How China Conducts Political Warfare: Taiwan & Thailand Case Studies
(Prof. Kerry K. Gershaneck, October 27, 2021)
Transcript available below
About the speaker
Prof. Kerry K. Gershaneck has been a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies, National Chengchi University, for the past three years. He is an Adjunct Professor with University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance & Policy Analysis in Australia; a member of The Research Institute for Japan-U.S.-Taiwan Relations security think tank; and the Senior Fellow, Regional Security & Geopolitical Trends, Global Risk Mitigation Foundation in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy and the Royal Thai Naval Academy as well as a Senior Research Associate at the Thammasat University Faculty of Law (CPG) in Thailand for a total of eight years.
Previously Prof. Gershaneck was a strategic planner and spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and a Senior Fellow and Director of Governmental & Public Relations for Pacific Forum CSIS, a regional security think tank. A former U.S. Marine Corps officer, he has extensive intelligence, counterintelligence, special warfare, combat arms, and strategic communications experience. His writings have been featured in academic journals and news media publications in Taiwan, the United States, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Europe.
About the book: Political Warfare: Strategies for Combating China’s Plan to ‘Win Without Fighting’”
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is at war with the world. It is a war fought mostly for control and influence, using coercion, corruption, and violent covert operations. The PRC prefers to win this war by never having to fire a shot, but its increasingly powerful military and paramilitary forces loom ominously in the background in support of its expanding war of influence. In Political Warfare, Professor Kerry K. Gershaneck describes how the PRC employs political warfare as its primary weapon to destroy its adversaries, including the United States and many of its allied and partner nations. Failure to understand China’s political warfare and how to confront it may well lead to America’s strategic defeat before initiation of armed conflict or to operational defeat of U.S. military forces on the battlefield. Ultimately, Gershaneck argues in this detailed study, the United States must relearn how to fight on the political war- fare battlefield to identify, deter, counter, and defeat this existential threat.
About the book: Media Warfare: Taiwan’s Battle for the Cognitive Domain
Professor Gershaneck’s study Media Warfare: Taiwan’s Battle for the Cognitive Domain is an authoritative contribution to understanding the existential threat that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Political Warfare poses to Taiwan (Republic of China), the freedom of its people, and the universal values of democracy and human rights. In this significant academic achievement, he provides a firm historical, ideological, and semantic foundation regarding Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Political Warfare, then he provides a detailed examination of the PRC’s Media Warfare organization, funding, operations, and likely employment in a military attack against Taiwan. As important, while crediting Taiwan with significant success in recent years combating CCP Media Warfare, Professor Gershaneck provides detailed recommendations that will assist Taiwan to remain secure in the face of continued–and ever-evolving– CCP Media Warfare expected in the future.
This book is based in great part on Professor Gershaneck’s extensive first-hand experience in Taiwan over the course of three decades, as well as his experience working in national-level strategic communications, counterintelligence, intelligence, and international relations during that time. I have known him and his work for more than a decade of that time. As the Commandant of Fu Hsing Kang College, Taiwan’s premier political warfare-focused academic institution, I periodically hosted him for lectures and discussions with faculty, staff, and students. I have found his research, analysis, and recommendations to be incisive and of great value to Taiwan’s security.
While Professor Gershaneck’s book is a very valuable study of the history and nature of the PRC’s Media Warfare threat, it is a strong call to arms as well! He provides Taiwan’s elected officials and policy makers very useful recommendations to deter, confront, and defeat the PRC’s Media Warfare operations. While Taiwan is already seriously engaged in combat on the Media Warfare battlefield, much work and investment of national resources is required to ensure continued success. Professor Gershaneck provides superb strategic, operational, and tactical level recommendations to help propel that effort forward.
Tsung-Chi (Max) Yu
Associate Professor, National Taiwan University
Major General, ROC Army (Ret.)
Former Commandant of Fu Hsing Kang College, National Defense University
Building on his groundbreaking work “Political Warfare”, Professor Gershaneck has produced an immensely useful guide to help democracies identify the many attack vectors employed by the Chinese Communist Party’s Media Warfare apparatus in its efforts to “win without fighting”. This book should be mandatory reading for all democratic government defense and security leaders, since Beijing seeks to undermine and weaken competitors not by direct military confrontation but by stirring up domestic friction and discontent. Using evidence from Taiwan’s experience, he shows how the targets of the CCP’s Media Warfare apparatus will be too exhausted to resist the CCP’s advances. Look no further than Hong Kong to understand the end game of this strategy. KUDO’s to Kerry for producing such an important, timely, and practical antidote to China’s Political Warfare.
David R. Stilwell
Assistant Secretary of State
East Asia and Pacific Affairs
Robert R. Reilly:
Hello, and welcome to the Westminster Institute. I am Robert Reilly, its director. I am happy today to welcome to the Westminster Institute Professor Kerry Gershaneck, who has been a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies, National Chengchi University in Taiwan for the past three years. He is a Senior Research Associate at the Thammasat University Faculty of Law (CPG) in Thailand, an Adjunct Professor with University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance & Policy Analysis (IGPA) in Australia; and a member of The Research Institute for Japan-U.S.-Taiwan Relations (JUST) security think tank. He was also the Distinguished Visiting Professor at the service academies of the Royal Thai Army and the Royal Thai Navy for a total of seven years.
Previously, Prof. Gershaneck was a strategic planner and spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. A former U.S. Marine Corps officer, he has extensive intelligence, counterintelligence, special warfare, combat arms, and strategic communications experience. He has worked with the U.S. Information Agency in Washington, DC, and at U.S. embassies in East and Southwest Asia. As a senior civil servant he helped lead U.S. Department of Defense International Relations and Security Cooperation activities in 43 countries in the Indo-Pacific Region for ten years. Among other works, he is the author of two very important books, Political Warfare: Strategies for Combating China’s Plan to “Win Without Fighting,” and, most recently, Media Warfare: Taiwan’s Battle for the Cognitive Domain.
He is joining us today to speak on: How China Conducts Political Warfare: Taiwan & Thailand Case Studies. Professor, welcome to the program.
Prof. Kerry Gershaneck:
Robert, thank you very much for having me.
As our host has said, I will be speaking today on how China conducts political warfare against Taiwan and Thailand, but let me lay a foundation before I get into the specifics of those two. I will explain why I wrote the book Political Warfare: Strategies for Combating China’s Plan to “Win Without Fighting.”
What I wanted to get across at this point is that most Americans do not understand the concept of political warfare, just as in the late 1940s America was clueless about it, which is why George Kennan had to write a memo that got the U.S. government focused on fighting the Soviet Union’s political warfare. It has been three decades since the U.S. had any institutions or even had any general awareness of what political warfare is and how the People’s Republic of China is using this insidious weapon to destroy us.
So I wrote the first book on political warfare to help America understand the scope and the nature of this existential threat. I wanted to help American policymakers understand that China is at war with us, they say they are at war with us, we need to listen to them and react accordingly from a policy and an operational level.
