KEY TAKE AWAY.
• Italian Democracy and Chinese autocracy: the pro-China initiatives of Italian political decision-makers, starting from 2004 and developed in a historical continuum that has grown year by year, culminating with Italy’s adhesion to the infrastructure and geopolitical project Chinese Belt and Road Initiative in March 2019, are likely to place a service in favor of China and its autocratic regime in the Italian country system.
• The BRI’s Chinese infrastructure project is one of the vehicles of a pervasive Chinese political war strategy aimed to crystallize and consolidate the autocratic and totalitarian position of the President of the People’s Republic of China, both within China and within the international chessboards.
How and why Italy, but it would be better to specify Italy with its Northern Italy, productive heart of the country, has become the European center of contagion from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, coming from China, need to be deeply investigated.
The human being history and the structures he realized over time to satisfy own necessity to express his needs as ‘social being’ within an organized context, show how an event that affects and / or emerges in a single territory in a given period of time, it always has, without exception, connections with other events, which may not seem apparently linked. In most cases these links are highlighted only when they reach some level of maturity and come to everyone’s attention. And that’s how they become pages of history.
Just stay inactive waiting that they come true,it means acting at the mercy of a fatalistic approach to which many of us human beings sometimes devote ourselves, as if suffering were unavoidable. It is certainly true that the experience of suffering is part of the existence of the human beings, but it is also true that choosing it as an act of free will depends on each of us. It is not a mandatory choice. It depends on the actions we take, which generate consequences. This applies to individuals as well as to a country system.
The experience of the pandemic that we are all experiencing today could lead us to reflect and understand how we often act without evaluating the consequences of our actions. When this behavior is acted out by those who lead a Country, the issue becomes burning. Because if the choices are not prudent, they can bring an entire Country to the brink.
It is in this type of framework that analysis take place, and the geo – political ones are no exception to this rule; they serve to outline the profile of the interlocutors / Nations with which a Country interfaces, in order to consider possible points of contact to cultivate towards a common vision of relationships and alliances, as well as to assess risks, and therefore allow to prevent the deveolpment, in the short or medium / long term, of crisis scenarios and / or of a deterioration of pre-existing crises.
Far from turn on alarmism, and even less from nurturing imaginative theories and hypotheses, the analysis should not seek consensus or dissent, because complacent analysis towards a political orientation are blind analysi. They should be guided by intellectual honesty, because they are not elaborated on the basis of someone’s power, but on the basis of higher interests, including first of all the security of one’s Country and the rule of law, regardless of who is in a certain historical moment at the head of the Executive power of a Country.
The analysis are instruments, neutral, although as for all neutral elements they can be used either in the service of superior interests for the common good, or in a destructive way in the service of particularistic interests and / or ideologies. Their purpose is to provide not political arguments, but perspectives, which arise from data identification, put together in a system, and assessed in order to provide predictive indications.
Following this analysis system, the political decision-makers and not only them can take informed choices, in accordance with the protection of the strategic interests of their Country, choices oriented to the stability and security of their population, within not only a legislative framework respectful of the basic primary regulatory sources that regulate the life of the population, in Italy primarily the democratic Constitution, but even within an adequate and consistent framework of values.
When the political decision-makers choose not to adequately take into consideration elements relating to the national security of their population, despite reports of serious risks to their own population, choosing to rely on the contrary on potential economic improvements at the expense of security, because of their insufficient knowledge or because they choose to surround themselves with people who are not enough competent and / or honest, and sometimes for both reasons, thety assumed political responsibilities, not only burdensome, but dangerous and serious in their outcomes, because the scenario that inevitably takes shape is to make own Country a land of conquers by interferences and influences of foreign entities, without evaluating, either with science or with conscience, the possible impact in the short, medium and long term.
There are those who dispute some lines of analysis which highlight the risk for the internal security deriving from having commercial relations with at least ambiguous Countries in their often illegal management of their own power and Country. The dispute would rest its foundations on the fact that a Country should know how to weave commercial relationships with everyone, no one excluded. It’s necessary some clarifications on this point.
