The economic and intelligence tension between the United States and China is currently at its peak since the end of the Cold War. During that phase, however, China had also taken actions to oppose the Soviet Union, with the opening to the United States and the “ping-pong diplomacy” in the early 1970s, as well as its tacit support to Kissinger’s resolution of all tensions between the United States and the Southeast Asian countries.
At the time China wanted to help the United States to regionalize – in Asia – its historic “Northern enemy,” namely Russia.
In his “Three Worlds Theory”, Mao Zedong placed it together with the United States in the “First World”, as both imperialist powers, while he regarded China as the current and future leader of the whole Third World fighting against the “metropolises” of the First World.
Said project has not changed, it has only changed its language and its procedures.
Now that the bilateral tension between the United States and the People’s Republic of China is at its highest, the rationale for this new Sino-American scenario is simple. China wants to achieve global geopolitical hegemony, while the United States led by President Donald J. Trump wants to rebuild its new economic and purely financial hegemony, and hence resort to protectionist practices.
The practices that even the old liberal handbooks of economic science considered lawful when a “nascent industry” needs to be protected.
China has now Africa in its own hands – a continent where the US power is linked almost exclusively to the US Africa Command, which is headquartered at the Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart.
Europe, of course, does not count for anything.
Moreover, China operates in Iran and also in Russia, considering that it has now incorporated Russia into its Belt and Road project towards Europe and the Mediterranean – in spite of the Eurasian Alliance project of Russian origin – and hence operates as a hegemonic power in Central Asia.
It does so by operating with a strategy that is at first economic, but also and above all political: the peripheries of the world against the metropolises, i.d. Mao’s old “policy line”.
Currently we are instead shifting from geoeconomy to the real global strategy – and China will have no particular difficulty in moving from a generically friendly position towards the United States to a far more adverse one.
When its primary interests are attacked by US actions, China will never make the first move.
The Thirty-Six Stratagems of the Chinese secret art of war are clear in this regard: “Watch the fires burning from the river” and also “Hide a knife behind a smile”.
However, let us better analyze what has happened in the current “spy war” between the United States and China.
For nearly ten years, the US spy network in China has been severely undermined, if not wiped out. This has happened to the US intelligence services also elsewhere.
Allegedly, the vulnerability of the US network results from the fact that China has long “penetrated” the network used by the operatives and informants present in China.
China maintains that this has led to the “elimination” of 30 local citizens who worked for the United States and the imprisonment of an unknown number of others.
China’s counterintelligence operation is said to have started in 2010, when the encrypted firewall used by the US operatives in China was discovered.
Obviously it is almost useless to add that the “sophisticated” IT firewall used by CIA is now in China’s hands and the analysts of its intelligence services will use and implement it even more easily.
Moreover, the program discovered by China had to be used in such a way as not to connect with and not to be traced by CIA’s major IT networks.
Without CIA knowing it, however, the encrypted system could also connect with its primary web network – and China could listen or read quietly and easily.
Incidentally, it is currently certain that all countries’ intelligence services can use the Web, but it is equally certain that the security of communications is at least the top goal, together with the quality and depth of the intelligence and analyses reported to the “central unit”.
Nevertheless, the more the Web gets complex, the easier it is “penetrated”. This law has been never denied by facts.
The more complex it is, the easier is to manipulate or “penetrate” it.
Experts tell us that the Web’s rate of complexity increases by seven the danger it can be penetrated. At every additional step of structural complexity there is a 7-time multiplier for possible “holes”.
Hence, in many cases, it would be good to still resort to the old craft systems that made the history of modern intelligence. China still does it.
We believe, however, that the real problem lies in the fact that the United States still believes that China is a country which is trying – with some difficulty – to follow the development course of the Anglo-Saxon community.
This is certainly not the case: China has not long been a “second class” nation or, as some US analysts say, a “Third World country that has grown too much”.
Far from it: it is a good thing that the United States soon realizes that China is certainly the second military and economic power in the world and that it can certainly cooperate with the United States, but dictating at least some essential conditions.
No Chinese decision-maker thinks about a “covert war” against the United States – not even remotely: currently the Party and the State think about other “enemies” and other regions.
However, we should never forget China’s huge power of constraint, persuasion and negotiation.
Moreover, the free market myth has affected the whole system of what – in the intelligence community of every modern country – should be the axis of all major operations, namely influence.