We have had bad experiences going back to 9/11, where an organization said, ‘I am at war with you, America, I am going to kill you, I am going to kill Americans,’ and our policymakers gaffed it off. They said, ‘No, you wear a towel on your head. You live in a cave, you carry an AK-47, you are no threat. You are not at war with us, we do not take you seriously.’ And then we had nearly three thousand Americans die very hideous deaths in the World Trade Center, in the fields of Pennsylvania, and in the Pentagon. Then our policymakers woke up and said, ‘Yeah, no kidding, I guess you are at war with us, and we will go to war, too.’
Well, we are at that stage now where a lot of policymakers are in denial, a lot of our academics are in denial, and certainly our news media is, so I wanted to help America understand that China considers itself at war with us, and it is at war with us using many warfares. They think in terms of warfares. And I wrote the book also, not just to admire the problem, to describe the problem, it was also to give very substantial recommendations as to what the U.S. government could do on a whole-of-society basis, not just all of government basis to counter and be victorious in this war just as we were in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
What is Political Warfare?
It is important to understand what political warfare is. The George Kennan definition you will see on the screen, that is basically just the employment of all means short of kinetic warfare; that is shooting rounds, shooting missiles, shooting rifles at each other to achieve national objectives. The Chinese Communist Party builds from this but basically is is total war. It is different. In democracies we are self-restraining. We put constraints on what it is we do short of kinetic warfare.
From the Chinese Communist Party perspective no such constraints [exist], it is total war, all-encompassing, and they use the term unrestricted warfare. Everything is permitted, and I will go into some detail on that later, but basically biological warfare is permitted, assassination is permitted, hostage-taking is permitted as a daily routine. We saw this with the Huawei case, but many other times hostage-taking is SOP for the Chinese Communist Party. In unrestricted warfare there is 24 different warfares that China plans to use against us and other democracies, and I would say they are using them right now.
Goals for PRC Political Warfare
The goals for PRC political warfare are laid out. Most academics I deal with are focused on, ‘Well, all the poor CCP is trying to do is retain power.’ Um, no, that is not all they are trying to do. Of course, they are trying to retain their power, it is a totalitarian regime. What totalitarian ruler or dictator would ever want to give up that power? Yes, that is basic, but they also want to achieve regional hegemony and global hegemony, and we lose sight of that too much in the circles that I talk to in the U.S. government, and again in academia, and with many in the news media who are totally unfamiliar with the goals of the PRC.
Guiding Framework of PRC Political Warfare
The Guiding Framework is not to win without fighting. The Chinese agents of influence that I deal with will tell you that, yeah, it is a long struggle, we are prepared to fight, we just want to win short of going to kinetic war with you. The way you do it under the guiding framework – and the Communists are very good at this in China – they get you to think in such a way that you are doing what they want you to do without actually having to be told.
Ambassador Kausikan from Singapore puts it very succinctly in this quote, saying the CCP wants you to think in such a way that you will of your own volition do what it wants you to do without you being told to do it. And you see that repeatedly in the news media. You see that repeatedly in many countries.
We do not want you to use the Reuters construct, we do not want to anger China, we do not want to irk China, we do not want to upset China, so let’s just do this, let’s not take this step or let’s not support Taiwan, let’s just do whatever it is we think China wants us to do without them having to barge in like they do in Thailand, literally barging into the Foreign Minister’s office and scream at the Foreign Minister because somebody in the Foreign Ministry did something China did not like.
Objectives of PRC Political Warfare
The objectives for China’s political warfare are both internal and external, and internally they want to not just retain unity, they want to build unity. They want to repress the Uyghurs, they want to repress any critics internally. They want to repress any dissent. They do it quite, quite brutally. Tiananmen Square was just one of many massacres over the years. By some estimates the Chinese Communist Party has killed 70 million Chinese, more than any other war has done, any other foreign power has done.
And so that internal repression – political warfare is a key part of that. Political warfare also is very important in influencing foreign governments, international organizations like the United Nations, the World Health Organization, Greenpeace, [and] other so-called environmental organizations. They have had a great influence on them to support or at least not obstruct China’s goals and policies.
Political warfare is a tool to divide enemies, to demoralize enemies, and to use the PRC term, ‘disintegrate,’ which is basically destroy enemies and critics, so those are the objectives of political warfare.
Military Objective: Break the First and Second Island Chains
The next slide is a map that the PLA Navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy, uses to show what they the Chinese military thinks they have to overcome to achieve its regional hegemony and ultimately its global hegemony. They see the goal as breaking through what is called the island chains; both the Chinese call it that and the West calls it that. Japan [and] the U.S. call it the first island chain and the second island chain.
But basically they want to use political warfare, not just military might to break those island chains which are quite effective in constraining – or have been quite effective (I will put it that way) since 1949 in constraining the People’s Republic of China’s expansionism beyond taking Tibet, beyond taking Mongolia, beyond taking East Turkestan, all these other areas that they have taken. The first and second islands chains until they have had a powerful navy have been very effective in making sure that at least from a maritime perspective they have not been able to proceed with their expansionist objectives.
Top-Down Focus and Direction
The focus of China’s political warfare is top-down driven. You do not see this in democracies, you do not see this in America, you do not see this in Japan, you do not see this in England. You simply do not see the tremendous effort from the top-down on our public diplomacy, on our information efforts worldwide. You do in China. China is a Party-state, and the head of it, Xi Jinping, the Central Committee, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee from the top-down there is very detailed direction on the People’s Republic of China’s political warfare.
This is a very simple chart, but it just tries to show how the different departments, whole-of-government, all of what we think of as private industry, the SOEs and the other private enterprise, they all have Communist Party cells. They are all required by law to support PRC espionage, PRC political warfare, United Fronts, all of those other operations. So again, this is a very simplified chart but it depicts just how centrally-driven this political war is directed out of Beijing.
This is another way to look at it. This is an American perspective of how the CCP, through the Party-state apparatus, influences K-12 in America, our universities, our political structure, all of the different organizations that are used to target the government and the U.S. military.[It is a] very concerted effort, again, a whole-of-government approach, every Party-state organ is involved. And again, in a top-down direction you can bet there is a lot of supervision and follow-up at every level, and it involves hundreds of billions of dollars, not just billions, in this effort.
Different strategies – and this is not all-encompassing, but just some of the major strategies that the PRC uses to conduct political warfare against us to destroy us. United Fronts getting together with other organizations that are not necessarily communist, that are not necessarily pro-PRC, but finding common ground with those organizations against a common enemy. It could be a terrorist group, radical activists in Japan who are against the Japan-U.S. military alliance. Other organizations form United Fronts with them.
They use the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop United Front organizations around the world that basically are doing the PRC’s bidding, and many of them do not even know it or do not recognize that they are basically agents of influence for the Chinese Communist Party. They are just accepting money from China, and then they are self-censoring. They are advertising in publications, newspapers that are pro-Beijing and anti-U.S., for example. That is in a very small degree how the United Fronts operate.
