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The Social Network, the alter-globalization movement and counter-forums

Gagliano Giuseppe

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An attentive analysis of the ways in which the alter-globalization galaxy enacts its antagonism to the system, especially in regard to national and transnational political, economic and military institutions,

reveals both how the alter-globalization movement implements its antagonistic demands above all through social networks and counter-forums and the extent to which it is capable of mobilizing non-homogeneous groups, often by exerting substantial influence on the choices made by political decision-makers on one hand, and capable of implementing vast and widespread disinformation campaigns on the other. Like all technological instruments, also social networks can cut both ways: like two-faced Janus, they can incite terrorist violence or contribute to the consolidation of antagonist ideologies by catalyzing discontent or just as equally consolidate consensus around national and super-national political and/or military institutions. Attempts at censure in today’s democracy would be destined to fail because the web offers such a wide variety of technological solutions that any type of shutdown imposed could be bypassed. Even if the manipulation of information is not only possible but desirable in a context of information warfare between institutions and movements or between national institutions themselves, in fact, the web offers the possibly to provide counter-information also through film footage and photos taken by cell phones and transmitted via Youtube. As regards the role played by information in the contexts of both sociology and social psychology, the domination of a particular piece of information and the ability to spread it can have such profound effect on civil society that Gen. Sullivan, ex-Chief of General Staff of the US Army, once claimed that information is the equivalent of a victory on the battlefield. On the other hand, as aptly noted by Luther Blisset, theoretician of anti-establishment media warfare, it is necessary to act within the mass media communication system and fight the power structure using its own arms. In light of these considerations, the definition of war as “…a struggle of opposing wills between organizations that use any violent or coercive means (armed conflict, cold war, evident and occult coercion) available to impose their own best interests or point of view” provided by Gen. Fabio Mini appears more appropriate than ever. The relevance of this definition depends on the absence of the adjective “military” and the presence of the expression “any struggle” between organizations. This means that the previous limit on the participants in traditional war – opposing nations – disappears and gives way to an opposition between nations and economic or social groups and/or political and other types of organization. In this light, also the definition provided of netwar by Arquilla and Ronfeldt is extremely interesting because it amounts to the aggregate of activities conducted for the purpose of disturbing, damaging or modifying what a determined population knows or thinks it knows about itself and its surroundings. In other words, what the antagonists have promoted and continue to promote through the social network may be considered warfare strategy in the Minian sense of the term, and more exactly, in information warfare, and therefore in propaganda and deception or altered, deceitful and/or misleading information. As correctly observed by Capt. Alfonso Montagnese, the Social Media are instruments of mass communication and relation whose utilization takes place in cyberspace using hardware (Internet, cell phones, pc, etc.) and software (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.). Compared to traditional media channels, social media users can interact and overcome geographic limits in real-time. Yet when social networks are used in an asymmetric context of conflict (with a governmental institution or a national or multinational industry one on side with a group of alter-globalization activists on the other, for example), the opposition takes form alternately in psychological warfare (through disinformation and propaganda) and antagonistic mobilization with the expenditure of reduced resources. The political and cultural subjects that have enacted asymmetric-type oppositions can largely be grouped as national subversive groups (Marxist-Leninist groups, anarchical-insurrectionist groups); antagonist movements/extra-parliamentary powers (anti-global, environmental protection, anti-nuclear power groups, xenophobe groups, organized sports hooligans, right-wing extremist groups); non-profit associations/foundations; religious groups, and trade union/political party groups. Appropriately, Capt. Montagnese mentions the comments of Gen. Francesco Lombardi, Ce.Mi.S.S. Military Sociology Department vice-Director and Head, who emphasizes how the protest movements of the future will still manifest themselves through physical conflict, the illegal occupation of public space, demonstrations, and rioting, and as in the past will still have antagonistic ends, but will differ from those of the past in the interaction between the demonstrators themselves, between the demonstrators and the power against them, and between the demonstrators and the world at large.
Strategic warning must certainly be included among the counter-measures to be enacted, and horizon scanning is extremely important because as noted by Montagnese it permits threat trends to be monitored in the mid- and long-term, the orientation of opponent force to be identified, and their evolution to be predicted. Specifically, national security institutes must draft a Social Media Strategy capable of alternating offensive activity through influence, deception, and propaganda with defensive activities like counter-propaganda, counter-interference, and the early warning conducted through the direct or indirect use of Social Media.

The Social Network and alter-globalization

In the context of the antagonism of the alter-globalization movements, the independent networks developed by civil society in the wake of Seattle (such as Indymedia, for example) have proven to be fundamentally important in globalizing the antagonism and making it more widespread and efficacious; these activists have made use of independent networks to convey clearly defined ideological content: ecologist, pacifist, anti-militarist, anti-capitalistic. In such regard, the promoters of these networks, whether consciously or unconsciously, have adopted as reference at the levels of both topic and mobilization technique the protest movements of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s in their implementation of both virtual and operative activism. The structure of these networks is naturally horizontal and this affords a greater degree of freedom in the flow of information while precluding every form of hierarchy similar to those of traditional political organizations. At the base of these networks lies the conviction of the existence of a universal right to knowledge and networking and that this right is an essential component in the exercise of the rights of citizenship in the context of participative democracy. It is enough to consider in this regard the networks of hacker movements that trace their roots to the social movements of ‘70s, the cyberpunk/artistic avant-garde, internationalism, and the self-managed social centers in general. Specifically, during an encounter in Naples in March 2001 against the Global forum, the Italian hacker movement implemented a technique known as netstrike designed to jam institutional internet sites. Again in 2001, but this time in Genoa, the independent networks were able to create a media center capable of efficacious counter-information for the purpose of de-legitimizing the work of the law enforcement system. In Italy, the Isola nella rete – the most significant entity inside the independent network is undoubtedly important. Founded as an association in the mid-‘90s with the purpose of placing communication and mobilization tools at the disposal of social movements, through an extensive network of links, the association has constructed an authentic virtual community of the antagonists. It is enough to consider that a dossier entitled “Under Accusation” that documents the violations of individual rights during the Genoa demonstration has been created in the Isole nella rete and that the new media sociologists use the expression controversial political communication to define this new communication vehicle, intending the combination of techniques or repertory of communication actions adopted to de-legitimize national, transnational and/or determined representatives of the same as an expansion of democracy. This new approach in communication has opened representative democracy to alternating direct and indirect criticism of increasingly wider scope. Another expression employed by mass-media sociologists is “counter-democracy”, which is used to emphasize the increasingly important role played by alter-globalization movements in monitoring and criticizing the institutions that hold political and economy power in blogs, forums, on-line campaigns, and mailing lists as tools that coordinate the activities of different groups. In this sense, Facebook becomes a fundamentally important instrument of counter-information because when it is used in an antagonist context, it can transform the consumption of news articles into a participative and antagonist process at both virtual and physical level. In this regard, the experience of the Popolo viola bears much significance. Using Facebook, it has proven capable of organizing at national level a campaign such as the one entitled No Berlusconi day with great visibility. Another example of political aggregation with antagonist ends in mind is provided by Beppe Grillo’s blog, which has now become a new place of meeting, encounter, and political interaction among citizens. This blog succeeds in attracting fairly constantly a considerable participation of around 200,000 visits a day and over 1000 comments on every single posted entry; beyond that, the blog has led to the birth of around 400 local groups in over 200 cities under the name Amici di Beppe Grillo (Friends of Beppe Grillo). The blog’s operative efficacy is demonstrated by the fact that between 2007 and 2008 it proved capable of collecting from a minimum of 350,000 to a maximum of 1,350,000 signatures for a law proposal made at popular demand. At international level, another successful example of popular mobilization is certainly the American movement known as MoveOn.org, which even if it cannot be considered unequivocally a part of the alter-globalization movement has, in any case, dealt with similar questions and adopts similar operating methods. In the context of new media sociology, this organization is known as a meta organization, meaning that it is radically decentralized and possesses a number of specific characteristics, including that of consisting of an organizational core of limited dimensions that serves as both facilitator and producer of organizational processes. First of all, it has smaller size than traditional organizations because its nucleus oscillates between 20-30 people; secondly this organization does not have a physical office ands therefore has ho administration costs. In other words, in legal terms, MoveOn.org resembles a cross-linked non-profit organization. This organization has a mailing list of 5 million members and is currently the most authoritative pressure group on the US political scene at network level. Its significance is demonstrated by its role in a promotional campaign for Obama that raised 88 million dollars in 2008 and provided the future president with 933,000 volunteers. Back on the Italian scene, much of the alter-globalization movement has used freeware software to create its own websites on the basis of precise assumptions: a common struggle against multinationals and their influence, and the establishment of an alternative society to the current one based on the freedom of information and spontaneous self-organization. Above and beyond the purely idealistic motivation, it is evident that the use of freeware gives anti-global movements an undeniable economic advantage. It is no coincidence that during the 2005 World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazilian President Lula committed his nation to both freeware and open-source software. One of the most important characteristics of the anti-global organizations that use the telematic network is certainly the promotion of alternative information that lets the public participate firsthand in the management of certain aspects of communication, provides additional documentation to sympathizers of determined movements like the peace movement or the antagonistic left. Another extremely important aspect is the need to integrate information with widespread work in the territory by creating, for example, local branches that collect all the most pertinent information on the issues under consideration. Another alternative communication tool is certainly TeleStreet, or in other words, “street television” that is closely linked to the local dimension. In purely technical terms, street television is born in a neighborhood or some other small center of inhabitation. Historically speaking, street tv was born with the 1977 movement and more precisely in the free radio movement. One particularly important event regarding street tv occurred in 2003, the year when numerous Italian tv activists promoted the widespread flying of rainbow-colored peace flags in their towns. The public addressed by Italian anti-global movements – prevalently the people who use Internet through websites and mailing lists – is a global and therefore heterogeneous one. The websites Indymedia, ControllArmi and Peacelink are undoubtedly particularly significant in the context of alter-globalization movements. ControllArmi, for example, is nothing but a website that runs by the Rete Italiana per il Disarmo (Italian Disarmament Network) set up in March 2004. This network has proven capable of mobilizing its resources to report the amendments made to Law No. 185 regulating arms exports; in particular, ControllArmi was born precisely to defend Law No. 185 and obtained an impressive and significant success after applying pressure to certain influential representatives of parliamentary institutions. The establishment of ControllArmi arose from the need to exert short-term control over arms sales on one hand and general disarmament in the long-term on the other. The presence of a number of important alter-global movements such as Rete Lilluput, Attac, Arci, Acli, Fiom-Cgil, Fiom-Cisl, Pax Christi, Un ponte per…, and Emergency in the organization is significant. The study of arms and the general disarmament desired in the future can be seen in the organization’s detailed analysis of every aspect of the world of arms, starting from small arms and covering international arms brokers, nuclear arms, depleted uranium, and the economic and political problems linked to the legal and otherwise exportation of arms. Also extremely interesting are the organization’s bonds with Iansa – the global small arms control movement founded in England – and with Safer World set up to monitor and study armaments; equally significant is the pressure exerted on the European Parliament – together with Safer World – in the defense of Law No. 185.