Weaving trade and diplomatic relations means communicate. And every communication is in itself also conditioning and mutual influence. In economic and diplomatic dynamics this is a normal process, as well as a known one. The problem arises when communication, economic agreements and diplomatic relations choose the way to ignore or omit, deliberately or for lack of diligence, characteristics of one’s interlocutor with whom one is negotiating relationships and potential agreements, making it a commercial partner, not seeing and / or omitting not only its predatory peculiarities but the fact that it acts deeply within a value and regulatory context, when not radically different from ours, often and willingly along paths of illegality and / or deliberate suppression of fundamental rights for civilian living.
When economic and diplomatic ties exist or are tightened with Countries whose value system and the relative regulatory system is not democratically oriented, or is clearly placed outside the framework of the rules we have instead consolidated, the security of own Country runs extremely serious risks. The agreements that are presumed, or that someone wants to convince are just economic and commercial become economic-political and strategic, and impact on the daily life of citizens, as well as on global balances.
What leaves bewildered and raises many questions about Italy’s clear opening choices towards China in particular is the awareness that alarms on the possible violation of national security have been given, and since 2013. The Italian Security agencies have provided, argued, reiterated the risk assessments. The fact that they have been unheard by several governments, starting at least since 2014, is cause for further alarm.
In extremely practical terms it means that those who are dedicated to the security of our Country have not been listened by those who should make decisions for the good of the Country. It is clear that we are faced with a short circuit that generates ambivalence and that is an element of as much clear vulnerability of the Country.
This is what is happening to Italy, which sees itself not only affected as the epicenter in Europe of a pandemic, but which, from the indicators collected, risks becoming fertile ground for attempts to subversion of geo-political balances at European and global level, acted by foreign interference with the approval of the political class now in Government. Who is leveraging the current Italian vulnerability are some Countries that have built a strategic axis between them in recent years, using Countries and Continents far away from us, not very visible, not only to pursue their own interests, but also to develop and make sophisticated certain action strategies.
One of these countries is China. This contribution will focus in particular on the general overview of the Chinese infrastructure initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative, launched by President Xi Jinping and on the compliant friendly cooperation assumed by the Italian institutional decision-makers. Then, the contribution will outline the characteristics of Chinese Political warfare, in the three dimensions in which it is declined by the Chinese military doctrine. The next and subsequent contribution will instead analyze in detail the elements that mark out the autocracy of the Chinese regime of President Xi Jinping, related to his ideology that constitutes the current Chinese autocracy.
I.The Belt and Road Initiative: the Italy’s role and its approach to Xi Jinping’s China.
In 2015, China announces the launch of the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), an initiative presented as a massive project to build transportation and energy infrastructure that connects China, Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Beijing promotes the BRI as an economic policy with a dual narrative that impacts on the public opinion.
The suggestion, useful to lower the guard level of the interlocutors target Countries of Beijing, is given by the revival of the ancient commercial route of the Silk Road. The alleged inoffensiveness of the initiative is instead conferred by the strategic narrative of Beijing which, grafting it within a globalized world, conveys it as a tool to ‘promote globalization, interconnection and free trade through large-scale investments in the infrastructure field’ .
The “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) from an economic point of view is a colossal initiative, it foresees almost 1,000 projects that will connect about 70 countries, including China, in a reconstituted silk road, with the aim to create infrastructures in a number of Countries that include 4.5 billion people, three quarters of energy reserves and one third of the global gross domestic product, on an area equal to 35% of the globe. It is estimated that the financial needs to complete the projects could amount to $ 1 trillion dollars, some of which come from the China Development Bank, the Chinese Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank supported by China and the New Development Bank, a bank developed in collaboration between China, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa (the so-called BRICS states).
It is China’s most ambitious geo-economic and foreign policy initiative for decades. The Chinese goal is to recreate and strengthen two commercial routes, at land and sea level, capable of connecting China, Central Asia, the Middle East, Russia, Europe and Africa. There are six land corridors identified by the Chinese government: the new Eurasian land bridge; the China – Mongolia-Russia corridor; the corridor China – Central Asia – Western Asia; the China-Indochinese corridor; the China – Pakistan corridor; the Bangladesh – China – India – Myanmar corridor In addition to these corridors, two sea routes are identified: one route connecting the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean to the ports of the Mediterranean Sea, and the other route connecting the South China Sea with the South Pacific. According to the information available, a third one could be added to these two maritime routes, when the ice melting should favor the so-called “Polar Silk Road”.