Again, the PRC sees everything as warfare so there are 24 warfares in the book Unrestricted Warfare that they wage against us during peacetime, there is no declared war here. During peacetime they are conducting 24 different so-called ‘warfares’ against us.
But as the foundation for political warfare there is something that was officially adopted that is called the Three Warfares, which consists of Strategic Psychological Warfare, Media Warfare, and Legal Warfare or Lawfare. So again, these are the strategies they use. Both books go into great detail on this so I will not spend a lot of time here discussing it.
In addition to that we see what we saw with the Soviet Union, we see active measures. We saw violence, we see the hiring of street gangs and criminal organizations. We see the establishment of proxy armies, that I will talk about in a moment. [We see] coercion of course, assassination, [and] disappearances [are] very common.
And then [they engage in] what in common parlance these days is called hybrid warfare, grey-zone operations and other covert operations that are short of war, short of the threshold that the U.S. or Japan or Taiwan would respond militarily, but they just continue slicing away through these grey-zone operations just like Russia does with Crimea in Ukraine.
Digital colonization deserves great study. I will talk about it more in a moment, but it is how China is using the digital infrastructure that it is building under the Belt and Road Initiative to basically set up surveillance states, basically steal the data to control nations in Africa and South America, the very strategically important Pacific Islands.
Cyber-warfare, of course, we do read about, the headlines. Most of these other strategies incidentally hardly ever make American headlines, unfortunately. Cyber warfare periodically does. And online terror, a whole separate way of coercing, intimidating, suppressing criticism. It is also called social media warfare. Those are all part of the active measures.
Military intimidation is political warfare; what the Chinese are doing in the East China Sea, what the Chinese are doing against Taiwan with the massive members of bombers and attack aircraft going into Taiwan’s ADIZ, what they are doing against Japan in the Senkakus in the East China Sea, military attacks into India, the threats to drop nuclear weapons, nuclear bombs, on Australia, and certainly the threats in many forms, including the threats to nuke Guam and to nuke American cities, and to turn Los Angeles into a sea of fire. That is all part of political warfare, the military intimidation.
PRC Tools and Tactics
I am not going to go through all of these, but I have several slides of just selected PRC tools and tactics that they use to support those strategies. Americans do not see these tools and tactics, they are happening every day all around us, but because the news media does not cover them by and large, and because it does not necessarily effect every American on a daily basis or many Americans on a daily basis, they do not see the academic infiltration in the United States or Taiwan, where I have worked for three years in an academic institution. I have seen the Pan Red professors up close, I know them personally. They are basically agents of influence for the People’s Republic of China. They have infiltrated the university system. They are high up in administration and in professorial teaching positions.
Chinese student associations are weapons of coercion, intimidation, and espionage. And of course, the United Front operations in the United States, in England, in many other countries. In Thailand, for example, there are more Confucius Institutes (in addition to Chinese student associations) than all of the other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations combined. There is a reason for that. Thailand is the number one target in ASEAN or was the number one target for the PRC in ASEAN, and so they built the greatest number of CSSAs and Confucius Institutes there.
Diplomatic coercion, strangulation, we see that with Taiwan. We see that with other countries. Weaponized tourism: they get a country dependent on China’s tourists, and then if the country does anything that irks, angers, or upsets China, they cut off the tourism and punish the country like they did with South Korea, like they have done in the Pacific islands, and like they began to do in Japan but then COVID interrupted their ability to use weaponized tourism to a very effective degree in Japan.
Again, I do not want to go into every one of these tactics, but I do want to give you a sense the tactics are broad, wide-ranging, media warfare I will go into in a moment, but we see this in the Chinese-American community in the United States. Almost every publication in the diaspora, in the Chinese diaspora in America, every Chinese language publication now is under the control of the PRC, directly or indirectly through funding, through grants.
Same thing in Taiwan. There are publications there that are under control. They have been co-opted. Advertising dollars drive editorial content there as it does in the United States often. Indoctri-tainment may be a new term for many of you. It is basically using movies like the Wolf Warrior series of movies out of China, but also video games made in China. China’s TikTok, Tencent, they make a lot of video games, and in the video games they indoctrinate children, video games aimed at children.
Indoctrination, a simple example; you are taught as a child, using a Chinese-sanctioned video game, that Taiwan is part of China, it has always been part of China since ancient times, Tibet is part of China, has always been part of China since ancient times. You get the point. Subtle and not so subtle indoctrination through entertainment means. So again, some of these are self-explanatory, some need greater study, but again, I recommend you buy my books or get my books. One is free, the other you have to pay for.
United Fronts, we do have some exposé of that, exposés about them in American media, this Newsweek article. I applaud Newsweek for this. A lot of other news media just do not think it is a story, it is not important, but basically as I said before this is a major, major means that the PRC uses worldwide to co-opt, to coerce, to persuade others to support China.
Why would people willingly support an expansionist, brutally repressive, arguably fascist, certainly unarguably genocidal, totalitarian country? It is because they build United Fronts with businesses, and businessmen make money off it. It is because ideologically some in our college campuses, some in other organizations kind of like the idea of the Chinese Communist Party and kind of like the idea of a totalitarian regime.
One way or the other they win you over, the BRI countries. Oh, we are going to invest, we are going to build those railroads you have never been able to build for the past hundred years. We are going to build that port, Sri Lanka, and even though you will never be able to repay us and we will take control of that port for 99 years, you know. Somehow you are going to make out on this deal.
How will you make out? Your elites will be bribed. They will be able to retire in a different country with the millions that they made, and then the average citizen will be left with China owning your port, owning that airfield, owning large tracks of your land alongside the railroad they built, and your people will pay or the people that the elites have abandoned will pay the price of these BRI contracts for years, but again, that is how they build United Fronts, some of the many ways that the PRC builds United Fronts globally.
Why the book?
Before I talk about media warfare I will talk a little bit as I did earlier [about]: why did I write the media warfare book? Media warfare is one of the three warfares. I wanted to write a book that would take what we call a deep dive into one of those three warfares to show how complex it is, to show how insidious it is, of course, but to go into great detail so you are not, you know, the average person in these books are written for laymen, not necessarily scholars who worked all their lives in this field, so the average American can understand the book. It goes into great detail of all the means that the PRC uses to employ the media to achieve its political warfare objectives.
I focused it on Taiwan because Taiwan is the number one country on the Chinese Communist Party’s hit parade. Taiwan is the place where they try many of their political warfare strategies, tactics, techniques, procedures, so it is a canary in the coal mine, to use a hackneyed cliché, but nonetheless it is used often. What they do in Taiwan eventually they are going to do against the Solomon Islands, they are going to eventually do that against Japan, they are going to eventually do it against other countries, so doing a case study of media warfare against Taiwan is a good place to start.