Counter-forums and the alter-globalization movement

According to the alter-globalization movements, only diplomats or government representatives who were never publicly elected usually take part in the world’s decision-making summits, but this, on the contrary, reflects a balance of power between nations. In other words, the alter-globalization movements lay claim to a logic of direct democracy that would enable civil society movements to become key players on the international scene. The counter-forums are characterized as unofficial meetings that deal with the same problems as traditional forums but with a deeply critical stance in regard to the choices made by governments and even those of neo-liberal companies on one hand, and on the other, the counter-forums utilize operative methods far different from those used by traditional ones (including counter-information, civil disobedience, etc.). From the historical point of view, counter-forums first came into existence in the ‘60s with the Tribunal against war crimes in Vietnam created in 1967 and then in the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal founded in Algiers in 1976 and instituted in definitive form in 1979. Naturally enough the composition of these tribunals – far from being impartial and unbiased – reflects world views with a strong ideological slant: in favor of the under-developed world, anti-capitalist and anti-militarist. Another historical root of the counter-forums that Mario Pianta identifies lies in the Peace movements that developed during the ‘80s. Experts on alter-global movements explicitly acknowledge the extent to which experiences in the leftist and ecologist movements of the ‘70s and ‘80s were fundamentally important because a large part of the activists on these fronts continued their activities in alter-globalization movements. As regards the risk posed to national and transnational military institutes, it must be remembered that some of these counter-forums have questioned the need for the existence of NATO and demanded the democratization of the UN, intending by such term the widespread presence of alter-globalization organizations in UN decision-making processes. From the historical point of view, the first counter-forum undoubtedly took place in Seattle (1999) and was organized alternately by structured and unstructured groups and an articulated organization that succeeded in bringing 60,000 people to the city. The media impact created by the counter-forum was such to raise hopes of a grass-roots globalization to be achieved precisely through such counter-forums. The Davos counter-forum of 2000, the counter-forum held in April in Washington, the one held in May, 2000 in New York called the Millennium Forum with 1200 participants must also be remembered in this sense. The apogee of such counter-forums was certainly the one held in Porto Alegre in January 2000, the fruit of an alliance between the Brazilian Workers’ Party, the trade unions, and the Sem Terra and Attac movements. This event with worldwide media coverage featured the participation of 20,000 activists from every continent and was the launching pad for the counter-forum to the G8 meeting in Genoa held in July, 2001. Naturally enough, one of the reasons for which these counter-forums developed is to pose a challenge to the nation-state system and the neo-Liberalist economy on the political and economic levels. The strategy pursued by the exponents of these counter-forums was – to use Mario Pianta’s expression – alternately reformist (this approach centers its attention on procedural change and specific political choices and is a strategy developed by the NGOs for the purpose of implementing integration with inter-governmental organizations wherever possible), radical alternative (an approach that places existing concentrations of power in serious doubt and indicates new models of collective actions such as new democratic structures as alternatives to neo-Liberalist structures), and lastly the strategy of resistance, which has been particularly developed in the undeveloped world for the purpose of implementing coordinated antagonistic action at national and international level. The strategy pursued so far by institutions – above and beyond the legitimate repression of manifestations of violence – has consisted in enacting surface level modifications in their political plans on one hand and in integration through co-opting whenever possible, on the other. The UN has chosen to accept some of the demands made by civil society and to acknowledge the validity of certain anti-Liberalist choices made by numerous NGOs, permitting these latter in this way to increase the gap between transnational institutions and intensify – for example – the contrast between decisions made by NATO and those made by the UN. At any rate, it is clear that the long-term strategy pursued by the counter-forums is to implement real and therefore structural change in the system. In this sense, it is well worth analyzing certain aspects of the document issued by the Assembly of Young People’s UN in Perugia, Italy, in September 1995. Firstly, it is clear that the alter-global movement wishes to convey all transnational institutions into the United Nations system, and that member nations must abandon thinking in terms of national security as the first step towards real disarmament (and the conversion of national military institutions in an international police force under the authority or command of the United Nations). It also emerges that nations must create an unarmed, non-violent force in replacement of today’s military, and lastly, that education in peace and human rights must be initiated in public schools and training institutes. The considerations made in the Tavola della pace (The Peace Table) in the Documents of the Assembly of the People’s UN drafted in Perugia between 1995 and 1999 are particularly interesting. First of all, the authors of this document express the need to bring institutions like the World Monetary Fund and the World Bank under the control of the United Nations; they also expound the concept that member nations must abandon thinking in terms of national security once and for all; thirdly – and consequently – the pacifism theorized in the document implies disarmament, the cessation of the international arms trade, the conversion of national military institutions in an international police force under the authority or command of the United Nations, and above all the creation of an unarmed, non-violent force in gradual replacement of today’s military. In light of these proposals, the refusal of the document’s authors to legitimize rightful warfare or interference on humanitarian grounds is clearly evident; on the other hand, the authors express the need to internationalize penal law through international courts, to condemn neo-Liberalism, and above all, emphasize the determinant role that must be played by organizations coming from civil society if a positive change is to be made, organizations that play – and can play – a determinant role in the establishment of world peace, a fair economy enhanced by solidarity, the promotion of human rights and democracy. Equally significant is the idea of education that emerges clearly from the document: the authors of the Tavola della pace also emphasize the need to promote education in the principles of world peace, human rights, and non-violence in the curricula of public schools. These proposals formulated at the Tavola della pace are democratic in nature but a more careful reading – especially one capable of identifying the operative implications of these proposals – clearly reveals their substantially antagonistic nature, and therefore one of radical rupture with the existing order. The proposals that the Tavola della Pace intends to achieve are as follows: first of all the dismantling of international trade organizations and the gaining of access to the nerve centers of transnational power by first gaining credit at the institutional level at UN level, the substitution of existing institutions for the purpose of planning an international policy and economics completely opposed to the one in existence. Secondly, the Tavola della pace aims at the elimination of the existing national and transnational military institutions and their substitution with non-violent armed force. The unswerving and radical rejection of neo-Liberalism – the third aspect – induces the document’s authors to identify in fair trade and solidarity organizations – such as alternative banks such as the ethical or sustainable banks – the only feasible alternatives capable of dismantling the current commercial organizations founded on the principle of mere capitalistic profit. Lastly, the fourth aspect, the emphasis posed on educating young people in the principles of peace at school and university level, really aims at systematic psychological warfare through widespread disinformation to induce them to reject the legitimacy of military institutions, which are portrayed only as illegitimate and immoral institutions. In short, the program formulated by the Tavola della pace is to every effect a political program – and one wide in scope, to be sure – that aims at taking power – even with the use of non-violent instruments (and therefore rejecting the traditional techniques or military overthrow, terrorism or guerilla warfare) and replacing the existing military and economic institutions with others controlled by delegates from lay and religious organizations of pacifist and alter-globalization origin.