Described by the Chinese as a choice of economic policy with a suggestive exotic aura that refers to the imaginary from the innocuous name of the ‘Silk Road’, China tries to present itself on the international chessboard as a responsible player, explicitly only interested in commercial relations, apparently distant from internal political events in the target Country.
At the contrary, there is no doubt that the BRI is in itself an aggressive project, acted by the autocratic China of President Xi Jinping, and reflects his growing desire to take on, maker for himself and for China, with a specific ideological significance, the role of decision institutional maker within the global economic governance, making China an important center of trade, investment and financial capital, inside and outside the region.
The BRI is therefore the Chinese vehicle for expanding, alongside its economic interests, the Chinese political and security interests and its influence abroad, cunningly insinuating itself into the social, cultural, financial, economic woven of the target Country and in this way building international political alliances. This foreign land also fully includes Europe, an important market for goods transported and exchanged along the BRI route.
China’s growing involvement in major infrastructure projects on the European continent has long raised concerns about the inevitable political links and potential implications for European security, also in consideration of the fact that the BRI project has been carefully examined for its characteristics of lack of transparency, promotion of corruption and the strategy already adopted by China to take on the debt of the target State with consequent violation of State sovereignty.
With particular reference to Italy, according to the information available, the indicators reveal not only a continuum but also a consolidation of collaborative choices towards China, by political decision-makers since 2014, up to today’s Government, and his stance in favor of what appears to be choices of ever greater complacent collaboration with China.
The chronology of the historical data can provide some indications.
1.In May 2013, during the Government led by the Prime Minister Gianni Letta (Democratic Party), after a collaboration started in 2011, Invitalia (National Agency for the attraction of investments and business development that operates, on behalf of the Government, and is a company 100% owned by the Ministry of Economy and Finance) initiates a new long-term strategic collaboration on foreign investment, between Italy and China. With a ‘qualitative leap in economic relations between the two countries’, as it was defined, and with an interlocution with the representatives of 4 Ministries (Economic Development, Infrastructure, Environment and Cultural Heritage) of the newly installed Letta’s Government (April 28, 2013 – February 22, 2014), the Department for Economic Planning of the Presidency Council, 9 trade associations (including ABI, Confindustria Small Industry, Confapi, Confitarma, Assoporti, Unione Interporti Riuniti) 15 companies (Enel Greenpower, Anas, Railway Network Italiana, Terna, etc.) and various institutions and organizations, such as the Bank of Italy, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, ENAC, the Electricity and Gas Authority, the China Development Bank (CDB), a Chinese financial giant, appointed by the Beijing government to coordinate Chinese investments all over the world, undertakes to draw up an investment planning document together with Invitalia, a sort of official guide to indicate to Chinese companies how and where investing in Italy.
Invitalia ‘s managing director at the time is Domenico Arcuri, who points out “That with the China Development Bank is a very important collaboration because it allows to reduce the times of selection and accompaniment for Chinese investors in Italy”
2.In the early months of 2014, between the government of Prime Minister Letta and the subsequent government led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (both from the Democratic Party), China projects its presence in Italy with significant operations:
-the transfer of 40% of Ansaldo Energia to Shanghai Electric for 400 million euros;
-the acquisition of 35% of Cdp Reti – a company that controls 30% of both the gas network of Snam and the electricity network of Terna – by State Grid of China, the largest utility in the world, for over 2 billion euros;
-the investment of over 2 billion by the People’s Bank of China to acquire a share of just over 2% in Eni as much as in Enel; other significant shares, around 2%, are held in Fiat Chrysler, Prysmian and Telecom Italia, while great interest is directed to the luxury sector: the Shenzhen Marisfrolg Fashion group has taken over the Krizia brand, Shandong Heavy Industry Group has entered Ferretti Yatch , Peter Woo has a share in Ferragamo.
