It’s more important than ever to understand China and to keep abreast of events there. China expert, Joshua Philipp from the Epoch Times’ Crossroads gives an insightful report about the conflicts the CCP is facing on several fronts; within its own party ranks, with its neighbors on its borders and with its trading partners, many of whom they seek to indebt via their Belt and Road Initiative.
Listening to Philipp’s report and his interview with General Robert Spalding about the infiltration and subversion tactics of the CCP induces a shock of recognition. One is instantly reminded of all the asymmetrical warfare we’ve lived through during the past 4 years.
Joshua Philipp: The Chinese Communist party is facing pressure from its own people, from countries around the world and from individual factions within its own ranks. Its strategy to respond to all of this has been to double down, to become more hostile and more aggressive and all signs are suggesting that this strategy is having the opposite effect. So in other words, its programs on this are backfiring and its strategy on this is failing.
Now, we’ve been seeing a lot of news about the Chinese Communist Party’s programs for espionage, its different aggressions and the broader context of how this fits in with its systems of unconventional warfare. To learn more about this, we’ve invited retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Spalding to speak with us.
Spalding is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of ‘Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept’. He’s also a former China strategist for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, as well as a Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché to China.
So, General Spalding, it’s a real pleasure having you back on Crossroads…Now, we’ve recently seen several professors and researchers being charged for their involvement in Chinese espionage and the Department of Education is now heavily investigating CCP espionage in American universities. When it comes to the CCP targeting our universities, how big of an issue is this?
General Spalding: Well, it’s a big issue and I think it just goes to the central threat of the Chinese Communist Party and that is not an invasion from the sky or from the sea or from the land. It’s really about undermining our society from within. It’s an invasion of the mind. And the first place that you go if you want to change people’s minds is to the university system. So it is kind of the front lines of the battlefield that they choose to operate on.
Joshua Philipp: What are some of the different uses the CCP gets from subverting our universities?
General Spalding: I think one of the things that they’re trying to do is create space for their narrative to blossom. They want to create an opportunity to have a dialogue that is oriented to the perspectives that these students are gaining in these universities and they want to be able to have their narrative be plug-and-play into the system that they’ve already adopted as students in the university system…and they want to mold their minds to be able to accept future messages.
Joshua Philipp: The Chinese Communist Party has a military branch dedicated to political warfare, which is the Liaison Office of the General Political Department. We’ve seen several cases now of the CCP financing news outlets and think tanks in the United States. Would it be accurate to say this ties to the CCP’s programs for political warfare? And how do you see the CCP waging political warfare?
General Spalding: Well, I think all the traditional ways apply, of politics, in terms of what the Chinese Communist Party is doing but I think that interesting thing that they bring, that’s really a modern twist on Mao’s “People’s War” strategy is really the fact that they can leverage data.
The connectivity that comes with the global Internet and globalization, the connection between social media and e-commerce and regular media; there’s a lot of people that talk about cross-platform promotion of ideas and that’s essentially the environment that was purpose-made for a regime like the Chinese Communist Party, that sees control of the narrative and creating understanding of what they want to do in a way that promotes their interest is the really the high point of the way they look at warfare.
So, Amazon and Google and Facebook have petabytes of data that they can use algorithms on to slowly enculturate and influence their members. This is a tool that the Chinese Communist Party basically has adopted, wholesale. And really, it’s the reason they created the Great Firewall. It gives them the bastion, behind which they can essentially indoctrinate their own population.
At the same time, they can deploy these apps, services and business models abroad, to not only make money for companies, like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent but use those same companies to create a fertile environment for their ideology to spread.
Joshua Philipp: The Chinese regime is getting more aggressive in its territorial claims, including its border conflicts with India and in the South China Sea. We’re seeing now, however that many countries are taking a stronger stance against it. What do you think the trajectory of this is?
General Spalding: I think that’s going to continue. I think it’s a part of the nature of the regime. I think it’s specifically tied to Xi Jinping, who sees territorial issues as his legacy. We’re going to have to continue to essentially push back against it. Coercion and bullying in the international space is something that we’ve been dealing with for a long time and I think we need to continue to work with allies and partners to prevent.
But ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to lead to heightened conflict and that’s because of the presence of nuclear weapons in the equation. So, I think you’re going to see that as a feature going forward. I think the United States needs to work to prevent that and ameliorate that but at the same time, the real focus of what the Chinese are trying to do is really in the ideological, the political, the Internet space, that really drives so much of our society in politics today.