Bibliography

Cap. CC Alfonso Montagnese, Impatto dei Social media sulla sicurezza nazionale, OSN, 2011

Lorenzo Mosca e Christian Vaccari, Nuovi media, nuova politica? Partecipazione e mobilitazione on-line da MoveOn al movimento 5 stelle, Franco Angeli, 2011

Mario Pianta, Globalizzazione dal basso. Economia mondiale e movimenti sociali, Il Manifesto Libri, 2001

Donatella della Porta e Lorenzo Mosca, Globalizzazione e movimenti sociali, Il Manifesto Libri, 2003

Umberto Rapetto-Roberto Di Nunzio, Le nuove guerre, Bur, 2001

Francesca Veltri, La rete in movimento. Telematica e protesta globale, Rubbettino, 2005

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Covid-19: A New Non-traditional Security Threat

Dhritiman Banerjee

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Authors: Dhritiman Banerjee & Ayush Banerjee

Traditional Security vs Non-traditional Security

There exist various types of threats that a nation faces in today’s world. These primordial threats, in turn, affect a nation’s security dilemma in ways more than one. These can be of two primary type- traditional security threats and non-traditional security threats. Traditional security threats are threats to national security that arise out of conventional international issues such as water sharing, land sharing, etc. These disputes often result in a full-scale war or conventional conflicts among the nations involved.

Similarly, non-traditional security threats are the concerns that a nation faces due to the increased complexity in the conduct of foreign relations after the wake of the new world order, post-1945. As more nations gained their independence and as more international organisations were formed, these threats spread throughout the world resulting in diplomatic tensions and, intra-state and inter-state armed conflicts. At times these conflicts also involve non-state belligerents as well. Large scale migration, environmental degradation and climate change action, intensification of ethnocentrism towards ethnonationalism leading to ethnic conflicts, cyberspace security risks, terrorism and violent extremism, etc. are examples of such non-traditional security threats.

Traditional security threats were directly aimed at the system of governance of the involved international actors, often involving various proportions of military conduct and an aggressive foreign policy coupled with intelligence operations. Meanwhile, non-traditional security threats are complex systems of organised opposition to a dominant entity or actor. These may not involve armed warfare or an aggressive foreign policy as such. For instance, the 9/11 attack on the twin towers in the United States by Al-Qaeda affiliates amount to a non-traditional security threat, in general, and terrorism, in particular. This attack was not directly aimed at toppling over the regime in power, rather spread the message of radical extremism globally by a non-state actor of violent nature. Such threats are becoming more and more predominant in the 21st century.

Another instance of a non-traditional security threat stemmed out of the growing resentment for the authoritarian regime in power in Syria, which triggered the Syrian refugee crisis in 2011-12. The rapid displacement of people in rural locals within the nation created large scale dissatisfaction in terms of the economy with a rise in unemployment rates and poverty among with the loss of their means of livelihood. This displaced populace travelled beyond the already fragile Syrian border into several European states that triggered a spillover of the Syrian refugee crisis resulting in a security risk for most south European states such as Greece and Italy. Invariably, most of the European states shut down their borders due to an imminent security risk from extremism and rising ethnocentrism that may have resulted from integrating the refugees into their formal economies. More recently, India shut down its borders on the displaced Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, stating the probable cause of extremism being imminent within such a marginalised, persecuted populace.

The Case of Covid-19

This year shook the global political order. By March 2020, the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan turned into a full-scale health crisis across the world. The virus had spread throughout the globe and new epicentres were discovered almost every week. Nations such as the United States, Spain, Italy, India, United Kingdom, among others have been severely affected ever since. However, alongside the health risks associated with the virus, as most governments focus on the research and development of a safe vaccine, the security risks are becoming more important as a part of this discourse with each passing day. There are restrictions on fundamental freedoms such the freedom of movement and assembly. While most major channels of information have shifted to the domains of cyberspace, governments have become heavily reliant on data infrastructures and domestic resource capacities. The transportation industry alongside others has been severely affected, affecting the national economy. The food supply chain has frayed. There have been no practical international trade operations except for highly politicised transfers of essentials and medicare. Millions have lost their employment and means of livelihood. Fear and panic have spread among the public at large. In a few nations, internal displacement has risen hundred folds.

However, as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads chaos, non-traditional security issues may not result in a nuclear catastrophe, but it may directly or indirectly threaten the survival of States. This time period is extremely important for all governments to reshape their policy processes to curtail the social, economic, political, diplomatic and human security risks associated with the outbreak. While many governments have opted to follow a phased lockdown model to tackle the health-related issues associated with the outbreak, they have failed to implement public policy to curtail the other risks associated with it. This nonchalance has resulted in a new age security dilemma that coerces the States into taking policy actions they never planned to adopt.

There are several security threats that pose a risk to major governments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the economic context, Covid-19 has increased market volatility such that the price of risk assets has fallen sharply with economies both large and small recording a significant drop of at least 30% at the trough. Tobias Adrian and Fabio Natalucci estimate that “Credit spreads have jumped, especially for lower-rated firms. Signs of stress have also emerged in major short-term funding markets, including the global market for U.S. dollars. Volatility has spiked, in some cases to levels last seen during the global financial crisis, amid the uncertainty about the economic impact of the pandemic. With the spike in volatility, market liquidity has deteriorated significantly, including in markets traditionally seen as deep, like the U.S. Treasury market, contributing to abrupt asset price moves.” It is said that all jobs created since the financial crisis in the US, have been completely wiped away during this Covid-19 outbreak. This creates an atmosphere of public agitation against the government that continues to trigger mass protests and activism. The financial security, housing security, employment security concerns are paramount in this distraught for the public and government alike. International trade is at a standstill affecting all the export-oriented economies around the globe. These nations are now bound by self-reliance on domestic industries creating a need to romp up securitisation efforts at the domestic level itself.

Moreover, Covid-19 is set to increase political instability in countries such as Japan, South Korea, India, Italy, China and the US due to the economic repercussions of the lockdown and also due to the public reaction to governmental policy in efforts towards eradicating the virus. In fact, if the virus causes a global economic meltdown or a global recession, it will perhaps be due to the economic perils the US economy shall face in the coming years. This will also considerably influence Trump’s reelection campaign, as he may be forced to prioritise digital media campaigns over public campaigns due to the risks emanating from Covid-19. There will be rising security concerns with regard to the same considering the fact that there has already been illegitimate involvement of foreign actors in the previous election campaigns wherein Cambridge Analytica was allegedly charged for deliberating manipulating audience content with the help of the Russian Federation.