3.In October 2014, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (Democratic Party) signed twenty agreements with Beijing for a total value of 8 billion euros, explaining the desire to start a great collaboration and partnership project with China, and making explicit the Chinese interest in Italian small and medium-sized enterprises. Among the main operations: 1) the axis between Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and the China Development Bank (Cdb) of 3 billion euros for joint investments in Italy and China; 2) a Memorandum between the Italian Strategic Fund (FSI) and the China Investment Corp for joint investments worth 1 billion; 3) an agreement between Enel and Bank of China, 4) an agreement between AgustaWestland (Finmeccanica group) and Beijing General Aviation, 5) an agreement between Intesa Sanpaolo and the Chinese import-export bank, 6) an agreement for the creation of a eco-park.
4.In 2017, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (Democratic Party) participated in the first Forum on the Belt and Road Initiative (known as BRI) in Beijing, representing Italy: the only Country leader among the G7 to do so, thus manifesting a clear Italian interest in carving out a place within this initiative.
5.On March 22, 2019, the Italian Government signs a Memorandum of Understanding (in short MoU) with China, an agreement strongly desired both by the current Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and by the 5-Stars Movement Party led by Luigi Di Maio, despite the opposition of the League led by Matteo Salvini and the substantial alarms sent by the Italian Security Information Department (in brief DIS) since 2013 and more recently in the first few months of 2019 reaffirmed by the Italian Security Agencies , as well as by the US Security Council.
6. According to the information available, in addition to the MoU, around 30 other parallel agreements were signed in March 2019, 10 with Italian companies and another 20 with institutions and public bodies. Among these, the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) would have signed an agreement with the Bank of China.
7.On 16 March 2020, in the midst of the SARS-CoV-2 health emergency, Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister, appointed as super-commissioner to manage the pandemic emergency just Domenico Arcuri, CEO of Invitalia (see above point 1).
While Domenico Arcuri’s positions regarding the risk assessments on Chinese investments by the Italian Security Information Department may have been comforting in the past (2013), it is true that the Commissioner who is co-managing together with the current Prime Minister the emergency phase of today’s pandemic that hits the productive heart of the Country, is also the one who signed in 2013 the first long-term strategic collaboration on foreign investment, between Italy and China, through Invitalia, which, as mentioned above, is the National agency for the attraction of investments and business development that operates on behalf of the Government, and it is a company 100% owned by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
It is therefore legitimate to ask what is the current orientation of the super-commissioner Arcuri towards China, to which he himself actually opened the doors, and if his current management in such a delicate phase, also from an economic point of view for the Country, is considering the current and future needs of our Country, actively acknowledging the alarms of the Security Information Department, or whether it is maintaining a friendly and compliant attitude towards China.
It certainly raises questions and concerns the choice fallen on Arcuri as super-commissioner, an appointment that is in fact part of a historical continuum in which Italy’s collaboration with China has increasingly expanded and dramatically consolidated.
In particular, the data show that the space time of consolidation of the Italy-China partnership developed throughout the XVII Legislature (2013-2018) which saw many Government crises follow, all resolved not with democratic elections but through the construction of agreements within the Parliament and which led to the Letta Government, then to the Renzi Government, and finally to the Gentiloni Government. The continuum then appears to have continued in the XVIII Legislature (now in progress) based on the 5-Stars Movement Party and League Party agreement, a coalition led by the current Prime Minister Conte ( a legislature during which the League had expressed its opposition to the MoU Italy – China ); this last legislature has already seen a Government crisis, which was also resolved without democratic elections, but through the construction of a new parliamentary agreement, which de facto moved the political center of gravity previously constituted by the 5-Stars Movement Party and League Party coalition, to the current coalition. 5-Stars Movement Party and Democratic Party coalition, maintaining the leadership of the current Prime Minister Conte.
It should be remembered that the entire XVII Legislature was led by the Democratic Party, with the actions mentioned above pro-China, and that the current 5-Stars Movement had and continues to support positions towards China. To date, there are no indicators that reveal divergent positions with respect to pro-China positions either by the Prime Minister or by the Democratic Party.
As result the whole current Government coalition, which can count on the support of the majority of the members of the Italian Parliament, does not take any distance from the previous friendly and collaborative approach with China, according with the information available.
We therefore have to ask ourselves today whether the choice of super-commissioner Arcuri arises, or does not arise, within the same intertwining of relations and involvement with China that began in 2014, and whether it is, or is not, the tangible sign of the intentions of the current Government to maintain its strategic interest to the East, despite apparent reassurances.
