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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Political Warfare—Coronavirus Version

For John, BLUFThe US has not been doing well in the area of political warfare for some time, and needs to reverse course.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is the sub-headline:

Beijing deploys soft power as Europe and US fall short on solidarity.

From Politico, by Reporter Matthew Karnitschnig, 18 March 2020.

Here is the lede plus six:

Judging by the propaganda, this really is war.

And China is winning.

As Europe struggles to slow the spread of coronavirus and China begins to show signs that it has put the worst of the outbreak behind it, Beijing is engaging in a not-so-subtle PR campaign.

China’s main strategy is to show that the country that gave birth to the virus (and then covered it up for weeks, allowing it to spread across the globe unhindered) is on the front lines trying to save humanity, while the EU can’t get its act together and the world’s other superpower is busy pointing fingers.

Over the past few days, China has sent planeloads of masks, teams of doctors and even ventilators around the world to help battle the crisis.  Chinese billionaire Jack Ma donated one million masks and hundreds of thousands of testing kits to the U.S., with the first load arriving in Seattle on Monday.

"We are doing instead of talking.  We are the friends not enemy.  Could the American do the same to Chinese?" China's ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, tweeted on Monday.

A shipment of 300,000 masks, sent by Chinese charities founded by Ma and his Alibaba empire, arrived in Belgium this week.  Chinese state news agency Xinhua published a photograph of one of the containers draped with the slogan “Unity makes strength” in French, Flemish and Chinese.

Retired Army Colonel David Maxwell talked about this sort of thing in a 27 February Washington Examiner Article, "China's political warfare strategy takes hit from coronavirus".  Here is an extract:
The priority must be on stopping this pandemic.  However, after it is contained and the international economy is returned to normalcy, responsible governments must take a hard look at Chinese authoritarian political warfare and realize the danger it poses.  China will push back with claims that it will not tolerate a smear campaign.  But China must be held accountable.  We can, on that front, take a page from Sun Tzu's Art of War.  As he wrote, "What is of supreme importance is to attack the enemy's strategy."  It is time the U.S. and like-minded countries attack and neutralize the Chinese Communist Party's authoritarian political warfare strategy.
I believe Colonel Maxwell is correct regarding the needed action, but I would say, even now, someone in the Department of State should be ticked off as the person to start organizing this effort.  And not a junior functionary, but a new George F Kennan.

Regards  —  Cliff

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