005 the Havana Journal reported that Cuba’s Ministry of Basic Industry announced that the Cuba Oil Company (Cubapetroleo) signed a production contract with the China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (SINOPEC) to explore areas around Cuba believed to contain petroleum deposits. The agreement means that while Americans continue to squabble about the wisdom of offshore drilling in Florida, the Cubans and Chinese are beginning exploration some 50 miles from the Florida coastline.

China recently has begun to extend its oil search into the Caspian Sea region of Asia. The German army pushed towards the Caspian oil fields in the summer of 1942, nearly reaching the Soviet oil center of Grozny before the attack faltered. You may recall Grozny is the embattled capital of the Russian region of Chechnya, where Russia has fought against a violent Islamic separatist movement for nearly 10 years. Grozny today is an important transit route and confluence for petroleum pipelines coming out of the Caspian oil fields headed towards Europe. Although in this instance the immediate impact is on Europe, China’s thirst for oil is affecting global oil markets and forcing prices higher.

‘Loot a burning house’

Can China succeed in bringing America to its knees without firing a shot? It is not inconceivable given today’s global situation.

Sun Tzu said, “Loot a burning house.” By this he meant kick your enemies when they are down. How is China doing this? By arming America’s global adversaries and attacking the U.S. economy.

North Korea, a thorn in the sides of President Bush and former President Clinton, is overflowing with Chinese arms. North Korea’s nuclear program and missile tests in the Sea of Japan have caused President Bush great consternation. Fortunately, recent diplomatic efforts by the Bush Administration appear to have put an end to Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons, but at great cost in aid paid to the North Korean regime.

Meanwhile, China is arming the Middle East and other potential hot spots. In February 2004 the Washington Post reported that Chinese nuclear weapons design plans provided to Pakistan made it into the hands of Libya. CNN later reported that China was concerned about these allegations and was conducting an investigation. The Pentagon reported in May 2007 that Chinese-made armor-piercing missiles fell into the hands of anti-American militants in Iraq. It is assumed the missiles came through Iran.

The Iranians, who have nuclear ambitions of their own, depend upon Chinese and North Korean technology to keep their nuclear missile delivery program moving forward. The Iranians also have purchased sophisticated Chinese cruise anti-ship missiles that can be employed to interdict the free flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation suggested in September 2006 that China is providing Iran diplomatic cover for its nuclear ambitions in exchange for lucrative oil and gas deals.

In January 2002, the Congressional Research Service published a report titled “China: Possible Missile Technology Transfer from U.S. Satellite Export Policy.” The report chronicles how in 1996, after a series of NASA satellite launch failures, the Clinton administration moved export control of commercial satellite technology from the State Department to the Department of Commerce. China subsequently launched numerous American satellites into orbit. A New York Times exposé in 1998 prompted a criminal investigation into whether Loral Space and Communications Ltd. and Hughes Electronics Corporation, both parties to the Chinese satellite launches, had provided technology information to the Chinese which enhanced their ballistic missile technology and ergo their nuclear weapons delivery capability. A subsequent congressional investigation produced the classified Cox Report in December 1998, indicating that indeed China’s military capabilities had benefited from U.S. exports for the past 20 years, including the launching of American communications satellites.

China recently has extended its realm of influence closer to the U.S. border. In July 2006, the conservative Web site Human Events reported that China has been working actively to developing North American Free Trade Agreement ports in Mexico. Using the economic shield of the NAFTA agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada, China can avoid U.S. tariffs by shipping Chinese manufactured goods through Mexico into the United States. The plan reportedly could reduce Chinese transportation costs to the United States by as much as 50 percent and could flood the U.S. market with more cheap Chinese goods, further weakening the struggling U.S. dollar.

China’s high-tech military developments in the field of cyber warfare also are alarming. The technology Web site ZDNet News reported in November 2005 that U.S. officials had revealed details of Chinese computer hacking attacks against the U.S. government. The Chinese reportedly obtained information about Falconview, the flight-planning software used by the U.S. Army and Air Force. Such information could be used to help interdict U.S. flight operations against Chinese forces in a future conflict. The PLA has also developed a sizable force of professional computer hackers trained to disrupt the computer networks of China’s enemies. Potential targets include banking and electronic commerce networks and electric power grids, transportation networks and oil and gas pipelines, all of which are at least partially controlled by computers through SCADA systems (short for Systems Control and Data Acquisition).

The situation today

Today, the United States finds itself in an untenable position with China. American industry’s compulsion for outsourcing manufacturing to cheap overseas labor markets has resulted in American stores being glutted with shoddy Chinese products while the American manufacturing base that was once the envy of the world is vanishing. The situation has become so serious that a number of congressmen are formulating a political plank based upon revamping the U.S. manufacturing base.

The Chinese, in turn, have enacted tariffs against many American goods. The U.S. government has accused China of manipulating the value of the Chinese currency, the yuan, in international currency markets to give Chinese exports an unfair advantage in U.S. markets. The Chinese have tied the yuan’s value to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate. China regulates its import market and the exchange of foreign currency with an iron fist in order to keep the yuan strong against the dollar. In the process of supporting the yuan, China has purchased more than $1 trillion in U.S. debt through international markets.

Today the Chinese appear ready to foreclose on the United States. In recent days the Chinese have hinted they may flood the international market with dollars to force the dollar value down. The mere suggestion sent U.S. stocks tumbling. President Bush responded that China would be foolhardy to act in such a manner. But what is to stop the Chinese? The Federal Reserve was forced to release billions in U.S. dollar reserves to calm the jittery markets.

Conflict looms in the Taiwan straits

The Pentagon has been warning about a Chinese military buildup for years. In November 2005 the Christian Science Monitor reported on this buildup. The Monitor stated that about 15 percent of the PLA’s 2 million-man force has been converted into a modern, highly mobile force designed to conduct rapid operations against smaller foes. The military buildup includes amphibious ships capable of transporting and landing military ground forces by sea.

What is the ultimate purpose of this buildup? Taiwan of course! Such an operation against Taiwan would involve highly mobile airborne and amphibious forces, naval and air operations to secure the Taiwan straits, and a massive missile and cyber warfare attack aimed at paralyzing Taiwan’s ability to react.

With the U.S. bogged down in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the time is quickly approaching when the Chinese will be able to deal a strategic death blow against Taiwan with impunity. This could be the death knell for U.S. superpower status. Already alienated from many of its traditional allies as a result of the war in Iraq, a Chinese attack on Taiwan would reveal the extent of the United States’ military’s weakened state and the inability of the U.S. government to stand by its alliances and obligations.

Food for thought

Not worried about China? Then here’s some food for thought: A series of recent China-related events, all potentially tied to asymmetric warfare against the United States, warrant close observation. These include toxic gluten in pet food, antifreeze in toothpaste, lead paint on toys, toxic levels of formaldehyde on pajamas, the recall of hundreds of thousands Chinese-manufactured tires in the United States for safety concerns … and the list goes on.

Potential problems with imported Chinese-produced foodstuff are particularly worrisome, as are the joint Russian-Chinese military exercises that recently took place for the first time in history. Coincidence? Maybe. Unrelated? Maybe. Worth watching? Certainly.

As Sun Tzu said, “All war is deception.”

Is China already at war with America?

Zachary Hubbard is a retired Army officer residing in Upper Yoder Township, Cambria County. He holds a master’s degree in military art and science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Since 1998 he has been involved in the study and teaching of asymmetric warfare. Hubbard is a member of The Tribune-Democrat Readership Advisory Committee.