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the dependence on cyberspace as software applications such as Google Meet, Skype and Zoom gain in popularity. This gain has been noticeably triggered by the idea of working from home and due to the conversion of physical classroom education to online learning modules. This brings into focus the need for an enhanced cybersecurity mechanism that can allow easy access while also protect the private and personal data of the users. There have already been reports which suggest that the security at Zoom has already been breached. This called for close inspection and proper securitisation of the features to ensure its clients’ next-generation data protection, as a remarkable landmark in the domains of cyberspace security. It is also said that the spread of Covid-19 will increase strategic disinformation campaigns leading to the spreading of propaganda, fake news and manipulated content. Much of this content may also undertake dubious angles on the virus outbreak itself inciting public dissatisfaction leading to panic and mass hysteria. While governments may also attempt at withholding valuable information and data on the actual consequences of the virus especially by downlisting the rate of mortality and infection behind the veil of public security.

The Council of Europe Cybercrimes division has reported that there is valuable evidence that malicious actors are exploiting the cyberspace vulnerabilities to cater to their own advantage. For example, it stated that phishing campaigns and malware distribution through seemingly genuine websites or documents providing information or advice on Covid-19 are used to infect computers and extract user credentials. Attacks against critical infrastructures or international organizations, such as the World Health Organization are becoming seemingly probable. Such agents also use ransomware targeting the mobile phones of individuals using applications that claim to provide genuine information on Covid-19 in order to extract financial information of the user. They can also obtain access to the systems of organisations by targeting employees who are teleworking or video conferencing. Fraudulent schemes where people are tricked into purchasing goods such as masks, hand sanitizers and fake cheap medicines claiming to prevent or cure Covid-19 are also being used for the same purpose by the cybercriminals. These are a few instances that add to the security dilemma the nations face due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 across the world.

Alongside these, the defence industry is set to experience a major slowdown due to the pandemic. Production, manufacturing facilities and supply chains could be affected as the requirements shift towards civilian and police equipment from heavy military equipment. More importance will be given to recovery and aid systems than weapons and ordnances. However, defensive readjustments continue to remain important for ensuring adequate security especially with respect to border control, protection of personnel and institutions, protection of natural resources from exploitation, ensuring law and order as law enforcement and paramilitary operations remain the primary preventive measures at the monopoly of the governments. This crisis will also have profound geopolitical consequences, particularly for the US-China relationship.

Tarık Oğuzlu believes, “the years ahead will likely see the geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China intensify. This power competition will likely transpire within a post-liberal international order in which neither the U.S. will continue to act as the chief provider of global public goods nor China will acquiesce in the role of norm-taker.” We already know that the USA under President Trump’s presidency has already begun questioning the liberal international order from within. Notwithstanding Trump’s reelection in November, the isolationist and nationalist tendencies within the current American society will continue to grow more radical and dominant. There may be smear campaigns that could affect the well-settled Chinese populace in order to expunge them from the integrated American society. Instances of racism and ethnocentrism will grow and lead to civic hostilities threatening public order and human security norms. Similarly, China under President Xi Jinpinghas adopted a more assertive and claimant role in international politics, and China has changed its course from the ‘bide your time and hide your capabilities’ dictum in history. Trade between the two major powers has already come to a standstill.

In the words of Ahyousha Khan, “…it is essential for states to counter non-traditional security threats because they can potentially reduce national resilience of states to prosper. The consequences of these threats would be more damaging for developing world, where there is population density, lack of medical facilities and most importantly economic vulnerability of the state to handle such threats for a prolonged period of time.” It is evident from the aforementioned instances that Covid-19 is, in fact, a non-traditional security threat in ways more than one. It leads to multitudes of security concerns hat encompasses most major domains of politics including the economy and cyberspace. Securitisation and protection services are of paramount importance in the same regard. It can be stated that the need to protect the civilians from such non-traditional security threats will lead States to assume a more authoritarian role whereby the State will increase surveillance on its citizens and will curtail the freedoms of movement and expression. Political leaders often exploit these non-traditional security threats to fulfill their own political interests and to secure their own position as the leader of the party. Such is the security risk arising out of the pandemic at large.

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CIA National Intelligence Estimates on the Cross-Strait and Sino-Russian Relations

Michael Lambert

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In July 2011, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) published a declassified National Intelligence Estimate on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” dating back to September 2000. The 45-page report highlights growing concerns in the American intelligence community about the future of Sino-Russian defense and trade cooperation, which could undermine Washington’s Smart Power in Central Asia and the South China Sea. However, the document also underlines the relationship between Russia and China “would not deepen much beyond its current state» and could even be «subject to occasional friction“.

The People’s Republic of China is perceived by the CIA as sceptical of US influence abroad at the moment of the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (September 2000), the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (May 7, 1999) becoming the symbol of animosity between the two countries.

Twenty years later, geopolitical tensions remain, as underlined by American support for the protests for greater autonomy in Hong Kong (2019), and Washington’s pressure on Beijing with the accusation of the military origins of Covid-19 (2020).

In 2020, all US attempts to implement Western Soft Power in China — with the exception of Hong Kong and Macao — have had mixed success. Washington’s struggle to establish mutual trust with Beijing is similar to that of Western European countries, and the tormented past and Chinese colonisation by the West is still a contentious issue.

In Western institutions, Chinese recovery of sovereignty goes back to December 20, 1999, with the transfer of Macao from Portugal to the People’s Republic of China. To the Chinese leadership, the inference by Western power is still going on with the US support to Taiwan (sales of US arms) and the Japanese presence around the Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands (Japanese Senkaku Islands) backed up by Washington.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, statement by Yang Jiechi in July 2019:

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. The sale of US arms to Taiwan seriously violates the One China Principle and the three joint China-U.S. communiqués, undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests, and seriously undermines peace and stability across the Strait.”

Ultimately, Beijing’s desire to overtake the United-States (eg. Chinese space program) would be motivated by the post-colonial trauma, the desire to regain control of Taiwan and attempts to gain the respect of former European colonial powers and Washington.

Sino-Russian relations may prove to be better than Sino-American relations. Nevertheless, and as the declassified CIA document of 2000 points out, bilateral cooperations between Moscow and Beijing remain difficult because of the Soviet Union’s Changing Policies on China’s Nuclear Weapons Program (Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia. Between Aid and Restriction: The Soviet Union’s Changing Policies on China’s Nuclear Weapons Program, 1954-1960. Asian Perspectives, 2012).

As of today, Beijing is ready to support Moscow because the two countries share the same views on multilateralism. However, Beijing has not shown any support to Russia’s diplomacy in the Black Sea (Crimea, Abkhazia and South-Ossetia) and the Middle East (Syria). To date, China does not recognize the Crimea as part of the Russian Federation, and has rejected offers to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries.

This research paper will focus on two reports — CIA National Intelligence Estimate (1999) “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations” and CIA National Intelligence Estimate (2000) “Russian-Chinese Relations : Prospects and Implications” — to explain how the CIA views Beijing-Taiwan and Beijing-Moscow relations in the late 1990s, after the return of Hong Kong (United Kingdom until 1997) and Macao (Portugal until 1999) to the People’s Republic of China.

The analysis will also highlight how the Balkans and the Black Sea conflicts have a direct impact on Chinese diplomacy according to the two declassified intelligence estimates of the CIA.

The CIA National Intelligence Estimate on “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations” (NIE 99-13 – September 1999)

After the return of Hong Kong and Macao to the People’s Republic of China, the United States is the only Western power capable of hindering Chinese territorial ambitions in the South China Sea (Taiwan). CIA reports in the 1990s, unlike those produced earlier by the CIA during the Cold War, attempted to determine whether Taiwan should remain an independent country backed up by Washington or follow the British and Portuguese examples of Hong Kong and Macao.

The CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate “China — Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations” published in September 1999, supposed to cover the evolution in the upcoming 3 years (2000–2003), and declassified in July 2011, answers this question and highlights the scenarii in which China could decide to regain control of Taiwan by military means.

The report has been produced at a critical moment in Sino-American relations because the return of Hong Kong and Macao under Chinese tutelage leaves the United States as the only military power capable of counterbalancing China’s regional ambitions, as Japan and South Korea do not have a nuclear strike force, unlike Great Britain.