And again, just like the first book, it is not enough simply to admire the problem. I gave very sound recommendations for Taiwan and other countries. Every other country is under similar attack. The idea was here are your recommendations [that] you can take and effectively employ to at least begin to detect, to deter, to counter, and defeat this insidious type of warfare against you.
How Media Warfare Works
The mechanisms that the Chinese Communist Party has set up internally and globally are powerful for conducting media warfare. They set up some billion, mega billion, dollar organizations, platforms, media networks. They call them flagship media organizations to send out propaganda worldwide. We have Americans I know, well-educated well-positioned in the government or academia who say, oh well, I am way too smart to fall for PRC propaganda.
Well, you may or may not be, actually, because what they do is they will broadcast their propaganda through these platforms, but what they are doing is they are buying Thai newspapers, and the Thai newspapers run the Xinhua releases as if they are written in Thailand because China gives it to them written in Thai.
In Zimbabwe, in Brazil, in other countries around the world these many, powerfully-resourced organizations are providing basically press releases in the native language that is being run by organizations, news organizations, in those countries, those target countries, and they are running it like it is their own staff that wrote it.
It is PRC propaganda and they are running it verbatim in many cases. It is a clear win for the PRC when you do this, so again, my colleagues and associates who say, oh, no, I am way too smart, I always see through when Xinhua or CCTV runs it, I know it is propaganda. Well, you do not know it if you are being bombarded by hundreds of other countries where it is being run and you are being bombarded in your own country by a trusted news organization from your own country that is running this as news without knowing that it is Chinese Communist Party propaganda.
They are buying journalists. Many, many journalists are brought over to China every year, all-expense paid, nice hotels, nice lodging, given a grand tour of China, given booze, given girls, given guys, whatever they want, and then they go back and, of course, they are very reliable agents of influence for the PRC in the future. They also buy, again, individual news publications or broadcast stations and then whole networks.
Business. An example out of Thailand is representative worldwide. [People with] Sino ties, with close connections to the PRC are the most powerful business people in Thailand, so when you have your businesses choose to invest their advertising dollars, they will choose to invest it in publications that show that they are reliably subservient to the PRC’s narrative. They will not if you are criticizing China, you will not get those advertising dollars. So that is the Maoist approach, and this is a term they use, you use business to ‘surround’ the media, and it is very effective. It works in the United States as well to silence people.
Censorship, coercion, violence
And then there is censorship, coercion, violence. I used to write for a publication called Asia Times out of Hong Kong, and even back then before the crackdown in Hong Kong if they wrote something (maybe I wrote) that was critical of China, if they published that, at night they would come out, they would find their tires slashed and their cars and windshield smashed, their children would be followed to school by thuggish-looking people and they would let them know there are pictures of your little Johnny and little Linda on their way to private school this morning, just to let the people working at the publication know ‘you better tow our line.’
It gets worse than that though. Matt Pottinger, former Deputy National Security Adviser, before he was there he was a head of The Wall Street Journal in Beijing. His sources would not just get beaten up, they would be killed. Matt was personally attacked, room was broken in all the time. Again, this is part of the PRC’s media warfare. That is why I emphasize violence and coercion.
Social Media Warfare
Then social media warfare. We see manifestations of that in the United States. It is not new to Americans, but basically, it is using so-called netizens in the 50 Cent Army to online destroy celebrities, online destroy writers, online destroy academics, politicians who speak out against the People’s Republic of China. It is a massive campaign called social media warfare or WeChat terror (there are different names for it) to silence critics and make sure that those critics begin supporting the PRC line.
Media Warfare Tactics
Media warfare tactics, again, pretty much self-explanatory, but pop culture and music, again, very insidious. We all understand newspapers, radio broadcasts. What we do not understand is how the social media works and then how the entertainment world works. Wolf Warrior movies, for example, are really big in China, blockbusters there, [which] made the most [money]. The propaganda films they are putting out now with their revisionist view of the Korean War, of course, are massive money-makers over there, but these also have tremendous impact worldwide when they go out to give the PRC narrative.
So indoctri-tainment is a serious issue that I do not think we look at enough in America, where our own Hollywood is pretty badly co-opted by the PRC. PRC gets final say over most scripts or Hollywood does not get to distribute those movies in the very lucrative Chinese market.
BRI as Political Warfare
BRI as political warfare is a serious issue, and again, most countries that are making money, most countries [whose] elites are making money, put it that way, will not recognize what is going on or refuse to recognize what is going on, but as Robert Spaulding has called it, it is infrastructure warfare, but as Anne Marie Brady calls it, it is basically a classic United Front operation.
Look at all the countries in red on this map. They are all basically co-opted in one way or the other by the PRC because they are reliant on PRC money for the infrastructure that may or may not appear after a lot of investment and a lot of people are paid off, but basically, those countries will begin as Greece has done and others who you might not have expected to do it, but they will begin to tow the PRC narratives, and support the PRC in international organizations, and silence critics in their own country, of the PRC, in order to get the BRI money.
What is not shown here (and it is a very serious concern) is what is happening in the Pacific islands. And they are being brought into the BRI and we are losing those that part of the world. Those small land countries are small amount of land there but they are massive in terms of EEZ, those large ocean countries, small island countries but large ocean countries in the South Pacific that we paid dearly for in World War II, taking them back, island by bloody island. As a former marine I know that history very well.
Basically, the PRC has got a policy of neo-colonization down to the Pacific islands, and it has been very effective, and it is part of BRI. So political warfare, again, [is] winning without going to kinetic warfare to basically colonize an area of the world that is strategically vital to us.
On the digital colonization slide: here they call it the digital silk road, but it is basically they are collecting massive amounts of data worldwide because they are building the infrastructure to collect that data, the digital infrastructure, so they are building surveillance states and by helping authoritarian countries with their surveillance they are taking control of those authoritarian countries because they are surveilling that country, too.
And they are getting all the data that the country they are supporting against. They are using artificial intelligence, which is kind of, again, it deserves a lot more study in the U.S. than it has gotten in terms of public exposure. In the 50 Cent Army, the hackers, all that is all part of the digital colonization, that is part of political warfare.
We will be running out of time here shortly about eight minutes so I will go through [this] quickly. Most Americans do not realize that China has proxy armies. Those of us who have been around a little bit longer understand that the PRC supported most of the revolutionary wars in the 1960s and 70s in Southeast Asia and across Africa, South America. What they do not understand today is that a PRC proxy army, the United Wa State Army in Myanmar, occupies a chunk of land the size of Belgium. The Myanmar government, even before the coup the Myanmar government could not make a decision without the UW, United Wa State Army, being involved in it, and basically the UWSA was acting as a proxy for the PRC.
And that was just one of many many ethnic armies in Myanmar, but look to more proxy armies, look to more security organizations of retired or former PRC commandos, PRC special operations folks, just like Blackwater but worse than Blackwater because it is working for a totalitarian machine, but no accountability. Again, part of political warfare.
