Opinion | Hybrid war on China (Part II)
By Laura Ruggeri, an Italian-born writer and scholar
Laura Rosenberger was also particularly outspoken about the Chinese government's actions to restore order in Hong Kong and has attacked Chinese diplomats' use of social media. She tweeted: "Chinese diplomats going full Russian — spread multiple, conflicting conspiracy theories, not to convince people of an explanation but to create the idea that it's impossible to know the truth. First time I've seen CCP pursue that approach, and an ominous sign of where it might go."
During an event at the Brookings Institution on April 8, 2021 Rosenberger stressed the work the Biden administration has done to "rebuild and restore" the foundations of US alliances and partnerships in Europe and Asia. She added "the global community should work to expand Taiwan's international space for its appropriate participation in international institutions."
Another expert on democracy promotion, information warfare and the influence of the Internet on democracy and China is Shanthi Kalathil, the NSC coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights. Like Laura Rosenberger she is a member of CNAS' Digital Freedom Forum. Kalathil is responsible for incorporating human rights and international democracy concerns as central elements of the Biden administration's foreign policy. She is a National Endowment for Democracy (NED) veteran — at NED she was director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies and a senior member of the Center for International Media Assistance. Kalathil was also a Democracy Fellow at USAID, a consultant for the World Bank and the Aspen Institute. While officially employed by The Wall Street Journal and based in Hong Kong she was also writing reports for the Foreign Service Journal. She wouldn't be the first nor the last of her kind to use a journalist cover to travel to mainland China, meet officials, business leaders and "do research".
Her research on China's media and digital ecosystem, Internet influence campaigns is widely cited. Her latest article "The Evolution of Authoritarian Digital Influence: Grappling with the New Normal" is required reading at the Cyber Command, US Department of Defence. [The Evolution of Authoritarian Digital Influence: Grappling with the New Normal > Sixteenth Air Force <br> (Air Forces Cyber) > News (af.mil)]
Kalathil maintains that media outlets, civil society groups, and technology enterprises in democratic countries should "accelerate and scale up operations to rebuff Beijing's sharp power". Nothing new under the sun, founding and funding anti-China entities is something NED and its spin-offs are already doing, but no effort will be spared to promote these entities and silence critics on news and social media platforms. As she believes that the US is at risk of losing its propaganda advantage despite its Orwellian Ministry of Truth we should expect a criminalization and persecution of independent voices to protect the official anti-China narrative.
In 2002, during her speech at the annual Aspen Institute Roundtable, Madeleine Albright famously argued that "CNN is the sixteenth member of the U.N. Security Council" stressing the role of US media on shaping the perception of world diplomats and policy-makers. Kalathil, a member of the same exclusive Aspen club, reinforced that message by later adding "power depends not only on whose army wins but also on whose story wins" and calling for greater private-sector involvement in managing the narrative.
Tarun Chhabra, NSC senior director for technology and national security has been focusing on the geopolitical and security implications of emerging technology, with an emphasis on China. He and Rush Doshi co-led an initiative at Brookings that explored China's growing global influence. In 2020 Chhabra co-authored reports on how the US should rely on democratic alliances to shape the future of AI. At the time of writing, his Twitter profile displays the logo of Apple Daily, a show of support for a now defunct US-sponsored publication that played an integral part in dividing Hong Kong society, fostering an anti-China sentiment and laying the groundwork for a colour revolution.
Rush Doshi, NSC China director, was the former director of the Brookings China Strategy Initiative, former senior fellow at CNAS, and advised US investment management firms on issues such as China's growing influence in the international system and the importance of alliances in pushing back. Doshi has written extensively on Chinese global strategy, on China's Belt and Road Initiative and border disputes, technology and the US-China relationship. His viewpoints generally align with Kurt Campbell's on how to address China in the areas of security, economics, and human rights. Unlike other Biden administration officials who weigh their opinions on issues prominent in mainstream media sources, such as Hong Kong and Xinjiang, he focuses his research on broader 'grand strategy' issues…and writes many of the articles signed by Campbell. Still waters run deep and soft-spoken Doshi is one to watch for the very reason that he can build more persuasive arguments than his colleagues.