Over 110 “Confucius Institutes” have been founded in the US universities and huge Chinese capital is present in many of the most important US entertainment companies, such as Legendary Group, AMC Theathers, STX Entertainment, Studio 8 and Global Road Entertainment, as well as in many other smaller companies.
Not to mention Chinese investments in other sectors and in US Treasury securities.
The US majors obviously sell much in China, but China has entered their system with money, not just with encrypted firewalls.
Clearly China is strongly interested in the US operations on its territory, but certainly the Chinese leaders have operated a linkage between the trade wars started by President Trump and their counterintelligence actions.
This is another bond to break.
The more the geoeconomic contrast between the United States and China mounts, the more intrusive actions will be taken by China in the United States (such as those of the many Chinese students in North American universities who are spying for their country of origin), as well as “harsh” counter-intelligence operations.
Furthermore, what some leaders of the US Central Intelligence Agency fear is partly true: China is now in such a Cold War phase with the United States as to eventually oust it from its position as global power.
It is very unlikely, however, that Chinese leaders think they can weaken the US power in a short lapse of time: there is no blitzkrieg or lightning war that can decide, in a short sequence of clashes – even in the muffled world of intelligence or in the slightly noisier world of electronic war – who definitively wins.
It is pure madness and the Chinese are not mad at all.
Obviously both contenders must well understand that the Great Powers – if they have to disappear – do so over a period of centuries, always much more slowly than they have grown in good times.
Certainly even traditions count in the world of intelligence.
The United States is the realm of technology, in which an American – a good American and not an ugly American like the one described by the British novelist and intelligence agent, Graham Greene, who however had titled his novel The Quiet American – believes blindly. Probably the ugly and the good are two sides of the same coin.
The tradition of Chinese intelligence is also excellent in technology, but it does not forget the ancient rules of power and war.
When some defecting KGB men were sent to some US military academies, they were surprised that in the libraries there were not the classics of Eastern war thought and strategy: the Thirty-Six Stratagems, the Liezi, as well as Sun Zu’s military treatise The Art of War.
Hence too much technology in the United States and sometimes a certain tendency to conceptual hyper-simplification; too little history and knowledge of the real power structure which – when really powerful – is covert.
Also China, however, is not lagging behind in the field of technology. We should recall the hacking of over 30 companies among the most important ones in America, including Apple and Amazon, with a modified chip.
The Silicon Valley is now full of spies who work for the Chinese government for money or for other reasons.
According to many officers of the Armed Forces, all the US military networks are in danger.
CIA, too, has successfully carried out some operations on the Chinese territory, sometimes forcing the Chinese to give up their electronic espionage techniques, and also using Chinese intelligence agents.
Hence what can we do to stop, slow down and put in an acceptable position of security and business as usual this crisis between China and the United States, which – apart from trade wars – is still a mere war between intelligence services?
A first solution could be an extensive and universal protection – to be reached and signed as soon as possible – for the protection of sensitive intellectual property.
Currently trade secrets and patents are acquired not with old reverse engineering, but with the launch of IT attacks on companies and even law firms that hold regulations and protections.
While, as is well known, China is now a global software producer, it would be rational that even China would adapt to a new, stricter and safer international regulation of IPs and networks.
There could also be – in the offing – an international agreement on web addresses and network security, organized by the major companies operating in the sector, which are all interested in achieving a higher security level.
The US Invention Secrecy Act dates back to 1951 and it is too old for the technologies it should protect. Moreover, it is not part of the US intelligence chain.
In fact, the large US companies have increasingly relied on international laws for the protection of industrial data, often coming out of the North American judicial and legal system.
This is another “hole” that the United States must fill as soon as possible.
Moreover, now the US military can control patents, even when they are fully developed in the civilian sphere.
This is a good thing, but one thing is the law and another is counterintelligence.
However, the Web is and will always be wide-meshed: Google, in particular, is used by 67% of all Internet operators in the world and it has never made a secret of wanting a US patent system as “weak” as possible.
Google itself wants to sell the trade secrets at low price and quickly – and possibly keeping its own ones very secret.
The classic case of a paradox generated by a technology that does not find the legal mesh suitable for regulation.
Furthermore, China adheres to all international intellectual property regulations but, also in China, it is precisely the complexity and the inevitable archaic nature of rules compared to the speed of technology that impose the aforementioned “wide mesh” to China’s patent protection.
Hence two things are needed: firstly, a technical-legal and bilateral Conference between China and the United States, with a view to regulating the specific needs of sensitive data protection.