How Countries Responded to BRI Political Warfare
Very briefly, it is always important to ask how countries responded to BRI political warfare. Ask most Georgetown graduates as I do when I work with the embassies overseas in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, in State Department personnel, other places, how are you guys responding to political warfare? The answer is what are you talking about, what is political warfare? I am not exaggerating. Read the preface of my political warfare book. I name names, the references to support.
They do not understand what is going on. They are not taught it at Georgetown, they are not taught it at the war colleges, they are not taught it at command and staff colleges. They stopped teaching it about 30 years ago when the Berlin Wall went down, so in America we do not understand it. Most other countries do not understand what is happening all around them in their own countries. Authoritarian governments like the political warfare because it helps them stay in power, but those who do not want to necessarily become vassal states of China really are not strong enough to push back right now.
So basically, in the absence of international support, democracies and even authoritarian countries that we would support because they are not willing to be under the jackboot of China, without strong American leadership they cannot fight back so that is how they react, mostly unaware it is going on, cannot put all the pieces together (like we are doing here in this talk) as to what is happening around them in their country.
And then when they do recognize it, they really do not have the capability to fight back. And the PRC is well aware that there is growing recognition and they are infiltrating organizations that are exposing them. They are discrediting them. They are well aware that there are people out there exposing the political warfare operations. Hudson is dude. Ideally, Westminster it is to do. We will get in the forefront of this as well. They are trying to block and undermine subvert those organizations that are exposing what they are doing on the political warfare front.
Political Warfare in the Kingdom of Thailand
I will only talk briefly because I am running out of time here. We want to have a discussion. I will only talk briefly about political warfare in the Kingdom of Thailand, but it is massive and basically there are strong ties between Thailand and China, that is a given, but in two chapters in my book go into that very detailed history. There has been times that they have been at war with each other. During the Cold War the ties were deeply, deeply suspicious, with good reason, of the People’s Republic of China because the People’s Republic of China was funding, and operating, and training the Communist Party of Thailand forces that were fighting a 30-year civil war against the government of Thailand. So they had every reason to be suspicious of of China because China was trying to overthrow Thailand and its monarchy and its democracy, such as it was, and install the communist government.
So the situation changed after the end of the Vietnam War, the way that ended. Basically, right now, the situation is that the PRC has effectively employed all techniques in Thailand and on the political warfare front, and played up to the Sino-Thai business community that is now heavily involved in politics. In the past they were kept out of the political arena and the military, but now they are heavily involved and basically there has been a seismic shift in Thailand.
Most Americans think, oh, Thailand, our treaty ally, one of our five treaty allies in Asia, you know, pro-American. Not so much, not so much, and again, I commend you to the book more so you can go into much richer detail as to how we got to be in this position, but the pendulum has swung very much in Beijing’s favor and very much away from the United States. And then a fair amount of that is due to the fault of the United States’ inept statesmanship and policies, but a fair amount of the blame lies with Thailand’s politicians, military, and basically a very concerted effort by the PRC to win over Thailand to more towards its side.
This is the prior PRC goal. You always look at [that], you do analysis of countries. There is a systematic counter-intelligence and strategic communication methodology you use to assess it and you look at the goals and the strategies, objectives, all that. So basically, the goal of the PRC’s political warfare is that the royal Thai government becomes compliant, reliable, basically as supportive, and they use this term ally.
Well, I hear at the military academies and I hear from others in the armed forces China is our ally. That should be horrifying to Americans because Thailand was our treaty ally, and they do not think of us so much that way anymore like and there is history there. They saw what happened in 2012 when we, the United States government, basically abandoned the Philippines at Scarborough Shoal, and they realize that America could do the same thing to Thailand. There is a history here as to why we got to this point, but the Thais consider China to be their ally. Not every Thai, but key people do, and they use that term again. I will not go into all of these strategies but they are pretty standard. They have just done it very well in Thailand.
The themes. You always look at the themes that are being used, the themes that were successful here. They are certainly exploiting ethnic ties, although there is push-back on that trade ties. Really important here to play up the media warfare. It is very successful and Thai media, social media, see a fair amount of push-back against China, but in the regular media you do not see much push-back at all. Again, some are quoting verbatim PRC propaganda that is handed to them.
Basically, the royal Thai government is being encouraged to continue the more authoritarian aspects that it has employed here even though it is an elected government. It is encouraged by China to resist democracy and there is laws here that are very draconian in terms of free speech, what you can say, what you cannot say, what you can be arrested for, what you can be sued for. And again, this is very, very strongly encouraged by China to repress those freedoms that we take for granted here in Thailand.
This is what China hopes to get from its political warfare operations in Thailand. It is basically Thailand acts as the PRC’s enforcer and protector. They do not necessarily want Thailand as a vassal state, they just want Thailand not to oppose it and to support it whenever it can. They are building on the military side. They are selling submarines to Thailand. They are going to have reassigning PLA Navy personnel to ports that Americans use.
Basically, they have been pretty successful in achieving these outcomes. The alliance is not what we think it is, what the entire U.S. alliance is no longer what some Americans have historically thought it was. It has not split completely, there is going back and forth a bit and even within the Thai government as to how close they should get to China, but under the right circumstances, and I will talk about that a little bit briefly, that alliance could be split completely and abrogated.
Again, the impact a seismic shift most Americans do not recognize and the environment for freedom in Thailand is not good now and that is supported by the PRC through its various political warfare means.
Taiwan is the Goal
Taiwan is the goal there. It is the number one, as I told you, on the PRC’s hit parade. Their goal is to demoralize and disintegrate the country internally so they do not have to invade. The history there is well known. The Chinese Communist Party has been at war with the nationalists or KMT for 100 years.
Now, political warfare has been key to that, but now it is not the KMT in power anymore. Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and it presents Taiwan, presents an existential threat to the CCP because it proves to the world that Chinese people do not need a brutal totalitarian dictatorship to control them. The Chinese people can thrive in a democracy so Xi Jinping is increasingly threatening military force and that has been a very hot topic in the news media lately as it should be.
The goal is what Xi calls the China dream and the great rejuvenation, the narrative that we should not buy into is that they are unifying, reunifying with Taiwan. Taiwan is not part of China, it has not been since ancient times, but that is the narrative, and a lot of Americans buy into that because they do not, you know, they buy into PRC media warfare or they have accepted it without knowing the real history.
And again, the objectives, basically, they are going to get regime change one way or the other through subverting the democratic process and undermining the regime. That did not work out so well in the 2020 elections. In fact, it backfired on the PRC, and the second book goes into that in great detail. Again, they are using all the traditional strategies and new ones on Taiwan that they will use on other countries later.
Again, selected tactics. I will not go into many of them. They are mainly self-explanatory. I have already talked about social media warfare and Pan-Red Academics, [and] what that means.
