China: What is to be done?

China: What is to be done? By Andrew Hastie.

War is not won when the enemy is defeated on the battlefield, but when the enemy’s will to fight is extinguished. Often their will collapse after a decisive battle. But maybe their will can be subverted other than by battle? And maybe we are the enemy, and communism and China are bending our will to its end?

The Prussian military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, likened war to a duel between two wrestlers — a contest of wills — with resolution arising when one party is forced to submit to the will of the other through overwhelming force. …

As he wrote forcefully: “Our conviction that only a great battle can produce a major decision is founded not on an abstract concept of war alone, but also on experience. Since time began, only great victories have paved the way for great results.” …

Today, however, this strategic culture has not prepared us to understand the threats that manifest themselves in the middle ground between war and peace in the 21st century. It has diminished our peacetime statecraft, fostering a culture of passivity and wishful thinking as modern great power competition begins to reshape the world order.

As a result, we are surprised to discover that authoritarian regimes like the Russian Federation or the People’s Republic of China conduct hybrid and political warfare operations in the pursuit of strategic objectives, exploiting the norms and global peace built by the United States and its allies out of the ruins of the Second World War. ..’

The problem is primarily an intellectual one: we are unfamiliar with the strategic culture of our opponents, which emphasises subversion, and ignorant of our own Western assumptions and traditions. …

Cultural Marxism lures our young into the communist camp and destroys the traditional strengths of western society, while overtly communist states steal our technology and subvert our politics.

The holistic approach developed by Lenin, and built upon by Stalin and Xi, is being pursued today, albeit it is now facilitated by advances in technology. Western societies are the targets of subversive operations, with state actors weaponising and amplifying the divisions natural to democracy. Domestic and international politics, for the Marxist-Leninist, are different expressions of the same revolutionary policy. The conceptual wall separating war and peace was replaced by the idea of continuous struggle.

The revolutionaries argued that all of life is political, inverting Clausewitz’s dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other means. …

Authoritarian states have weaponised previously benign activities like diplomacy, media, investment flows, infrastructure development, and foreign asset purchases. University campuses have become the modern battlegrounds of covert influence and interference. These activities complement more aggressive forms of subversive warfare such as intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, cyber-attacks, and espionage. All these activities advance the efforts of authoritarian regimes to undermine the West. …

WWII, then the Cold War. Now the present struggle has resumed the same old fight:

Democracies need to prepare for the long haul – and to pay a price. Countering and defeating authoritarian political warfare is likely to require sustained effort and spending over several decades – and it will require difficult decisions to be made. As such, democracies need to recalibrate the management of strategic risks and costs associated with this.

We have entered a new era of great power competition between authoritarian and democratic states.

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