There are other elements that do not help to delineate a reassuring overview for the security of our Country, a Country that sees its political decision-makers basically falling back on Chinese policies. In particular:
-on March 5, 2020, in the midst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, in the secret ballot in Geneva, elections were held for the Director General of the United Nations agency that deals with intellectual property, the World intellectual property organization (WIPO).
-WIPO assists 193 States in the development of an international legal framework relating to intellectual property, capable of safeguarding the protection of intellectual property and defining tools for the resolution of disputes relating to violation of intellectual property.
-The elections held led to the victory of Daren Tang, who will begin his six-year term on October 1, 2020, replacing the current General Manager Francis Gurry.
-Information sources reveal how the Italian government led by the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte presented himself at least divided on the choice of the candidate. In particular, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio (5-Stars Movement) seems to have supported the candidacy of the Chinese Wang Binying.
-The Intellectual property issues at international level play a crucial role also in the Italian economy, which in fact, through the initiatives taken so far pro-China, seems to have been at the mercy of Chinese actions, and reactions.
-The importance of the Italian economy, and in particular of the Italian region Lombardia, for China is clarified by a study prepared, significantly, by Assolombarda together with the China-Italy Foundation in 2019, aimed to analyze the impact of the Made in China 2025 plan on the Lombardia economy, a Beijing plan aimed to transform the entire industrial fabric of China, with the aim of promoting innovation and the rise in value chains by Chinese companies.
-The study shows that Lombardia has a crucial national value: compared to the national total, it concentrates 17% of the population, 22% of GDP, 20% of the workforce and 16% of companies. From the point of view of international positioning, Lombardy exports 27% of the Italian total, while with reference to the innovative ecosystem it produces 33% of national patents, proportionally more than the weight of the area in terms of GDP.
-According to the analysis mentioned, Italy, and in particular its Lombardia region, one of the manufacturing hearts of Italy and Europe would present evident vulnerabilities with respect to the ‘Made in China 2025’ plan.
In summary, the study concludes considering that: ‘In order not to be unprepared in the face of the aggressive Chinese upgrade policy, it is key for Lombardia to invest and further enhance its innovative capacity, which is ultimately a key enabling factor to defend and reaffirm the attractive and competitive position of the territory ‘, in particular by reinforcing two elements that more than the others, according to the analysis would be weak:
”research and development spending are highlighted here among the enabling factors and the technological transfer between the outputs of innovation’. And again: ‘In light of these considerations, the competitiveness of Italy and Lombardia on international markets is clearly based on the high quality and innovative content of the product. To face the Chinese upgrade, it is therefore necessary not only a commercial strategy to help companies better position themselves in foreign markets, but above all a strategy for economic development to support companies in their innovative capacity “.
-Although the study does not explain it, it is still quite intuitive to consider that a study in partnership with a Chinese Foundation which highlights the crucial importance of Lombardia for China and advises on investments in terms of commercial strategy and economic development, leads to light rather unequivocal indicators that China has an interest in Lombardy. The fact that it highlighted the weaknesses on which to leverage, and provides answers for overcoming these weaknesses is probably an attempt to orient, to one’s advantage, the development of Lombardia companies.
-In fact, pressing on the need for an increase in the innovative capacity of Italian and particularly Lombardia companies, means an increase for Lombardia’s intellectual property, both industrial and technological.
-As result, the advantage for China is indirectly connected to the fact that the partnership with China puts Italy in a position to share with a predatory actor sensitive elements of its industrial and technological heritage: it is therefore clear how these requests to investment in terms of economic development strategy are not disinterested, but lead to increase a wealth of sensitive elements that China, as a partnership of Italian companies, or as a predatory actor of intellectual property can take advantage of.
-In light of all this, and considering that, among the various Countries of the globe, China was the most aggressive in the theft of intellectual property, it would be alarming if the news of an Italian pro-China orientation in the field of intellectual property at international level was confirmed, an element that likely could only be verified on a preliminary basis, taking into account that the WIPO elections were held by secret ballot. It would be alarming that, within the Italian Government, political decision-makers are in favor of an orientation aimed at giving substantially to China, known for its intellectual property theft, the leadership of an international organization that is supposed to be dedicated to legal protection of intellectual property and which actually establishes the standards for patents, trademarks and copyrights.