Themes again: ‘inevitable PRC victory,’ that is a worldwide theme. Again, some very specific themes, but again, another worldwide theme, ‘the U.S. is weak, it is unreliable and it is increasingly irrelevant. It is not going to come to your aid, Taiwan, especially after what you saw in Afghanistan.’ That is [a] very powerful message that they are trying to drive and terrify and demoralize the people of Taiwan right now and regionally.
Again, the rest of these are pretty self-explanatory so they are actually getting some of their academics and their elites to buy into the idea that corrupt Western ideas like democracy are not for the people of Taiwan. I have had KMT leaders and academics tell me that democracy is not for the people of Taiwan and that they are buying in to the PRC media warfare narratives.
Hoped-for outcomes: Taiwan is a province of China. The PLA is using Taiwan to face missiles, to send out ballistic missile submarines and attack submarines, and use its aircraft to go further down to threaten Australia, the Pacific islands, and the first and second island chain to circumvent that, and to just solidify China’s illegal claim on the South China Sea.
What Will the Region Look Like?
Okay, so what happens if we do not start recognizing, detecting, deterring, countering, and defeating PRC political warfare a lot more effectively than we are doing right now? What are we going to look like 20 years from now? Look back 20 years. 2001 was a heartbeat ago. 2040 is not that far away. What does the region look like? I will show you. This is not my assessment entirely, this is Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments, that are pretty good [at] looking out to the future that I used when I was working with NATO recently to project what the region looks like in 2035.
So I have extrapolated the CSBA work, put my own from my own experience in the region, up close and personal in talking to people here. This is what the region will look like if we do not get serious and get a hell of a lot better at fighting PRC political warfare. Basically, we, America, is out of the region. The treaty with Thailand abrogated, the treaty with Korea abrogated, Taiwan occupied by PLA forces and basically a province of the PRC, the Pacific islands no longer ours.
So basically, you can see the breakdown here, and again, I would refer you to the study that I referenced in the previous slide and also the other articles that I have written which go into more detail on this, but basically, by 2040 China is a hegemon regionally, pretty much globally. America has fallen back to Guam, mid-Pacific and the Hawaii, and the China model supplants liberal democracy as the ideal governance model both regionally and probably globally.
Xi’s China Dream 2040
The view from China: this is what it will look like, those red stars are going to be assured basing or actual, full-time presence or access to bases in those locations, and the PRC is pushing out, expanding in every direction. That is the China Dream, Xi’s China Dream.
The First and Second Island Chains Are Broken
Another view of the first and second island chain at that time. Basically, they are broken and most Indo-Asia-Pacific nations are vassal states or at least neutral. Japan is isolated, Australia is isolated, [and] most other countries basically are kneeling before China.
Final slide: recommendations. I can go into that as little or as much as you want to. I have got 10 of the many recommendations that I put in the books, but for what it is America has to do to to get on top of this situation right now, but basically, I will emphasize.
We have to recognize they are at war with us. We need to start calling it political warfare, not malign influence. We are not in strategic competition, they are at war with us. If we do not understand that, we will never develop the policies, we will never develop the organization [and] get the resources we need to counter this.
Words are important. They drive how we act and what we do. Then, we set up the organizations that we let atrophy or completely disappear like USIA, effective organizations that we can begin to start countering this.
Our law enforcement needs a lot of work, our counter-intelligence needs a lot of work, and we need institutions that – again, maybe Westminster Institute could become heavily engaged in the education part, setting up an Asian Political Warfare Center of Excellence equivalent, and also starting forces – I have gone into great detail in my first book, and specifically the curriculum of what we need to begin teaching.
We are not teaching them at our Ivy League institutions, we are not teaching them at our national defense universities and Marine Corps University. We are not teaching these anymore. We need to begin a national education program.
Again, recommendations six through ten we can go into as much or as little as possible, but I am over my speaking time so let’s go to the final slide, which is let’s talk, Q-and-A time.
Robert R. Reilly:
Thank you, Professor Gershaneck. In a way the United States has a lot to be thankful for to China because of its behavior in Hong Kong and its aggressive behavior elsewhere, and the rather forthright way in which Xi Jinping speaks about his objectives and how he is going to reach them, that there is a bipartisan consensus within the United States and within the United States Congress that China really is a threat about which we have to get ourselves organized to face.
Your tremendous experience in Asia gives you the perspective with which to answer how to what extent that is true in the countries in the region. I mean you have spoken to the Taiwan issue and that the clampdown in Hong Kong helped change the political complexion regarding China within Taiwan. Can you can you give us a further survey of the area and maybe even go into a little more detail about the effects of this on Thai public opinion and politics?
Prof. Kerry Gershaneck:
The representative response to PRC bullying and political warfare is called the Milk Tea Alliance, where the young people in Taiwan and in Thailand enjoy milk tea, bubble tea. This alliance that they built pushes back on the so-called netizens, the 50 Cent Army, which is largely strategic support for soldiers who are in the role of pretending to be, you know, online personalities. They are trolls, basically, and the so-called netizens get paid or are hyper-nationalized to actually go online and attack celebrities in Thailand, and denigrate Thais who are critical of China to try to destroy them.
There is push-back. When you look at the governments though, Thai officials, a former foreign minister who is a friend of mine and he is quoted in my first book, but basically, Thailand bends with the winds. Right now, the strong wind is coming from the north, [the] strong wind is coming from Beijing, it is not coming from Washington. Singapore is basically saying there is nothing we can do. Behind closed doors [they are saying] there is nothing we can do, we are not sure we can rely on the U.S. anymore.
Afghanistan: the disaster in Afghanistan is reverberating through the region. Scarborough Shoal, I was dealing with the countries here at the time, and our Philippines friends, our Thai friends, our allies, not just friends, are saying after Scarborough we cannot count on America anymore. Philippines is a treaty ally. The President of the Philippines personally requested, [he] flew to Washington to request President Obama support the Philippines when China basically stole Scarborough Shoal after Kirk Campbell and the Clinton State Department supposedly brokered a deal. The Chinese violated the deal the next day, basically, and the President of the Philippines flew and begged Obama for help, and America brushed him off.
Since 2012 there was a sense that America isn’t going to stand by its treaty allies, and then watching Afghanistan, no matter the fact that American news media is not really talking about this anymore, Asia is talking about that a lot. And so again, we have helped to contribute to that narrative [that] I described in graphic detail earlier, ‘America is unreliable, America is not going to stand by you. China is going to be here, we are your neighbor, and we are powerful. We are more powerful everyday, and America is weaker and more irrelevant everyday,’ so when you ask what is the sense here, there is dread, there is foreboding. There is a degree of confidence in Taiwan that we are going to stand up, we are not going to go quietly into the night, through a good portion of the people of Taiwan, but they know militarily the only way that happens, that the outcome is good in their behalf is if the U.S. is going to be there militarily to protect them.
They are getting mixed signals.
