NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
China‘s People’s Liberation Army plans to conduct extensive non-kinetic warfare operations in any future conflict with the United States, according to an internal PLA report.
The 438-page report, “Lectures on Joint Campaign Information Operations,” was translated and published by the Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute and reveals the strategy of seeking “information dominance” over enemies as a major weapon that will be a key factor in determining victory or defeat in battle.
“The manifested forms of joint campaign information operations (IO) mainly are: electronic warfare, network warfare, intelligence warfare, psychological warfare, physical destruct warfare,” the report from 2009 states.
“Amongst these, electronic warfare and network warfare are the main forms of IO.”
The PLA information warfare tactics are borrowed foreign information operations in recent wars, mainly U.S. operations in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia.
The objective of information war is to seize and control “information power” by damaging enemies’ information systems, the report says.
Like the U.S. military has demonstrated in the past, the PLA plans to launch electronic attacks, wage computer network warfare, conduct psychological warfare and employ military deception.
The attacks will seek to influence, damage, interrupt and deprive the enemy of its human and automated military decision-making.
At the same time, information warfare will require protecting PLA systems from foreign electronic and network attacks.
Targets in conflict will be radar and communications nodes on land, sea, air, cyberspace and in space.
“Electronic attack mainly includes electronic jamming, counter-radiation weapon attack, and special information warfare weapon attack and it emphasizes more on the weakening and damaging of information collection and transmission links and the targets are mainly all types of electronic information systems such as early warning detection systems, command and control systems, and communications systems,” the report said.
“Network attack mainly includes information stoppage, network infiltration, and virus attack and they mainly damage the enemy’s information management through searching of network’s ‘loophole’ and ‘backdoor’ and the target is mainly network type information systems.”
“Psychological attack mainly includes psychological propaganda, psychological deception, and psychological threat.”
Information attacks will require speed.
According to the report, the U.S. military’s “strike chain” of the time it takes from discovery of a target, to aim, then attack and lastly evaluation was 100 minutes in the 1993 Persian Gulf War. That was reduced to 10 minutes in the 2003 Iraq War.
PLA information warfare will involve a combination of “hard” precision missile and other attacks with “soft” electronic strikes and cyberattacks.
“On one hand, [we] must conscientiously study effective measures for bringing into play the might of the ‘assassin’s mace’ weapons, to fully bring into play the effectiveness of the limited high- and new-tech weapons and equipment,” the report said.
Assassin’s mace is China‘s terms for weapons that allow a weaker power to defeat a strong enemy.
Chinese warfighting also will combine and integrate both information war and traditional kinetic warfare.
The report reveals how the PLA is integrating peacetime and wartime information operations used in both the military and civilian sectors.
Information warfare “is boundless and borderless, intangible and formless, and present at all times; and the peacetime-wartime demarcation line tends to blur, so that peacetime and wartime information strengths are present all along,” the report states.
China ASAT device targets satellite jets
China has developed a unique explosive device that is designed to damage the exhaust systems of control jets used on maneuvering satellites.
A team of Chinese military researchers developed an orbiting anti-satellite robot capable of placing the small bomb inside a satellite exhaust nozzle, the Beijing-friendly South China Morning Post reported last week.
Rather than blowing the satellite into pieces, the metal-cast explosive can produce a time-controlled, steady explosion, according to Prof. Sun Yunzhong and other researchers at the Hunan Defense Industry Polytechnic in Xiangtan.
The ASAT explosives were disclosed in a technical paper published in China‘s Electronic Technology & Software Engineering journal last month.
The exhaust bomb can remain inside satellite jets for extended periods using a mechanism run by an electric motor. The bomb can be removed electronically, allowing the Chinese military to coerce or threaten the United States and other space-faring opponents with the device.
The device was developed and tested at a ground facility.
China has an array of anti-satellite weapons and this week deployed the Shijian-21 satellite for debris cleaning. U.S. officials say the satellite is part of China‘s co-orbital ASAT arsenal. Earlier Shijian satellites conducted experiments with a robotic arm that is capable of grabbing and crushing satellites.
The robotic arm on the Shijian satellites is likely to be the vehicle that will be used to place the novel ASAT exhaust explosive that would be placed inside the nozzle at the narrowest point.
Disclosure of the new ASAT explosive device appears to contradict frequent Chinese government calls for treaties and agreements limiting the against militarizing space.
The ASAT explosive is built inside a bullet-shaped charge weighing under 8 pounds.
“When the device is detonated, the explosion will be partially contained inside the nozzle and be mistaken for an engine mishap,” the newspaper quoted a space scientist as saying.
The precisely-calculated low-level blast can damage the sensitive inner workings of a satellite without creating a large debris field — as occurred in 2007 when China blew up a weather satellite during a test of a ground-based ASAT missile.
Former State official urges renewed China appeasement
Retired career State Department Asia hand Susan Thornton, whose nomination senor position was shot down three years ago, recently weighed in on Biden administration China policy and is urging more concessions to Beijing as a way of influencing China‘s threatening behavior.
“To gain the needed leverage, we need to give China the prospect of a beneficial outcome — which for Beijing could start with developing what they would consider a more respectful partnership,” Ms. Thornton stated in an op-ed in the New York Times last week.
Pressure on China using sanctions and tariffs did not generally produce improvements in Chinese behavior, she wrote.
Instead, the former career diplomat wants the administration to offer China‘s increasingly hardline leaders hope for a more stable and constructive ties — comments that largely echo those of Chinese government officials who have demanded more conciliatory policies from Washington.
Ms. Thornton criticized the Biden policy team for its “targeted” effort to limit Chinese infrastructure projects overseas and arresting Chinese scientists in the United States on spying and technology theft charge.
The targeting, first begun during the Trump administration to curb the massive theft of U.S. intellectual property is “as though everything China does or makes is a potential Trojan horse sneaked inside of fortress America,” Ms. Thornton said.
Ms. Thornton appears to favor a return to the unfettered engagement policies that were rejected by the Trump administration and partially adopted by the Biden administration.
The former diplomat, now with Yale University’s Paul Tsai China Center, indirectly challenged the White House’s senior China policy adviser, Kurt Campbell, who has said recently the era of engagement with China is over.
But she offered only vague prescriptions and no concrete new policies to replace current ones.
“Setting clear priorities and ensuring China knows progress will lead to a constructive relationship is a necessary starting point,” she wrote.
The article appears to be political maneuvering for a future return to a State Department Asia post, perhaps if President Biden were to step down and be replaced by the more liberal Vice President Kamala Harris.
Ms. Thornton’s nomination was thwarted in 2018 largely through pressure from Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Marco Rubio.
During testimony on her nomination, Ms. Thornton provided incomplete and misleading answers about her role in limiting an FBI investigation into illegal activities by Chinese officials in New York, and downgrading representations of Taiwan’s government on the State Department website.
Her replacement was retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David Stilwell, a former military attache in Beijing, who until he stepped down in January helped carry out new harder line Trump administration new policy toward China.
Those policies included identifying the Chinese Communist Party separate from the Chinese people; closing the Chinese consulate in Houston that Chinese spy agencies had used for aggressive intelligence-gathering operations, and designating contested Philippines islands in the South China Sea as covered under the U.S.-Philippines defense treaty.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter @BillGertz.