China’s Quiet War

While China perfects a timeless art, American interests become dangerously vulnerable.
From the April 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

As a military power, the United States of America is without peer; for a foreign government to launch an attack on the U.S. would be suicide. But war is seldom initiated by direct military conflict—especially for the Chinese. Their most famous general, Sun Tsu, wrote in The Art of War: “In antiquity, those that excelled in warfare first made themselves unconquerable in order to await the moment when the enemy could be conquered.”

To understand the current Chinese relationship with the U.S., we would do well to remember the Chinese mindset: that preparation for the battle is more important than the battle itself. The U.S. has typically shown no understanding of this mindset in its dealings with Beijing. If U.S. officials did acknowledge how the Chinese view conflict, they would know that the actions Beijing has taken recently are, in the Chinese view, the behavior of a people at war.

In the last decade, Beijing has made a concerted effort—a highly successful one at that—to control shipping lanes around the world. A Chinese company controls the entrance and exit points of the Panama Canal. China controls the seagate at Freeport, Bahamas. A Chinese firm is financing the building of a Pakistani port at Gwadar. From Europe to Latin America, from California to Hong Kong, the Chinese have aggressively moved to buy controlling interests in the world’s major sea port facilities.

As Sun Tsu said: “Whoever occupies the battleground first and awaits the enemy will be at ease; whoever occupies the battleground afterward and must race to the conflict will be fatigued. Thus one who excels at warfare compels men and is not compelled by other men.” Washington is doing little to prevent the Chinese from achieving a major, bloodless victory in this strategic arena.

Taking Over America’s Backyard

Last year, Beijing worked hard and invested billions to develop its interests in Latin America—to the detriment of the U.S. A simple reading of international headlines would tell anyone that the U.S. has two main opponents in Latin America right now: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the seemingly immortal Fidel Castro of Cuba. What might not be so evident is the support both countries have from China.

President Chavez has already signed deals to purchase long-range defense radars and a modern communication satellite from Beijing. The Venezuelan defense minister has signed a contract for three mobile air-defense radar systems, which will replace U.S. systems. More than simply providing technology for Venezuela, the Jamestown Foundation in Washington points out that these purchases will make Venezuela dependent on Chinese technology: “We can anticipate that Chavez will soon be buying Chinese weapons” (Washington Times, Nov. 20, 2005).

President Chavez also said he is looking to replace his American-made f-16s: “Maybe we’ll have to buy Russian or Chinese planes to defend ourselves,” he said, even adding that he might give China and Cuba some U.S.-made military jets to examine (ibid.).

What’s more, U.S. officials are concerned that the Chinese are trying to undermine U.S. policy by their sale of military equipment. Current U.S. law—the American Service Members Protection Act—denies military aid to any country that refuses to exempt U.S. soldiers from the International Criminal Court; 11 of the 22 affected countries are in Latin America. As usual, China is happy to fill in the gap, with sales to Venezuela being a prime example.

Last year, Venezuela ended its 35-year military relationship with the United States. Now, the Jamestown Foundation is concerned that Venezuela will share its knowledge—especially of Special Operations training—with the Chinese: “It is clear that Venezuelan Special Forces instructors are able to convey a deep familiarity with U.S. special-operations doctrine and operations. … As a consequence, pla [People’s Liberation Army of China] Special Forces will gain the benefit of this U.S.-developed and -funded knowledge base” (ibid.).

Venezuela is currently the United States’ fourth-largest supplier of crude oil, and President Chavez has recently threatened to remove that supply. In contrast, in August last year, Venezuela and China signed a preliminary agreement to drill for oil in eastern Venezuela. Should china be able to secure access to what has been, to now, a prime U.S. asset, this would fall in line with Sun Tsu’s ideology: “The wise general will concentrate on securing provisions from the enemy. One bushel of the enemy’s foodstuffs is worth 20 of ours; one picul of fodder is worth 20 of ours.”

Washington is also concerned that the Chinese are intercepting U.S. communications by using intelligence-gathering facilities in Cuba. The president of the Washington-based Asia-America Initiative, Al Santoli, warns that the most significant threats to the U.S. are the Russian electronic and cyber-warfare bases in Cuba: “These bases not only permit enhanced electronic surveillance of broad areas of the U.S. at present. … In the future they can be used to disrupt critical U.S. strategic communications during a period of conflict.”

Santoli clearly tells us why the Chinese are establishing these ties: “China’s growing military ties in Latin America have a direct link to their international quest for energy and other vital natural resources … as well as their efforts to reinforce the growing reach of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez to create a counterweight to U.S. influence in the region” (Washington Times, op. cit.).

These activities in Venezuela and Cuba are merely two examples of heavy, region-wide Chinese involvement in Latin America. Chinese President Hu Jintao toured six Latin American countries in 2004 and promised $100 billion of infrastructure investment to Argentina, Brazil and Chile, among others. U.S. Gen. Bantz Craddock warned about China’s growing presence in Latin America in March 2005, pointing out 20 visits to Latin America from Chinese military officials and visits from nine Latin American defense ministers to Beijing in 2004. The general “added that Beijing’s most recent outline of military strategy ‘departs from the past and promotes a power-projection military, capable of securing strategic shipping lanes and protecting its growing economic interests abroad’” (ibid.).