Moreover, light is better than darkness, although the Chinese wisdom tradition maintains that it is necessary to “cultivate darkness” – as when you need to grow rhubarb.
Secondly, a US-Chinese Committee shall be established at the highest possible level, where one asks the other for the patents it needs – obviously against payment.
Later a “third” Committee shall be created to check the efficacy of the agreement, possibly made up of members of the intelligence community of a country that is good for both countries: Italy, for example, which is second to none in the field of cybersecurity and can guarantee both contenders.
Thirdly, an International Conference shall be held – again possibly in Italy – to draw up specific rules for “technology secrets”, to be adapted each year according to new technologies.
Obviously also a new international Authority would be needed to coordinate and control – above all – the private network managers and the content collectors, as well as websites.
ICANN, the Californian organization that – as we may all recall – was given the Internet “source code” by the US government, is still a cooperative incorporated under California’s law, although the source code is now an open secret and former President Obama decided it to be managed not only by ICANN.
Hence the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is still a structure that is only responsible for “opening” the network, as well as for dissemination and “transparency”.
The Web, however, must also be a structure controlling data security, reliability and efficacy.
For each “transparency”, a rule of security and control. If the system of intellectual property protection fails, the whole contemporary world will fail.
Hence we could think of establishing an Agency, again in Italy, with the major powers’ support – an Agency called Security Agency for the Internet (SAFI), which can remove or report real-time passages of business and State secrets within the whole network.
This is another action that could be taken in Italy.
Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons
Documents uncovered in the special military operation in Ukraine corroborate the evidence exposing the Kiev regime’s intentions to use biological weapons, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Research Center for Chemical and Biological Threats Dmitry Poklonsky said in the run-up to the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention. “In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” he said – informs TASS.
“We have obtained reports of investigations into a collection of microorganisms that indicate the accumulation of pathogens in unsubstantiated amounts. There are documents confirming the intentions to acquire unmanned delivery vehicles that could be used for employing biological weapons. Considering the non-transparent nature of this work and the absence of any substantiated responses from the United States and Ukraine, we, of course, regard the documents obtained as proof that Article 1.4 of the Convention was violated,” the defense official said.
The documents obtained in the special military operation in Ukraine, including reports by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense, corroborate that the nature of work carried out there frequently ran counter to pressing healthcare problems, he stressed.
“In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” Poklonsky pointed out.
Neither Washington nor Kiev deny the fact of the existence of biological labs in Ukraine bankrolled by the Pentagon, he pointed out.
“It was confirmed by the 2005 agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Ukrainian Health Ministry. Far more questions arise from the nature of the studies being carried out in these biological laboratories and how this work complies with the Convention’s requirements,” the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Chemical and Biological Threats said.
Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues
The world, functioning in its numerous forms and dimensions, is primarily perceived and misperceived by individuals through the faculty of the human Mind. A factor that creates a significant difference vis-a-vis human beings and other species is the complex cognitive ability possessed by humans. The mind is fundamentally an expression of thoughts circulated and imbibed through various means of communication. Deconstructing it further, thoughts portray the information consumed by an individual. In other words, this complex combination of the human mind, thoughts, and information shapes and reshapes our psychology.
Psychological war, in this context, can be perceived as a strategically orchestrated arrangement of information derived from variables like history, polity, religion, culture, literature, and philosophy broadly to channel propaganda with the prime objective of influencing and manipulating the behavior of the enemy to further one own interest. The term Psychological war is believed to be coined by a British Historian and military analyst, J.F.C Fuller, in 1920. One can observe that psychological war as an instrument of strategic importance is not of recent origin. Instead, the evolution of this tactic can be traced long back in history since the emergence of the State. It is considered one of the fundamental tools of statecraft and quite often has been put into the application as an instrument of state policy. Drawing a logical parallel, it can be advocated that psychological war has a close resemblance with the ancient notion of the allegory of the cave when applied in the present context.
Relevance of Psychological War
Napoleon Bonaparte once said “There are two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind.” With the gradual progress of human intelligentsia, the world is and will be shaped and reshaped through the use of technology. The hyperconnected nature of a modern globalized world broadly portrays the image of a collective human consciousness deeply engrossed in the overwhelming nature of technology that reverberates with every emerging aspect of human life. When viewed from the prism of the State as a governing body in the international forum, technology will be the emerging axis of geopolitics since no state and its citizen can exist in silos devoid of the influence of other states. This is primarily due to the free flow of data. In this context, due to the free flow of data, the power of propaganda as a significant dimension of psychological war would prove to be an effective instrument used by the State to further its national interest.