The CNN interview with President Biden, that sounded great. The first headlines were powerful. I even sent them out. Biden says twice, “We will go, we will fight to defend Taiwan,” and then, it should have been predictable, they walk it back. So it is sending very confusing, very mixed and demoralizing signals out there. President Tsai is putting out a good face.
Japan is Waking Up
The upcoming elections in Japan: right now, Japan has an LDP government that wants to push back, that wants to double the defense budget, basically, because of China, the threat by China. They understand. I am doing a lot of talks about political warfare to Japanese audiences. They are beginning to wake up to that threat. They have dealt with China for 2000 years. They have been face-to-face with them, but basically they too have been ignorant of – these are really good people, well-placed in the media, government, business. They did not recognize what has been going on with the United Front operations, the media subversion, and all that across the board in their own country, and they are beginning to wake up to that.
But this next election, coming up very soon, if the outcome is not good and the Komeito Party, which is pro-Beijing (and the LDP has to partner with it), if LDP loses more seats, Komeito wins more seats, then it goes back to a pacifist, accommodationist national policy from Japan, those efforts to double the defense budget will be defeated, those efforts to more assertively confront the PRC will be defeated. So even Japan where there is hope, there is a problem.
Australia, standing strong. New Zealand, a very weak link, incredibly weak link in the Five Eyes and the other, you know, our overall defense structure. The Pacific islands, the rest of Southeast Asia, the rest of Northeast Asia, looking to America for strong leadership but not seeing a whole lot on the political warfare front. I have seen much less than we saw under the previous administration when Secretary of State Pompeo, Assistant Secretary Stillwell, National Security Adviser O’Brien, Deputy National Security Adviser Pottinger, the head of the FBI, a lot of people are talking about the political warfare threat, trying to educate the American public, getting programs going.
Crickets right now from Lincoln, Sullivan, Austin, the national security team. You do not hear them talking about it. Yeah, there is some good words being said about Taiwan. Again, that is a separate issue in a way that I would like to see [a] stronger vow, you know, no more strategic ambiguity, but again, we will get into that. On [the] political warfare front we see no one in the administration educating (what Secretary Pompeo did), that is why my second book is dedicated to Secretary of State Pompeo just like my first one is dedicated to George Kennan.
Great voices: Kennan’s voice was the voice that got America mobilized to fight back during the Cold War on the political warfare battlefield and also developed the concept of containment, the ultimately successful strategy to win the Cold War. Pompeo was the one leading the charge. I mean there were others, too, great heroes in the administration. They spoke out uniformly. The Secretary of Defense was speaking out. There were several of them, but they spoke out against the China threat, about the China threat.
Right now, again, I do not hear those voices. I hear, ‘Well, they are pacing, you know, we are using them as a pacing challenge or using them,’ you know. No one is saying, ‘No, they are a threat.’ Even Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, ‘No, they are not, they are not, we have to be careful how we characterize them.’ If you are not saying the right words, if you do not recognize they are at war, it gets back to my opening statement, they are at war with us.
If you do not recognize that and you do not mobilize your Executive Branch, President Biden, to coherently across the board deal with the threat, we are going to be fragmented and we are going to be defeated. So, yes, I will reinforce some of the pessimism you said that you felt after my talk earlier. Unless we reverse things rather rapidly, I do not see a good outcome here.
China’s External Vulnerabilities
Robert R. Reilly:
Well, the Soviet Union and now Russia, and certainly China, understand the vulnerabilities of the United States and of our allies within NATO and then the countries you just mentioned. And they exploit them brilliantly and they divide and they weaken, and they dissolve.
Prof. Kerry Gershaneck:
Robert R. Reilly:
Well, if we were to seriously counter the political warfare that is being conducted against us, we would have to understand the vulnerabilities of the PRC. What are they?
Prof. Kerry Gershaneck:
Well, it is a brutally repressive, fascist, genocidal, totalitarian state. We have got a great story to tell. A lot of people detest and fear China. Do not misunderstand what I said about the mood over here in Asia. It is what are you going to do when the bully is right next door to you, on the playground with you?
America is a minimum 3000 miles away. It has not shown, you know, stellar leadership. In fact, it has shown great ineptitude regarding Afghanistan, the 20-year [long] war that we fought, an effort that we left. We were routed. It was worse than Dunkirk, it was a route where we left many behind the lines afterwards. Now the number seems to be 500, but maybe more, Americans, American citizens, or those we should have gotten out. The number keeps going up every day as we know it would.
China’s Internal Vulnerabilities
Robert R. Reilly:
But if I may, I understand, you spoke eloquently to those points, [but] I mean inside China. In other words, you are a veteran of the U.S. Information Agency and U.S. Information Service, as was I, and there were strategies within that institution when it existed [on] how to counter the disinformation and also to create problems within the societies that were supplying it by speaking directly to the people there, and conducting other kinds of operations.
And certainly part of the truth is exactly what you have said about China, the totalitarian, repressive, brutal regimes, etc. based on a lie, but how would we reach within China to give them something to worry about, the way in which they are giving us something to worry about within the United States, the way in which Russia gave Spain something to worry about because I learned how active they were in the Catalan splittist movement, not that they were pro-Catalan, they just wanted to see a NATO member divided within itself. Do you see what I am trying to get at?
Prof. Kerry Gershaneck:
Incidentally, I worked with USIA, I was not an employee of it. A strategic communications plan, I mean it gets back to having a policy regarding China to begin with, which we do not seem to have, and then a strategic campaign plan would call for elements like going after internal messaging, would go after the money that the princelings and those in power are getting through corruption. You would highlight, you would create those divides in a country where it is a lot harder now with the great firewall and all the massive repression.
They cannot seem to find all those drug dealers that are sending the fentanyl that is killing a minimum 20,000 Americans and arguably much more every year. They cannot seem to find them in China, but if you are Chinese and you tweet or use Weibo to put out the equivalent of a tweet that says Xi Jinping sucks rotten eggs, within 30 seconds you are going to have someone kicking in your front door because they can find you, and you will be off to one of their concentration camps very quickly.
So it is hard, but we can get that messaging out, we have overseas diaspora with Chinese language publications that we can get back into the business of controlling and getting free publications that are not under the thumb of the PRC.
But again, there are many themes we can exploit within China to show the corruption, to show the brutality, to highlight Tiananmen. Tiananmen Square is erased from the national consciousness within China. The lengths they go to – again, highlighted in my second book – the lengths they go to to to repress even the use of Lego tanks and pictures of Lego tanks or rubber ducks around the time of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in early June, they are all censored. Winnie the Pooh pictures because there was a comment made that that Xi Jinping looks like Winnie the Pooh. Well, they are all censored now by the great firewall. Especially around the Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary everything that you can conceivably think of (again, my second book goes into great detail on this) is censored.
We can work around that. We have the technology. We can get those tech giants that have been running rather rogue maybe to work a little bit closer with us rather than work with PRC to censor Americans maybe we can get them. But we have other resources to reach out into China and then to reach out into Chinese who are overseas as well, and they can get the word back in.