Samantha Power was nominated Administrator of the Agency for International Development (USAID), after a decision was made to include the agency in the NSC. In her previous role as ambassador to the UN she embodied the US moral superiority complex: often resorting to emotional, tearful appeals, she eschewed facts and truth in favour of ethical judgements and moral grandstanding. In a recent article published in Foreign Affairs Samantha Power argued that President Biden should make anti-corruption "a centerpiece of his international agenda" which nicely dovetails with Rosenberger's suggestions of smearing those who work with "authoritarian regimes that weaponise corruption".
Ms.Power maintains that "humanitarian support, democracy assistance, economic development are critical if we are to see a more stable and just world exist." Stable and thriving just like Libya and Syria? These countries come to mind because that's where she pushed for military intervention on humanitarian grounds. (USAID officials prepare for higher-profile role under Samantha Power | Devex)
By now it's abundantly clear that "democracy assistance" is simply a codeword for influence campaigns, political interference and regime change. As to US humanitarian aid, its recipients must have become used to the scores of intelligence officers and democracy preachers who help deliver it. Those Freedom biscuits have gone a bit stale.
Last year Samantha Power taught a "Geopolitics, Human Rights, and the Future of Statecraft" course at Harvard that examined the interplay of geopolitics and human rights, the security and human consequences of the rise of China, divisions within the UN, and the challenges facing democracies. The same year, with her husband Cass Sunstein, she also taught "Making Change When Change is Hard: the Law, Politics, and Policy of Social Change". To train those interested in 'making change' within social movements, organizations, governments the Power/Sunstein team drew from pop psychology, political science, law and economics and tried to answer loaded questions such as "Why do revolutions occur." Basically the Ivy League equivalent of a CANVAS or Oslo Freedom Forum workshop. In 2008 Sunstein, a legal scholar, co-wrote a paper proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-independent advocates to 'cognitively infiltrate' online groups as well as other activist groups. He certainly knows a thing or two about "why colour revolutions occur".
The Samantha Power team could take the weaponization of human rights and humanitarian aid to a whole new level. For a long time USAID has been used as a smokescreen for pursuing US interests abroad. Though the employment of foreign aid as a political tool for subordinating other countries politically and economically is certainly not a new strategy, the elevation of USAID to the NSC will enable its director to better coordinate foreign aid with other tools of influence and interference.
Jake Sullivan, Biden's National Security Advisor, who was bullish on Libyan and Syrian military interventionism, is a major proponent of "rescuing" and "reclaiming" American exceptionalism, that delusion that has delivered much of our modern woes. He recently named as one of his goals "to rally our allies to combat corruption and kleptocracy and to hold systems of authoritarian capitalism accountable for greater transparency and participation in a rules-based system." In translation it means "smearing adversaries and recalcitrant leaders of allied countries with accusations of corruption and kleptocracy", a form of not so gentle pressure aimed at isolating China and Russia and all those who insist on cooperating with them.
In a bizarre interview he gave in October 2019 Jake Sullivan discussed how the US needed a clear threat to rally the world and play the role of saviour of mankind, a threat akin to an alien invasion (!) and then added that climate change, a disease, the possibility of terrorists getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction, or a global economic depression could provide the US with that needed impetus. But then he admitted that it was all too abstract and China could be that organizing principle for US foreign policy. The problem, according to him in 2019, is that people don't believe that China is a threat, their view of China is too positive and the US would need a "Pearl Harbour moment" or a 9/11, a real focusing event to change their mind, something that in his words "would scare the hell out of the American people". Realising that he had said too much, he hurriedly added that he personally didn't like this prospect but one shouldn't dismiss the worrying reports coming from the intelligence community about Chinese infiltration and interference in the US. (An Alternative Vision of U.S.-China Relations with Jake Sullivan — SupChina)
ALSO READ: Opinion | Hybrid war on China (Part I)
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