Mention should be made of China’s rise to power, which is implied in the report. With the incorporation of Hong Kong and Macao, China has increased its GDP by attaching two bastions of capitalism, thereby weakening the British and Portuguese economy on the one hand and increasing the financial performance of Beijing on the other.

The CIA report also comes at a time when tensions between Washington and Beijing are increasing due to the NATO bombing of the People’s Republic of China embassy in Belgrade (May 7, 1999). The Balkans (Serbia) and the Caucasus (Chechnya) are recurring themes in the NIE on Taiwan, but also in the analysis on Russian-Chinese relations (CIA National Intelligence Estimate “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications“).

The NIE is relying on complementary analysis conducted by several US institutions, including the following ones mentioned in the beginning:

  • NIE 98-05, “China’s Conventional Military Forces: Current Status and Future Capabilities (1998-2008)”, released in June 1998
  • China’s Strategic Priorities and Behaviour“ supposed to be published later in 1999

The number of specialized reports on Cross-Strait relations underlines the priority for the CIA to increase its expertise on the People’s Republic of China for military and diplomatic reasons in the late 1990s. These reports, which cover a period of three years, also highlight the rapid evolution of Chinese diplomacy and military power after the Cold War.

Beijing’s approach regarding partially recognized states in Asia (Taiwan)

The bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Serbia is considered a key moment in relations between Beijing and Washington, and the CIA National Intelligence Estimate does not mention the voluntary or involuntary nature of the bombing.

CIA director George Tenet testified before a congressional committee that the bombing was the only one in the campaign organized and directed by his agency. According to George Tenet, the CIA had identified the wrong coordinates for a Yugoslav military target on the same street (Tenet George (1999). DCI Statement on the Belgrade Chinese Embassy Bombing House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Open Hearing. Central Intelligence Agency). It is therefore interesting that the NIE does not mention the nature of the bombing. However, a report mentioning the voluntary nature of such an action would probably not have been declassified.

Following the bombing, China’s position vis-à-vis the United States presence in Asia will become even more sceptical and, unlike the United-Kingdom and Portugal, the possibility of negotiating with Washington regarding Taiwan’s future tainted by the bombing in Serbia.

The CIA considers that Beijing has a comfortable position in Asia since the Europeans left Hong Kong and Macao, and believes that “China is convinced that Taiwan will not gain more influence” and that “greater economic interdependence between China and Taiwan will bring the two entities closer together.”

Unlike other de facto states such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Europe, which live on economic and military aid from Moscow because Georgia and the West do not want to increase their economic relations with the two territories, Beijing seems to have adopted an innovative strategy regarding Taiwan (also considered to be a de facto states according to the People’s Republic of China’s law). China is thus developing its commercial relations with the Island, hoping to see the two entities move closer together.

Beijing wishes to develop its relations with Taiwan in order to bind a prosperous territory when the time comes (like Hong-Kong and Macao) and to user Soft Power and economic ties instead of Hard Power. That is why Beijing wants to put more pressure on the United States to reduce the sale of arms to Taiwan and focus on economic cooperation.

Moreover, the NIE mentions that Beijing wants to make Hong Kong an instrument of Chinese “One country, two systems” propaganda. In this way, Chinese leadership wants to present the future of Taiwan as similar to the future of Hong Kong, with a commitment to economic prosperity and more freedom compared to Mainland China.

The Chinese approach is presented as slow and gradual. According to the report, China has no deadline for reunification and the certainty Taiwan “will not gain influence in the coming years”. In addition, the CIA claims that China will not engage in a military confrontation with Taiwan as this would be detrimental to its economy and international trade. China’s wish is therefore to impress and frighten Taiwan and the United States.

China’s Smart Power and the United Nations

In order to recover control over Taiwan, Beijing is ready to use a combination of Smart Power and international pressures in international institutions such as the United Nations (UN).

According to the NIE, Beijing suspects that Japan and Taiwan have a secret military agreement. In addition, China is trying to weaken the United States and all states — such as Panama — that have good relations with Taiwan, using all available means to ensure Taiwan will be internationally isolated.

Moreover, the CIA believes the more tension there is between China and the United States, the more Washington will be willing to support the island. In this sense, there is an interest for Taiwan to push for more confrontation between the two superpowers in order to improve the bilateral relationship between Taiwan and Washington.

According to the analysis, if the United States does not show firmness towards Beijing, the possibility of a domino effect is to be feared, and recovering control over Taiwan will then lead to increased pressures from Beijing on Japan and South Korea. In that sense, Taiwan needs to be defended by the United-States in order to contain China’s influence in the whole South-East Asia. Following this reasoning, and according to the CIA analysis, the reunion of Taiwan and China will mark the beginning of the United States’ withdrawal from the Asian continent and further changes for Japan and South-Korea.

Finally, the most singular point of the CIA report on Cross-Strait Relations is that it takes us back to the Balkans several times. Beijing is said to have put pressure on Northern Macedonia (Macedonia before 2019) because of its diplomatic relation with Taiwan. China is said to have vetoed the presence of peacekeepers in North Macedonia at the UN to show Beijing’s power on the European continent, a strong signal sent to several countries that might require UN assistance in the future.

Beijing could thus use the UN and other international institutions to influence the entire Balkans and the Black Sea by recognizing new countries or refusing to recognize them (eg. Abkhazia) and destabilize the European continent.

The CIA analysis thus lays the foundations for the Chinese strategy regarding the non-recognition of Kosovo (de jure a part of Serbia before partial recognition in 2008) to weaken the West, and at the same time the non-recognition of Abkhazia, Transnistria, South Ossetia to weaken Russian, and the non-recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh to weaken Armenia.

Beijing’s policy in Europe regarding de facto and partially recognized states will have consequences for the recognition of Taiwan and vice versa. In this sense, the CIA underlines how international institutions can be used by Beijing to achieve its objectives and how its policy in Europe is related to Taiwan.

The CIA’s Red Lines

These are the scenarii that could prompt Beijing to conduct a direct military attack on Taiwan:

  • Taiwan new referendum on Independence
  • Foreign support for pro-independence forces in Taiwan
  • Taiwan development of nuclear weapons
  • Political instability on the island

Despite this, the CIA believes that China will follow its plan to develop Soft Power in the coming decades, as relations with Russia will bring economic prosperity and military cooperation in order to counterbalance American influence in Asia.

The relationship between Moscow and Washington is not present in the NIE on “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations” and we have to focus on the National Intelligence Estimate on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” to understand how Sino-Russian relations are done in order to diminish the US influence in Taiwan.

A section entitled “What if we were wrong” also shows that the CIA is unsure of future developments, although it does present possible scenarii. Moreover, Washington does not seem to be ready for military intervention (no details in the report) and military support to Taiwan will probably take the form of military equipment only.

Conclusions on the National Intelligence Estimate “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations

In May 2020, the US State Department authorized a possible sale of eighteen MK-48 Mod6 Advanced Technology Heavy Weight Torpedoes and related equipment for an estimated cost of $180 million to Taiwan.

In response to the announcement Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on May 21, 2020, that:

“China is firmly opposed to the US arms sales to Taiwan and has made solemn representations to the US. We urge the US side to strictly abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of the three Sino-US joint communiques, and stop arms sales to Taiwan and military links between the United States and Taiwan to avoid further damage to Sino-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Some 20 years after the publication of the CIA National Intelligence Estimate report “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations,” the approach between the United-States and China seems to show no significant change. Beijing opposes any US military presence and equipment sales to Taiwan, while the United States is not ready to abandon the island for fear of losing influence in South Korea and Japan.

Another element that emerges from this report is the CIA’s anticipation of China’s diplomacy regarding de facto and partially recognized states in Europe and the influence they have on contemporary Chinese diplomacy at the UN, bilateral relations with Moscow (Crimea, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South-Ossetia), Armenia (Nagorno-Karabakh), and the West (Kosovo).

The report also bears witness to the upcoming ambivalence of relations with Russia, which wants China to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia (de jure independent according to Russia and de jure part of Georgia according to the West).

On reading the CIA report, it is clear that Beijing will not vote in favour of diplomatic recognition of any de facto states in Europe in the late 2000s, forcing it to reopen the debate on the recognition of Taiwan and the application of the Montevideo Convention.