It is highly likely that the Chinese attempt to secure the leadership of this global organization for a 6-year term would have enabled it to use this tool to rewrite international rules in a field so delicate that it clearly impacts on the global economy as well as on the global finance, and on which China evidently aimed to pursue further paths in order to achieve geopolitical goals.
The indicators lead to consider that:
a) the current management of the Italian Government of the pandemic emergency does not seem to have marked, at the moment, a clear Italy change of pace towards the collaboration with China, and the appointment of super-commissioner Arcuri to the co-management of the emergency phase, although it does not offer sufficiently conclusive indicators, it raises questions about the real Italian intention of breaking away from the partnership with China and effectively adopting the considerations, alarms and assessments of the Italian and American Security agencies;
b)t would be highly recommendable clarify and adequately investigate the currently ambiguous positions of the Italian Government regarding the support to China in international bodies, in order to assess the presence of institutional vulnerabilities of the Italian country system, which could act as possible ‘hooks’ for China offensive predatory actions;
c) at national level, on a short / medium / long-term internal policy plan, it emerges that the systematic use in Italy, in the event of a Government crisis, of large parliamentary agreements rather than the democratic elections as a path to resolve the crises, highly likely fosters the consolidation of perspectives, points of view and political decisions that look at the strategic interests of the country unilaterally;
d) this unilateral vision can become an element of vulnerability for the Country system, which as result, physiologically, fails to guarantee the necessary pluralistic vision and action which is instead a typical, peculiar and precious element of any democratic structure, as well as an antidote to the predatory attacks by foreign entities.
II.CHINESE POLITICAL WARFARE : the so called ‘Three warfare’.
Beyond the doubts and questions raised by the current at least ambivalent behavior of the current Italian Government towards China, together with the incomprehensible underestimation of the alarms repeated during the past years by the National Security and having China as focus, according with the information available emerges a complex set of maneuvers implemented by China and which founds some of its strategic lines.
If it is crucial to provide lines of analysis to broaden the spectrum of knowledge relating to the Chinese strategy, with particular reference to the use repeatedly invoked by China itself, of soft power techniques (a concrete example is the study Assolombarda-China China Foundation mentioned above), it cannot be abstracted from a politically crucial element, namely the fact, very often passed over in silence when not ignored, that China is an autocratic regime, therefore undemocratic, that it has specific characteristics both internally and internationally, and which aims to establish itself as a hegemonic power, acting towards its interlocutors through typically predatory ways and the use of various tools, including those of soft power.
The hegemonic purpose of a new international order, repeatedly declared by China itself, should not be considered a truly perceivable threat only on the occasion of a full-blown, at the moment unlikely, military conflict. Even reducing the contrast between China and the United States on the issue of commercial relations and the one with a global technological primacy in the medium to long term, although they are fields of analysis to be constantly monitored, it’s a resizing perspective. This perspective could highly likely keeping under track a key of interpretation that in this analysis will be unraveled, and expose vulnerabilities to all those tools already acted out by China, although cleverly disguised under the river of rhetorical narrative with which China tries to divert and cloud its interlocutors, especially international ones.
Taking in consideration the autocratic nature of the Chinese regime, in order to broaden the spectrum of analysis, it is necessary first of all to consider the central fulcrum from which every action starts, that is, the interest not of China as a nation but of China as its only one Party, the Chinese Communist Party (hereafter ‘Party’), and its highest ranking member, the current President of the People’s Republic of China as well as Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping, who acts and increases own and political power of the Party, also through the armed arm of the Party itself, the People Liberation Army (in short PLA).
The intrinsic link between the Party and the PLA Army, as own armed arm, is relevant, as is the specific connotation of the latter. In fact, unlike a national army, which defends a State and its people, the aim of the Chinese army is not to defend its own people, but to create political power for the Party. This interaction has been explicitly highlighted for decades by the official Chinese documents, in which since 2003 in the review of the Chinese Army’s political work guidelines, it is underlined that the People Liberation Army (PLA) must assist the Party in the effective exercise of the so-called ‘Three Warfares’, or three dimensions of conflict in peacetime through which allow the Party stability and protection: the media and public opinion warfare, the psychological warfare, and the legal-legal warfare.