In this contextual framework, the role of conscious manufacturing of narratives under the larger ambit of the idea of psychological war must be given due consideration. In his famous book,The Ultimate Goal: A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs How Nations and Intelligence Agency Construct Narratives, Vikram Sood unfolds the idea of how narratives are created, propagated, sustained, and refined in domestic countries and abroad to further the national interest. He emphasizes not only the power of information but also the power of disinformation to de-track and mislead the collective consciousness of the nation. Therefore, it is of critical significance for a nation to enhance its understanding of psychological war, considering it a major security issue.
The cost and the expense of war are also major concerns for the State. In this regard, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval establishes the viewpoint that wars are gradually becoming ineffective in achieving political and military objectives and that they are also highly expensive and are gradually becoming unaffordable. He further puts forward the idea of the 4th generation warfare where the operational target of the objective would be civil society. A fair understanding of the 4th generation warfare is of critical importance due to the fact that the modus operandi to target civil society would primarily be through the perpetual use of psychological war. The cost of psychological war, when compared with other forms of war, is abysmally low and also highly effective in manipulating the behaviour of the State. The cost-effectiveness helps it be more sustainable, which can be continued for an extended period of time.
Materialisation of Psychological War
Psychological war is applied by many States as an instrument of state policy. China, in this regard, can be considered a prominent player that has materialized this idea. In the strategic book on statecraft, The Art Of War, Sun Tzu states that “All warfare is based on deception.” China has consciously tried to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of psychological war. The Dhoklam issue in 2017 substantiates how the Chinese government used psychological war as an instrument of state policy to further its national interest.
The hostile approach of Pakistan towards India is not of recent origin. Instead, it is a phenomenon that can be traced back in history during the early germination of the idea of Pakistan when the Muslin League was formed in 1906. After the materialization of this idea by a painful partition of India in 1947, Kashmir became the bone of contention right after Pakistan’s inception as a nation-state. Pakistan, over the years, has become cognizant of the conventional asymmetry between the two nations. Therefore, it has operationalized the path of psychological war in the Kashmir region with a more pinpointed approach of using Twitter as an operational instrument to create misperceptions at a low cost to achieve its objectives.
Psychological War and the Indian Perspective
Taking a momentary glance at the historical evolution of India as a civilizational State, it can be rightly stated that understanding the nature of the mind has been a perpetual theme in the philosophical construct of India. The use of psychological war is not a new phenomenon. The references to it can be prominently found in Indian mythology. In this regard, the epic story of The Mahabharatha is a prominent example.
In one of the instances, Krishna applied this idea of psychological war by disclosing a fact to Karna, which hitherto was kept secret and hidden from him. Krishna, just before the war, unfolded the fact to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti, his father is the Sun God, and the Pandavas his brothers. This very fact and the timing of the disclosure of this fact put Karna in a deep psychological trauma that depletes his mental strength. It was at this moment that Krishna offered Karna to join the battle from the side of Pandavas. A similar instance of psychological war used by India was found during The Bangladesh liberation war.
In the context of psychological war, Arthashstra is also a relevant text. It mentions the art of Kutayuddha. In Sanskrit, the word Kuta implies the application of deception, the creation of misperception, and misleading the enemy state; Yudh means war. Kautilya is a staunch advocate of establishing a network of espionage to initiate intelligence and counterintelligence measures as a major security initiative for a state. Therefore, it can be rightly perceived that India has a history of psychological war, which it has implemented to maintain security and stability.
Taking an analogical perspective, if the mechanism of psychological war is like a gun, then information is the potential bullets that are fired from it to target the enemy. The flow of Information can be considered the most important factor that makes psychological war lethal, precise, and effective. Therefore, there exists an urgent need for the establishment of an ‘Information Operations Command’ to tackle the issue of psychological war that is rapidly maturing and enhancing in its nature and methodology, fusing with the 5th generation warfare.
Another area of critical importance in this regard is the pressing need for a ‘National Security Doctrine.’ A national security doctrine is primarily a broad vision of a nation in the domain of its security from an inclusive perspective. Strong inter-agency coordination and refined analysis of security issues are needed.
