China is practicing a form of low-intensity “Unrestricted Warfare” against the United States, as shown by its alarming anti-satellite test of January 11.
Unrestricted Warfare is the English title of an influential 1999 book on military strategy authored by two Colonels in the People’s Liberation Army, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. The book argues that countries can defeat technologically superior foes through deployment of an unlimited array of unconventional means rather than through direct military confrontation. Methods include terrorism–the book predicted the use of hijacked airplanes as flying bombs–propaganda, international law, or “lawfare,” and information warfare.
“To cripple or destroy the enemy’s information system would drastically degrade the enemy’s combat capabilities by making it blind, deaf or paralyzed,” the authors assert.
China’s use of a missile to destroy one of its own, low orbiting, obsolete, refrigerator-sized satellites is a stunning information warfare test. But, in line with the strategy of Unrestricted Warfare, the explosion that created a huge, dangerous debris cloud that will last a quarter century or more is also a test of US nerve and will. Beijing is betting that the proverbial Cooler Heads will prevail–i.e. that the battered Bush administration’s pro-China-no-matter-what wing, which is led by billionaire Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, will effectively downplay the significance of the incident instead of treating it as a wakeup call to US policymakers and defense planners.
The Chinese reason that with the US bogged down in Iraq and focused on nuclear arming Iran (a Chinese ally) and nuclear armed North Korea (a Chinese vassal), Washington is in no mood to confront the harsh realities of China’s meteoric military and economic ascent. Exploiting opportunity–such as the Islamist assault on the US–is a key underlying concept of Unrestricted Warfare.
In other words, one can draw an abstract, or theoretical, line from the mass-murdering Muslim flying bombs of 9/11 to the satellite-killing Chinese missile of 1/11. The US war against Radical Islam gives China the, well, space it needs to accomplish its not-so-peaceful rise. Not for nothing did Chinese President Jiang Zemin obsessively watch and re-watch video images of the hijacked aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center. He was reportedly fascinated by the spectacle of a terrorist band bringing the mighty US to its knees.
Other lines may be more material. Technology transfers from US and British corporations to Chinese-state owned firms has increased Beijing’s military power and may have directly benefited China’s test.
In addition, China and Russia have for years been conducting joint research and development programs for dozens of items related to the PLA’s concept of “super-advanced,” 21st Century, “sixth generation warfare,” including new missiles and anti-satellite weapons. China typically provides the money; Russia, the research facilities and specialists.
One Sino-Russian project that bears watching: development of small rockets to launch a new family of small satellites that could eventually be used offensively against other satellites.
Back to Unrestricted Warfare. On the propaganda and lawfare fronts, we expect China to step up public opposition to the militarization of space and to use diplomacy to prevent or slow down US development of anti-satellite and missile defense systems. Washington’s legions of Left/liberal critics–for whom US power is and has always been the source of all the world’s problems–can be counted on to assist the Chinese effort.