Political power and Chinese military doctrine are therefore deeply connected: the political power of the unique Chinese Party permeates and founds the Chinese military doctrine.
If it is crucial to observe and study the PLA with a purely military vision, as if it were an army, evaluating its combat capabilities and the consequent security implications, just as it is equally crucial to identify the soft power tools used by China, everything need to be included, to fully assess its scope and therefore the real threat, in an analysis that alongside the military vision takes into consideration and evaluates the political warfare and its mechanisms, as acted by the Chinese party, within which the PLA is inserted and acts.
It is therefore important considering that in the PLA reorganization and development, dating back to 2012, the foundations and the theoretical foundation of the Chinese system of systems operational capability (tixi zuozhan nengli) were laid. They include the ‘operational units’ (zuozhan danyuan) and the ‘operational elements’ (zuozhan yaosu), with the PLA aim to to create political power through its structures and actions in behalf of the Party.
According to this reorganization, the ‘operational elements’ are considered key capabilities, fuse together within the integrated information system to generate greater combat effectiveness. They would represent the capabilities that the PLA is developing and which, according to the information, would be supported by modernization efforts. The ‘operational elements’ include the ‘Three warfare’, whose integrated use would be designed to 1) reap political advantages, 2) foment the psychological disintegration of the enemy, 3) influence other countries and support their morale. These actions, in the Chinese system of systems operational capability (tixi zuozhan nengli), should begin before other combat actions and continue through all operational phases. The ideal goal would be to achieve own goals without fighting or subduing the enemy with minimal destruction.
Considering that the Chinese military force is functional to the interests of the Party and its Leader, and that these interests are also economic and geo-political, it’s highly likely that all three dimensions of warfare are acted by the PLA on a daily basis, therefore also in what is commonly called ‘peacetime’.
More in detail, the first dimension of warfare, or Public Opinion warfare, has the aim of shaping public opinion both nationally and internationally. It should come as no surprise that this vein of conflict has also acted within the Chinese nation itself. In fact the Party’s military longa manus, the PLA, believes that mobilizing Chinese public opinion also through the media is useful in discouraging ‘foreign incursions’ on Chinese interests. The war of public opinion uses mass media both to promote its political positions and to block the media offensive of the ‘enemy’ in order to influence internal and external public opinion.
The second dimension of warfare, the Psychological warfare, attempts to influence foreign decision- makers and their approach to the Chinese politics, using the principles of modern psychology to select strategies against a specific audience, consolidate their psychological defense line and influence military and civilian ‘enemies’ to achieve military and political goals.
Finally, the third and final dimension of warfare, the Legal warfare, seeks to shape the legal environment to make it favorable to Chinese actions, building the legal justifications necessary for Beijing’s actions, both nationally and internationally.
This integrated system of warfare falls within the spectrum of that political warfare which has not only been part of the vocabulary of the PLA for decades, but which has been reinforced over the years and is therefore widely consolidated.
This integrated system of action carried out by the PLA, which as an armed-arm of the Chinese Communist Party, is always operational in order to achieve the political interests of the Party, and reveals that the Chinese predatory strategy is part of a coordinated prevarication action plan, which in turn fits completely into the strategies and manipulative mechanisms, which will be discussed in detail in future contributions.
Therefore, dealing only with the Chinese Hybrid Warfare could likely shift and divert the focus, compromising the achievement of the target. As much as it is important to deal with Beijing’s efforts to shape the perceptions of foreign countries, analyzing the tools also put in place by the PLA, it is equally crucial to deal with the source from which the directives for these coordinated activities originate, namely the Chinese Communist Party and in particular the current President Xi, his nature, his current connotation, ideological vision and organization, and his strategy to remain in power and build not only an internal legitimacy but an international legitimacy that allows him to expand his personal autocratic hegemony .
The analysis of the President Xi autocracy and his ideological vision will be the subject of the next contribution.
Author: Michela Ravarini ©Copyright reserved Italy, 12 April 2020