As the CIA shows, relations between China and Taiwan will lead to a debate on the recognition of Kosovo, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and possibly Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. Although apparently focusing on Taiwan-China relations, the report provides multiple references that link Taiwan and Chinese diplomacy to the Balkans and the Caucasus, as evidenced by the reference to the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the lack of support for UN Peacekeepers in North Macedonia.

The CIA National Intelligence Estimate on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” (NIE 2000-10C–September 2000)

Alongside reports on Beijing’s growing influence in Asia, the CIA conducted a study on relations between Russia and the Republic of China during the same period (1999-2000). The NIE on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” is partially declassified, and a considerable part of this study remains “top secret” (pages 27-36) to this day.

The early release raises the question of whether it is worthwhile for CIA archivists to provide access to the document in question, especially in view of the classification, which usually includes results that must not be accessible to the public before several decades:

  • The elements of the report that are now accessible are no longer of strategic interest (which is the case for the majority of declassified archives).
  • The CIA report shows that relations between Russia and China are ambiguous, and could lead to a form of discord between the two superpowers.
  • Technological developments (Russian S-400; Chinese J-20) are showing the report no longer covers contemporary military threats.

It seems important to mention that at the time of disclosure (2011), Russia has not yet returned to the international arena and is in the process of losing ground in Central Asia and the Black Sea area. Russia’s comeback goes back the Crisis in Crimea (2014 — nowadays) and the launch of the Eurasian Economic Union (2015).

The CIA could therefore have downgraded a document, like those on the USSR, without envisaging that the latter might have a deeper strategic relevance a decade later in 2020 and that Russia would experience a significant resurgence of influence.

Political Coordination and the fight against American unilateralism

From the very beginning, the NIE on Russia-China relations mentions the next 5 years ‘would not develop in a manner that is threatening to the US and might even stabilize Asia.’ The report adds that the 2000s will see an increase in arms sales between the two countries, particularly of SA-10 and SA-20 (S-300PMU-1/2 (SA-20)) from Russia to China.

Sino-Russian relations, in line with the CIA’s vision, should stagnate and focus on economic cooperation without any further political and military integration. The CIA also claims that the new Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will continue to sell military equipment because the Russian economy would struggle to without China. Beijing should also agree on buying more Russian military equipment because the People’s Liberation Army wants to scare Taiwan with military technology that can compete with that of the United States. According to the report, the Russian approach would be to sell military equipment in the hope that this would lead to the sales of other non-military products to China in the future.

As the NIE shows, Sino-Russian relations should not lead to supranational cooperation:

  • The Kremlin is afraid China could become more powerful economically and militarily and thus threaten Washington’s influence in Asia and Moscow’s influence in Central Asia.
  • China is skeptical regarding Russian policy since the 1950s because of the lack of support from Moscow for the development of an independent Chinese military nuclear programme (Chinese CHIC projects).

However, both countries wish to witness the emergence of a multipolar world and the attitude of American diplomacy in the 1990s has exacerbated tensions because neither Russia nor China seems capable of opposing Washington’s military ambitions. Indeed, Washington’s military power in the 1990s is such that the United States are able to bypass international bodies such as the United Nations.

The CIA therefore openly mentions the reasons for the fears of China and Russia in the 1990s, as these two countries were not able to contain American Smart Power:

  • Russia and China are angry at the American decision to launch air strikes against Baghdad (December 1998). France, Russia and China opposed such military intervention at the UN without any results.
  • Suspicion of NATO’s revised strategic concept of April 1999, which expands the geographic scope and justifications for the use of force.
  • Outrage at the US approach to the Balkan crisis from March to June 1999 and the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May 1999.

Contrary to the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate (1999) “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations,” the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is mentioned as ‘accidental’ in the “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” NIE.

The CIA adds that cooperation between Japan and the United States could weaken both China and Russia, bringing Moscow and Beijing to adopt a shared policy in Asia. Moreover, to counterbalance American influence, Russia has decided not to support Taiwan, and China has decided to support Russian involvement in Chechnya. The CIA establishes a direct link between China’s diplomacy regarding Chechnya and Russia’s policy towards Taiwan.

The NIE does not fail to add that anti-American sentiment in both countries is also based on the fact that Moscow and Beijing are dealing with internal instability in the late 1990s.

The Balkan Crisis and the Sino-Russian Cooperation

Another part of the report which concerns the sale of arms from Moscow to Beijing requires attention. The CIA thus mentions that China will not hesitate to ‘shop around’ to find the best military equipments available on the international market. Although Beijing appreciates Russia for its quality and affordability, China seems to be interested in another supplier. The name of the country has been removed from the NIE and there is no evidence to identify it.

The National Intelligence Estimate states that the crisis in the Balkans is a key moment in Sino-Russian relations because it has brought Moscow and Beijing closer together in international institutions (UN) and in their anti-Americanism. However, the CIA believes Putin, contrary to Yeltsin, is “sceptical” when it comes to China. The NIE also mentions the new Russian president has a “mercenary” approach in his relations with Beijing (page 24).

What could undermine Sino-Russian relations?

The NIE tells a policy by Vladimir Putin aimed at redirecting arms sales to the West rather than to China could have a negative impact on bilateral relations. With regard to arms sales in the 2000s, it can therefore be said that the West, and in particular the United States, have chosen not to weaken relations between Beijing and Moscow. Indeed, the CIA could have encouraged partner countries to purchase Russian military equipment and thus counterbalance the economic weight of China in the Russian economy.

This option might have been considered at the beginning of the 2000s. However the successive crises — Kursk submarine disaster (2000), September 11 attacks (2001), Iraq War (2003), the financial crisis of 2007–08 — have made it difficult for a rapprochement between Russia and Western countries.

The report adds that Russia’s lack of support for China’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ project could also have a negative influence on relations. In the 1990s, Russia supported a more autonomous policy in non-recognized states. The CIA speculates that Russia might consider recognizing Taiwan, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria on the basis of the Montevideo Convention, which it will do for Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008. The possibility of Russia recognizing Taiwan to justify its own recognition of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia is therefore a hypothesis suggested by the CIA in its report.

Finally, the analysis considers that China’s refusal to allow Russia to exert influence in Xinjiang and China’s western territories, as well as tensions in the Russian Far-East, could undermine bilateral cooperation.

In 2020, the context is rather similar and Beijing’s influence in Central Asia remains an issue as much as China’s influence in the Russian Far-East. Projects such as the Eurasian Economic Union (2015) are aimed at securing Russian control over Central Asia and halting the possibility of a political partnership between China and Central Asian countries. In fine, tensions between Moscow and Beijing remain, however both countries seem to have found a compromise with the coexistence of the Eurasian Economic Union supported by Russia and the One Belt One Road project sponsored by Beijing.

Sino-Russian Cooperation in Military Intelligence and/or Energy Cooperations (Classified)

The NIE remains partially classified to this day, and a considerable part (pages 27-36) has been deliberately omitted and its content is unknown. The US Department of Energy participated in the report (mentioned page 42) and the missing part might focus on Sino-Russian economic energy cooperations and pipelines.

However, the conclusion of the CIA report and the annex are mentioning a cooperation between Russia and China in the field of military intelligence (‘Russia-China Military Exchange’). It therefore seems inconsistent to see a conclusion on cooperation in this specific field when only one mention is made of it in the report (page 18). This first element leads us to believe the remaining part classified is linked to this issue. Moreover, the CIA had already made public a report on the subject “Soviet espionage schools” dating back to 1946. It therefore seems likely that the CIA will mention Sino-Russian intelligence cooperation in the National Intelligence Estimate on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications.”

On the basis of the report “Soviet Espionage Training Schools” (1946) report, one could put forward the idea that the NIE on Sino-Russian cooperation covers the following topics:

  • Suspicion of joint training between Russia and China in Tientsin and Beijing (mentioned in the 1946 report).
  • Joint training in Harbin at the National Defence Technology University. The CIA designates Harbin as the epicentre of Russia-China military relations, and to this day the National Defense Technology University remains an essential element in the training of China’s military elites.