But yeah, this would be part of a much larger campaign plan and there is lots to exploit; the corruption, the waste, the empty cities that they built, the brand new gleaming cities, the Potemkin villages, again, organ harvesting, all the other proven, egregious crimes against humanity that are going on in there. The Chinese people by and large do not know about it.
We have ways of showing the difference, the disparity of wealth over there. You know, why is Xi Jinping’s daughter at Harvard? Why, you know, [there is] a whole separate issue about our academic institutions, but sure. Again, [take] smart people, put them in a room, lock them up for about, you know, seven days, slide pizzas under the door, and I will bet you we still have people like you, we still have people who could put this together, a lot of the State Department people.
I have spoken at the Foreign Service Institute. I talk to their people who teach the public affairs folks, the folks who should be the strategic communication leads for the State Department. They did not understand what the term political warfare meant, the faculty, so of course, no one is teaching that, and they do not think about it.
I have talked to ambassadors in Asia, in Thailand, you know, charge d’affaires, who do not see it as a threat at all while all around them, with the U.S. Ambassador is tweeting out pictures of the shoes she is wearing today and what she is having for lunch, and the Chinese ambassador is getting front page coverage of the $12 billion dollar rail project that the Chinese are going to build for Thailand. Which country do you think is going to get the love and admiration of the Thai people? But there are still people like you and others who have the skills that could build this plan and execute it.
Deterring China from Taiwan
Robert R. Reilly:
Well, the problem is that there is no institution from which to do it, as you are well aware because you have mentioned it in your writings, the U.S. Information Agency no longer exists. Secretary Pompeo was certainly trying to do what he could from the State Department, but as I am sure you have learned in your contact with Foreign Service officers, their job is diplomacy, not public diplomacy, and they will take job one rather than job two. So it is not the natural place for that public diplomacy mission to be carried out.
If we could return to the military-political side of things for a moment, it seems Japan has the growing realization that it is in a strategically untenable position if China invades and takes Taiwan, but what could be done in Taiwan or with the help of Taiwan’s purported friends, including the United States and perhaps Japan, to deter China to make sure it knows it can be hurt in a big way, something short of a world war where they cannot say, well, you are not going to exchange Taipei for Los Angeles, but that from Taipei, from Taiwan, which is an unsinkable aircraft carrier in a way, it could develop or be given the capacities to make sure China knows it could be hurt in a serious way if they invade? Is that possible do you think?
Prof. Kerry Gershaneck:
A lot [of people] have looked at that pretty closely, and a lot of good people are looking at that, the missiles that can take out not just the amphibious assault ships but the roll-on roll-off ships, the ro-ro ships. The entire commercial fleet in China by law really belongs to the People’s Liberation Army. I mean in effect it is all what we call civil reserve air fleet. There is a small number of civilian aircraft that we rely on here in the United States, but in China almost all of it is made to carry paratroopers, their fleet and their ro-ro ships, and all of that, those can be used in a rapidly put together amphibious assault attempt against Taiwan.
The key right now because the sense of urgency that Xi Jinping is conveying (it was not that long ago that he said he gave the PLA until 2020 to be ready to invade Taiwan), and now he is increasingly threatening to actually invade Taiwan because they are saying that since Hong Kong, especially Taiwan is pushing back hard on the political warfare or they are pushing back but not as as strong as they could be.
So the military threat is very real and I do not like seeing articles and people who just dismiss it, people who are not qualified to dismiss it because they say, well, they do not have enough amphibious assault ships. They do not need ‘enough,’ they just need enough to do a certain a part of it but the rest of it could be merchant ships if the ro-ros are not being sunk, so get them the missiles to sink the ro-ros, get them the capability quickly, that they can put at risk the airfields that they have been enhancing. At least three major airfields are being enhanced now, as you and I speak, to stage and re-arm forward air refuel, etc., all the aircraft that might be needed to attack Taiwan within very close [range] across the strait from Taiwan.
The staging areas, and again, I will not go into all the scenarios where maybe they have an exercise where I would see and then they just turn from the exercise and conduct the assault. Well, that that is that is harder to defeat, but you can at least take out staging areas. Give them missiles to do that, and again, they are working on that. They have got some some good missiles now, and then the anti-air capability because they do have an aircraft carrier and they are going to have several more fairly soon.
Now, they do not just circumnavigate the island, you can attack 360 now. It did not used to be the threat, Robert. It used to be basically everything was going to be coming in pretty directly across the strait. Now, if you have got the amphibious assault ships, the 07 ones, the 075s that carry a lot of helicopters in launch seven or so simultaneously, and you got a lot of PLA marines and PLA, the amphibious assault army troops inserted by a helicopter, now they are coming in from the east side. So give them the missiles to take that out because they are never going to have enough well-trained forces.
In the longer term something that we have been pounding on the table since the last assessments, the major assessments that I did almost 15 years ago, 16 years ago of the Taiwan armed forces, were we need to get them training on a much larger scale in Hawaii, in the deserts of California at 29 Palms and Fort Irwin in larger size units. We have done some small size units but we have not done much.
In the small numbers that President Tsai publicly acknowledged, small numbers of soft forces, special ops, and Marine Corps special ops reconnaissance folks that we have had in their training, that is not enough. It is good, it is full-time, that has an effect and as morale alone is important, that if someone is with us side-by-side, Americans are here side-by-side, full-time instead of we send someone to a school for six months, person comes back, and is basically ostracized because you are thinking too American. No. Now, you have that you have that continuous face-to-face, working together, but we need to do that with larger units, do combined our live fire training, which they do not do in Taiwan, so to make the military force credible, we need to do a lot better training.
We are helping with the weapons, but the missiles that will take out the attack, that will put at risk the vessels, the aircraft, and the departure airfields, the attack airfields, the ports, and the staging areas, that is going to give pause. And then we have to make sure, again, by saying America will respond, you are going to get overwhelming firepower coming at you, China, when America within hours begins deploying forces out of Japan from carriers, from strategic forces out of the airlift out of the U.S., and then you are going to pay a price from which you will never recover economically.
I mean it is not just kinetic, it is not just putting rounds on target, it is we are going to take you down economically, every account you have in the United States. You want to be in the World Trade Organization, we are going to make sure you are not anymore, you are going to pay, you are going to pay a fatal price politically and economically for doing this, but we have got to make that clear.
Robert R. Reilly:
That is a very strong itinerary. Right, well, I am afraid we are out of time. I would like to thank Professor Kerry Gershaneck for speaking so powerfully on the subject of Chinese political warfare and particularly the cases of Taiwan and Thailand. I want to encourage our audience to go to the Westminster Institute webpage and see the other videos that we are offering, a number of which are on the subject of China, Taiwan, and Japan, to learn more about these strategically vital security questions. Thank you for joining us today. I am Bob Reilly, your host.