Rather than understanding the implications of Chinese initiatives, the U.S. response is so timid as to invite other countries to marginalize Washington as well. Instead of offering organized resistance to a gradual takeover of U.S. dominance in critical areas, Washington appears to be passively watching while Beijing takes the lead as a rapidly developing new superpower.

Dominating Technology

The United States is being similarly marginalized in science and technology. In May last year, China demonstrated how seriously it takes technological dominance when Chinese computer maker Lenovo paid $1.75 billion to purchase the personal computer arm of ibm. Last December, a report from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that the Chinese had already overtaken the U.S. in the sale of technological goods in 2004. Exports of information and computer technology increased 46 percent that year—to $180 billion—over the previous year.

According to Clyde Prestowitz’s Three Billion New Capitalists, “China already produces two thirds of the world’s photo copiers, shoes, toys, and microwave ovens; half of its dvd players, digital cameras, cement, and textiles; a third of its dvd-rom drives and desktop computers; and a fourth of its mobile phones, tv sets, pdas, steel, and car stereos.”

Also, according to the New York Times, China has moved to assign its own standards to a wide range of consumer products—mobile phones, digital photography and wireless networks, to name a few. The Chinese government has even launched an alternate Internet root system. Viewing these attempts to control standards alongside China’s technological dominance has led many analysts to conclude that Beijing wants to control the tech market worldwide.

Less evident, however, are the military implications of this technological boom.

Rick Fisher, vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, said, “The People’s Liberation Army is moving very quickly to adopt practically every information-related aspect of military technology that the U.S. is pursuing at this time” (International Herald Tribune, Dec. 12, 2005). The International Herald Tribune called the cooperation between the Chinese military industry, information technology companies, and government research and development groups a “‘digital triangle’ that supports the country’s rapid military modernization” (ibid.).

A November 2005 report to Congress from the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission said that China’s repositioning itself at the center of the technology supply chain is “raising the prospect of future U.S. dependency on China for certain items critical to the U.S. defense industry as well as vital to continued economic leadership” (ibid.). Fisher warned that the Chinese have the money to turn their ideas into weapons.

What’s more, on Dec. 12, 2005, the head of a leading security institute (sans), Alan Paller, said that efforts to hack U.S. government and industry computers last year were probably the work of the Chinese military. After explaining that the attacks were traced to the Chinese province of Guangdong, Paller said the attackers “were in and out with no keystroke errors and left no fingerprints, and created a backdoor in less than 30 minutes. How can this be done by anyone other than a military organization?” (China Post, Dec. 14, 2005).

As the Chinese technology industry becomes more dominant, the concurrent U.S. educational slide guarantees the situation will be worse in a few years. According to Reader’s Digest, China will graduate six times more engineers this year than will the U.S. The percentage of American students planning to pursue engineering degrees has dropped from 36 percent to 6 percent over the last decade. The president of the California Institute of Technology warns, “We can’t hope to keep intact our standard of living, our national security, our way of life, if Americans aren’t competitive in science. Period.” If something doesn’t change, 90 percent of the world’s scientists will live in Asia within five years.

Though the U.S. export of information technology is still growing, its leadership position is gone—and it isn’t coming back. In accordance with biblical prophecy, the U.S. is losing its superpower status in one area after another, continually being overtaken by China and the European Union. Now that the U.S. has been surpassed in technology exports, we can expect its growth to slow and eventually become a bona fide decline.

China’s Future

Latin American and African countries may be poor, but they are rich in resources, and China wants those assets. Right now, Beijing is systematically planting its feet in those regions. At the same time, the U.S. is being pushed out of Latin America by leftist leaders like Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and the newly elected Bolivian president, Evo Morales. U.S. power is fading, and the Chinese are grabbing as much of that power as they can.

But is that war?

Though the U.S. is being severely marginalized, these maneuvers are still a long way from direct military conflict. But according to the Chinese concept, a direct military attack would be the lowest form of war. Sun Tsu wrote: “Thus the highest realization of warfare is to attack the enemy’s plans; next is to attack their alliances; next to attack their army; and the lowest is to attack their fortified cities.” China will not attack U.S. cities; Bible prophecy would warn us of such an attack, and no such warning exists.

But though America really has nothing to fear from a direct military attack by the Chinese, significant dependency on any foreign power leaves a country in a weak position militarily.

Ezekiel 7:14 tells us about a time when the trumpet blows—signaling that war is at hand—but no one goes to battle. This could very likely be a result of mission-critical military systems being compromised by cyberattacks or other foreign-initiated sabotage.

Aside from the military implications, China is marginalizing the U.S. politically and economically as well. This is all combining to make the U.S. increasingly vulnerable.

The Chinese recognize that the U.S. is the major competitive nation on Earth right now—but the scene will change.

At some point, China’s attention will focus more on Europe. Currently, EU interests seldom clash with those of China; in fact, China collaborates with the EU on major projects like Galileo. This will not last, however: Bible prophecy tells us that China and Europe will go head to head—and the United States won’t even be a factor. Its decline will be so absolute that it will have no role in the final battles before the return of Jesus Christ.

Herbert W. Armstrong continually—and rightly—warned that we should watch Europe. The U.S. does not see what is coming from the political and religious unification of the European nations. Nor do the Chinese. In the end, though, the Chinese will resort to that “lowest form” of war: armed conflict with a fully formed European power.