Psychological war, as a rapidly evolving tool of statecraft in the security domain, acts as a linchpin vis-a-vis the 4th and 5th generation warfare where civil society and citizens are targeted with a perfect blend of technology and information. This makes it a war that doesn’t have a start or an end date. It is fought every minute, and progress can be achieved, even though at a minuscule level, but on a daily basis. Therefore, India as a major player in international politics with two hostile neighbors on its eastern and western border, must hold into perspective the scope, significance, and emerging dynamics of psychological war to keep herself abreast with other states at the international level on the security front.
Growing India Israel Relations: A Threat to Sovereignty of Gulf States
India has developed remarkable ties with the Gulf nations, particularly the GCC, over the past few decades. The significant trade between GCC nations and India and Israel are the main cause. This gradualist approach and efforts on part of India is to include Israel in a broader Middle East policy. Under the Namenda Modi administration, since 2017 Israel is “special and normal” because India has avoided the negative repercussions and no longer have fears opened relations with the Jewish state.
However, the point of concern is that India and Israel’s growing ties must not result in a coalition against Muslims. Modi and Netanyahu have many good reasons to rejoice over their thawing ties. But the gulf countries must discredit them if they use that proximity to advance a common narrative of extreme nationalism, exclusion, and labeling Muslims as the enemy.
Since October 25th, 2022, news reports have been making the rounds in the media revealing India’s involvement in global terrorism. Eight former Indian Navy officers have recently been detained in Qatar on suspicion of espionage and terrorism supported by the Indian government. These spy-officers were arrested in August 2022 for their involvement in international terrorism, espionage, and spying while working in Qatar for a private company and providing training and other services to the Qatari Emiri Navy.
Purnendu Tiwari, a retired (Naval commander) who received the Pravasi Samman 2019 (Highest Indian Award Abroad), was the brains behind the transfer of data from a major Gulf Muslim nation to Israel and India. It has been reported in the media that these Indian officers had access to sensitive information while working with Qatar’s enemies and the Defense, Security, and other government agencies. This is not the first time; India has been involved in espionage operations that violate foreign governments’ sovereignty, though it continues to deny it. International terrorism perpetrated by India has also frequently targeted Pakistan in the past. One such instance is the Kalbushan Yadav case.
The relationship between India and Israel is frequently described as a result of a natural convergence of ideologies between their respective ruling BJP and Liked parties. The BJP’s Hindutva and right-wing Zionism are two ethno-nationalist political movements that naturally discriminate against other races and religions because they are based on the majority populations they serve. In comparison to earlier, more liberal iterations of Hindutva and Zionism, both parties have become more racist. Therefore, by all means, India’s continued close strategic, economic, and security ties with Israel are more ideological than pragmatic.
India should make an effort to protect itself ideologically from the threat of Hindutva becoming the state’s guiding principle and a vehicle for incitement both domestically and abroad. Its exclusivist and discriminatory belief that India is only the property of Hindus is dangerous, especially at a time when Muslim minorities are increasingly being lynched in the name of cow vigilantism.
Today, the Gulf is an integral part of India’s ‘extended neighborhood’, both by way of geographical proximity and as an area of expanded interests and growing Indian influence. However, as a result of escalating anti-Muslim sentiment and the Hindutva movement’s flawed ideology, the BJP, government is arguably facing its most difficult diplomatic challenge in its nine years in office. A few years ago in 2020, Muslim nations were outraged by Nupur Sharma’s (a BJP official) insulting comments made during a TV debate about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Islamic-majority nations voiced their opposition through tweets, official statements, and by summoning Indian diplomats. The BJP was compelled to take action against the party officials for posting a screenshot of offensive tweet.
Subsequently, Princess Hend al-Qassimi of the UAE then made a rare public statement in response to the rising Islamophobia among Indians, saying in a tweet, “I miss the peaceful India.” She did this after she specifically called out a tweet from an Indian resident of the UAE as being “openly racist and discriminatory,” reminding her followers that the penalty for hate speech could be a fine or even expulsion. These statements come after the Islamic world, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged India to act quickly to defend the rights of its Muslim minority and expressed concern about how the BJP treats Indian Muslims.
This suggests that the relationships New Delhi has worked so hard to build over the past few years drawing on the efforts of the previous administration is now seriously in jeopardy. India’s diplomatic achievement is starting to fall apart due to domestic developments that target its 200 million Muslims. The flagrant mistreatment of India’s Muslim communities now jeopardizes New Delhi’s carefully crafted Middle Eastern diplomacy, particularly with regard to the Gulf States.
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