In the NIE, the CIA also mentions that Russia is training Chinese troops in the handling of Su-27 (page 38) and Su-30 for a period of 6 months at the Krasnodar Foreign Pilot Training Centre.

In March 2000, Chinese students at the Smolensk Army Air Defence University are studying the strategy and systems of the SA-10 and SA-20 (S-300PMU-1/2 (SA-20) known as S-300 (NATO’s report name SA-10 Grumble), a series of long-range ground-to-air missile systems, first Soviet and then Russian, produced by NPO Almaz, based on the initial version of the S-300P.

The CIA claims that Russian commanders of the Siberian and Far Eastern military districts meet regularly with their Chinese counterpart in the Shenyang military region. The Russian GRU leader Korabel’nikov would have visited the PLA’s head of intelligence, Xiong Guangkai in June 1999.

Conclusion on the National Intelligence Estimates

The publication of the two NIE a decade later shows the capabilities of the US intelligence community and is an essential part of the CIA’s Soft Power. In fact, few intelligence agencies in the world can afford to produce and release such documents on the People’s Republic of China and Russia, and to provide details about the military cooperations between the two superpowers.

The choice to publish the National Intelligence Estimates may be linked to the fact that the documents are no longer relevant to the United-States and US allies. In January 2011, China unveiled its Chengdu J-20 fighter jet, and Russia’s weight in the Chinese defense industry is not the same as in the late 1990s, making the report outdated. Consequently, the documents are providing some interesting historical elements but need to be updated, especially when it comes to Russian and Chinese diplomacy regarding de facto and partially recognized states.

In 2000, it was difficult to know whether Beijing would be ready to recognize Kosovo, Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia or even Nagorno-Karabakh. On decade later in 2011, it is clear that Chinese diplomacy will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia (recognized by Russia in 2008) and that Moscow will not venture to recognize Taiwan.

Finally, the report could shed light on the tensions between Russia and China in the 1990s, and its disclosure would therefore be aimed at creating tensions between the two countries.

It is also possible that the report’s analyses are irrelevant or even incorrect, and that its disclosure is intended to suggest that the CIA has shortcomings in Russian-Chinese relations, whereas the CIA would keep the best reports on the subject without disclosing them.

Both documents are based on previous CIA analysis on China and Russia. It can thus be seen that between 1946 and 2000, the CIA monitored relations between China and Russia and had at its disposal strategically knowledge such as the location of the joint training centre for Russian and Chinese officers in Harbin.

The most original aspect of these two NIEs remains the relationship between Europe (Balkans and the Black Sea area) and Chinese policy regarding Taiwan. The bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is perceived to be a key element in Sino-Russian relations, bringing the two countries closer together in their anti-Americanism. Moreover, the reports are establishing a connection between events in Europe and Asia, underlining both Moscow and Beijing have a global strategy regarding de facto states (Taiwan, Kosovo, Abkhazia, South-Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh).

The CIA report therefore takes on an additional dimension. Whereas organisations such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) bring together de facto states in Europe to do a comparative analysis, the CIA has a worldwide approach and also includes Asian de facto states (Taiwan). Russia and China seem to have adopted the same approach and the Chinese policy in Chechnya is interconnected with the Russian diplomacy in Taiwan.

It can therefore be said that the US, Chinese and Russian strategies towards Taiwan, as well as towards partially and unrecognized states in Europe, are global and interconnected, raising questions about Washington’s interest in recognizing Kosovo in February 2008. The CIA was aware the diplomatic recognition of Kosovo would have an impact not only on the stability in the Balkans, but also on Russian and Chinese diplomacy in the Black Sea area (eg. recognition of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia by Moscow) and the South China Sea (more tensions between China and Taiwan).

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Intelligence

Cyberwar between the United States and China

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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How is the new “Cold War 2.0”,which currently characterizes the ever less collaborative relations between the United States and China, developing?

Some data may be interesting in this regard. On March 3, 2020 the Chinese cybersecurity company Qihoo 360 accused CIA of having hacked many Chinese companies for over 11 years.

 They are – almost obviously – aviation companies, large global commercial Internet networks, research institutions and certainly also Chinese government agencies.

Not to mention the cryptocurrency operations often organized by people and entities traceable to the North Korean government.

Both the Chinese and the US governments, in fact, use various and complex entities and mechanisms to operate in cyberwar. Firstly, the “front companies”. Just think of the Chinese group APT40, which even hires hackers – as everybody does, after all. Secondly, the intrusions to collect cyberdata in the large multinational companies, or even in State agencies, which often remain blocked for a few days and, in that phase, transfer vast masses of data to the “enemy”.

 Thirdly, the theft of IP and trade secrets- another mechanism that everybody uses.

Obviously this is not the case of Italian Agencies, which, at most, can entrust a small, but good Milanese company to do some hacking, possibly in accordance with the law.

 It now seems that the Italian ruling classes are composed above all of what in the 1920s Gaetano Salvemini called “the Paglietta of the Naples Court”.

On the military level, the United States believes that today the Chinese Joint Chiefs of Staff can hit well and quickly any opposing C3 system (Combat, Control, Communication) and that it can also carry out automated, but smart warfare operations, from the very first moments in which a significant regional military clash occurs.

Although many US experts in the sector also maintain that, still today, the United States hasa better base of action and, probably some advanced technologies that could enable the United States to have a better and wider cyber action. Nevertheless, this is not necessarily the case.

Certainly China is well aware that the Western and especially North American response to a harsh cyberattack would entail an even harsher, immediate and ruinous reaction against Chinese targets in the homeland and in the other regions.

Hence cyberwar’s parallel IT operations are mainly carried out by Russia: just think of the attack on French TV5Monde in 2015 or on Ukrainian energy companies in late December 2015, as well as on Sony in 2014. We can also mention the 2017 attack – through the use of a computer virus, WannaCry – which, however, was a cyberattack attributed by the United States to North Korea.

 On the technical-legal level, the Chinese legislation that governs the Chinese cyberwar is mainly contained in the National Security Law of 2015 and finally in the Intelligence Law of 2017, in which it is laid down that cyber operations can be conducted both by the Ministry of National Security, the old guoan, and by the Office for Internal Security of the Public Security Ministry.

 The operations abroad normally concern the Centre for the Evaluation of Intelligence and Technology (CINTSEC), which is an integral part of the Ministry for State Security.

 The other autonomous cyber networks operating within the People’s Liberation Army(PLA) add to this official network.

At geopolitical level, China does not want to trigger any conflict with the United States. Neither a traditional conflict nor a cyber one. Quite the reverse.

China’s current real goal is to bridge the technological and operational gap between the two cyberwars, both on a strictly military level and, above all, on the economic and technological one.

 China knows that – as Napoleon said – “wars cost money” and it is good not to make them if they can be avoided.

 For the United States, China needs cyberwar to win “particularly informationalised local wars”.

Conversely, for Chinese theorists, cyberwar is the only real strategic war of the 21st century, as it was the case for nuclear war in the 20th century.

 In other words, the technological and doctrinal area that allows to win a medium and large conflict and then sit at the peace negotiating table with of Phaedrus’s motto Quia sum Leo.

 Also on a global and commercial level, China even plans to build a large private company that can compete on an equal footing with what in China is called “the eight Kongs”, namely Apple, Cisco, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and Qualcomm.

 Therefore, at military level, China wants first of all its full cyberspace security so as to ensure the security of critical intelligence, both of regions and economic activities.

Also on the American side, however, there is currently a tendency to reduce the Chinese cyber penetration power, both at military and commercial levels. Some analysts maintain that,in recent years, the Chinese cyber presence has been very exaggerated.

There is a psywar operation – this time, certainly, of North American origin, but recently present on the Web – which currently makes us add a further analytical factor on the intelligence cyberwar and, above all, on the implementation of cyber criteria in psywar.

Nowadays there is a sort of “Report of a Military Contractor” available on the Web- as it is officially entitled – which is supposed to reveal just what the United States would like to hear still today, i.e. that Covid-19 is just a “Chinese virus” that was designed and made in the now very famous Wuhan laboratory.

 This report was drafted by a previously unknown Multi-Agency Collaboration Environment (MACE), a group of cyber and non-cyber experts, whose site is only part of the Sierra Nevada Corporation.

However, it is still a current relevant contractor of the US Department of Defence.

Hence the usual “external centre” that is used to say things that it would be unreasonable to say directly.

 The report states it is based on evidence related to the posts of the intra-and extra social networks, both of the laboratory and its employees, as well as on the data provided by non-military satellites and finally on the positioning data of mobile phones.

 All this in view of even saying that “something” happened – probably by chance and accidentally, but in any case extremely severe and uncontrolled – in the Wuhan laboratory, only with regard to the Covid-19 virus.

 This is a further phase of the modern misinformation technique: at first, it was said that the virus deliberately came out of the Hebei laboratory, while now it is underlined that it probably “escaped” unintentionally from its microscopic cage.

It is easy to understand what they really want to communicate: even if the Chinese government were not responsible, international lawsuits for claiming damages would still be possible.

 Nowadays, at least in the West, misinformation is carried out at first by hardly hitting the opponent and later possibly apologizing for saying something inaccurate or wrong. A psychological warfare technique that creates the “aura” of the case without later supporting and corroborating it. It is very dangerous.

 A really dangerous tactic, especially in the presence of an increasingly evolved and advanced Network.

The document, however, does not report as many as seven locations of mobile and institutional phones within the Wuhan laboratory – too great a flaw to be accidental.

 MACE also states that, allegedly, a whole conference inside the Hebei laboratory was “cancelled”, due to an unspecified disaster, while, again in the documents of the laboratory, there are pictures with a clear internal date concerning precisely that event, the conference of November 2019.

 One of these pictures was also found in the social media of a Pakistani scientist who had participated.

 Even the aerial photographs provided by the company Maxar Technologies are a sign of obvious and normal repairing of roads, certainly not specific roadblocks placed due to an unforeseen and very severe event.

A few days ago President Trump stated that the “virus came out of the lab because someone was stupid”. Too easy and, I believe, useless even for a legal and insurance case against the Chinese government itself.

 Moreover, these is the more or less manipulated data which, however, has certainly been useful to develop and spread the theory of “Chinese fault” for the outbreak of the epidemic and then pandemic, just in the midst of the great “acquisition of intelligence data” to which Trump and Pompeo referred.

 All this just to reaffirm, without any reasonable doubt, the wilful or culpable guilt of the Chinese government in the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and hence to stop the development of China and make it retreat, – with huge legal costs – from a development rate that was already within reach.

 Moreover, the aforementioned MACE report lacks some data that we would simply call cultural intelligence, i.e. not knowing that the first week of October is a “golden” week for China, e.g. the National Day which commemorates the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, announced by Mao Zedong in a very famous speech at the Square of Heavenly Peace Square, with an even more famous phrase: “the Chinese people have stood up!”

 How can they not know this, even believing they are intelligence people?

 The same happened with a US report on the coronavirus issue transmitted from US to Australian intelligence agencies and later immediately published in a Sydney newspaper. Obviously everyone also “manipulate” documents to defame the opponent, but there are many ways and means of doing so.

On a more strictly doctrinal level, however, the issue brings us back to the analysis developed in 1999 by the two famous PLA Colonels, Quiao Lang and Wang Xiangsui, entitled Unrestricted Warfare.

 It was a manual on what we would today call asymmetrical warfare.

Today, however, Quiao Liang thinks that – even at this stage of the conflict -war is still linked to the manufacturing industry. This means you can have excellent scientific research and a good network of research centres, but if you do not turn all this into mass and important industrial products, as Quiao Liang says, “you have just won a medal, but nothing more”.

 Liang also maintains that the United States is therefore using up its weapons and industrial equipment stocks.

Furthermore, the more the coronavirus crisis worsens -considering the scarcely effective reaction of the US economic and health system – the more the consumption of North American military and civilian stocks increases, although the ability to produce them decreases more than proportionally.

Hence has the United States still have a manufacturing and mass industry, as well as the ability to turn technological evolution into mass products, to wage an asymmetrical or conventional war but, above all, to continue it until the final victory?

  The Chinese Air Force General seems to imply that this is not the case.

Hence, in his mind, currently the only reasonable solution for China is to expand its production system, but never underestimate the “traditional” medium-low technology manufacturing industry, which is the one that reproduces and expands production forces and enables it to last over time, which is the only real guarantee of victory.

 You do not eat fintech products, but rather Californian tomatoes and Midwest meat.

 Those who want to collect technological jewels can certainly do so and – as the General maintains – obviously also China must do so, but what is still and always needed is the great mass production and items that, coincidentally, have become scarce all over the world: masks, respirators, food, traditional infrastructure, as well as means of transport.

It is fine if you believe that war and the economy are a superhero scenario, but you have to win, i.e. “to last one minute more than your opponent” – hence you need to go back to a mass, industrial, stable and growing civilization for the “real” economy.

 The myth of high technology as the key to everything, induced by the development of the current United States, has made everyone else in the world lose the true sense of modernization, the key concept of the Chinese political narrative, from Deng Xiaoping to present days and in the future.

You cannot think of a future civilization in which social verticalisation is such that a share of over-rich countries slightly higher than 1% follows the vertical impoverishment of all the others.

 A mass impoverishment which also leads to a reduction of manufacturing production. The products are later sent to “Third World” countries to trigger a process of social pyramidalization that is almost unprecedented in human history. And what is it for? For uselessly spending the mad money produced by fintech?

 Therefore, the Chinese General believes that a US decoupling from China – as all the economists close to the White House preach-is needed to prevent China from taking all the most important technological and defence patents. In his opinion, however, also China must not decouple from the USA at all. This is not useful for high technology, but if anything, to avoid doing the same as the United States on a mass level.

 If there is decoupling – as the current US economists preach – the Chinese products will become more competitive compared to the US and US-related products. Hence the US monetary hegemony would soon disappear and the same would be true for the its double use of the dollar that made an old FED Governor say to his European colleagues: “the dollar is our currency,but it is your problem”.

Therefore, in the long run, it will also be impossible to let China – with its low-cost productions – be replaced by Vietnam, Myanmar and the other countries in the so-called “pearl necklace” of Southeast Asia.

Moreover, if after the coronavirus crisis, there will be further robotization of the workforce, how will it be possible to maintain many and sufficiently high wages which, after the pandemic, will obviously be distributed to a smaller number of available workers?

 Low wages – and hence also scarce tax revenues – as well as crisis of State spending and decrease in social and military spending, especially in the high tech sector, which always has a very high unit cost.

 Therefore, just to recap, the Empire is facing severe danger.

 As the Chinese General maintains, “we must not dance with wolves”, i.e. we must not follow the pace of US dance to reap only the technological fruits, but rather maintain and expand the great manufacturing production and, above all, even avoid taking up the cultural, industrial and scientific traits of the United States, which the Chinese General deems to be at the end of its civilization cycle.

According to Chinese analysts, the United States is a “country that has gone directly from dawn to decadence”, just to put it in the words of a French ambassador.

Hence China needs to solve the Taiwan issue autonomously, as well as also harshly oppose the actions against Huawei, by reacting blow-for-blow with the U.S. companies in China, such as IBM, Cisco, etc., and stopping their activities in China, where necessary. Anything but hybrid warfare.

 Here we are at a commercial and quasi-conventional war between two powers, i.e. an old Western power,on the one side, and an Asian power on the other which, however, does not want at all to be relegated and closed in the Pacific, as implied and assumed by the new US military projects for closing the Ocean, from California to Japan, or for trying to block the expansion of the Silk Road or still trying to block the expansion line to the South and East of China, as President Xi Jinping has recently advocated.

Certainly China is currently not lagging behind on the cyberwar issue. Nevertheless it does not want to use it as a substitute for conventional war or psywar for dual-use technologies, nor to play the game of the total defeat of a hypothetical “enemy”.

China can now avail itself of the Third Department of the People’s Army, the network dedicated to cyberwar within the PLA, but also of the Strategic Support Force.

 This will be the new “Cold War 2.0”, i.e. a series of IT, economic and industrial guerrilla warfare actions, and of actions of defamation – specifically at military level – of confidential information to be stolen from the enemy in a tenth of a second, as well as of cultural manipulation and-eventually, but only in the end-of fake news.

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