Understanding China’s unrestricted warfare concept

Why are we surprised with the blatant and unlawful Chinese taking away of islands in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines?

Why is the Chinese government not adhering to the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in which their “9 Dash Line” claim of the 80 percent South China Sea was found to be baseless and illegal?

And here in Australia – why would a politician’s personal debt be paid by a Chinese state owned corporation?

“Soft Loans, campaign donations, land and business acquisitions are just among the many schemes and manoeuver that we are seeing and hearing now.”

Perhaps the answer to all of these questions is contained in the book entitled “Unrestricted Warfare” written in 1999 by two Senior Colonels in the Air Force (Political Officers), Wang Xiangsui and Qiao Liang.

“Unrestricted Warfare” outlines a grand strategy that seeks to bypass and overcome other powerful countries military dominance or any target country’s will to resist.

Col. Qiao Liang and Col. Wang Xiangsui
Col. Qiao Liang and Col. Wang Xiangsui

According to the thesis of the two colonels, warfare will no longer be defined as using only the armed forces to compel the enemy to submit to one’s will. Warfare must use “all means including armed forces and unarmed force, military and non-military, lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interest.

In the core of unrestricted warfare are what Qiao and Wang describe as Non-Military War Operations. Example: International law warfare (Lawfare), diplomatic warfare, trade warfare, financial warfare, economic aid warfare, psychological warfare, ecological warfare, media warfare, drug warfare, smuggling warfare, cultural warfare, information warfare, ecological warfare, network warfare, political warfare, or even the use of traditional terrorism and cyber terrorism.

One must realize that there are endless numbers of possible combinations that can be used.

The idea is not to limit one’s thinking to a singular concept of strategy or even attack, but to combine all of these in one, two or several packages to be delivered against the enemy.

“The main purpose is to achieve ones objective by bending, eroding or defeating the will of your enemy to offer or give any resistance” … how very true now is the teachings of Sun Tzu when he said “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”.

It is very inviting to say… but that is against the rules of warfare.

Well, according to Wang and Qiao, the rules are written and made by rich and powerful nations, the poor nations should just discard them. And most importantly in the concept of unrestricted warfare, the “first rule is…there are no rules, with nothing orbidden, no limits, no boundaries.” The battlefields will be everywhere and encompassing.

Protest rally  on 12 June 2017 against China's incursion in the West Philippine Sea
Protest rally on 12 June 2017 against China's incursion in the West Philippine Sea

Political, economic, technological stratagem will be used more on unrestricted warfare while military violence or option will decrease.

“Winning military victories in non-military spheres and winning wars with non-military means can now become a reality.”

Unrestricted warfare is guided by eight major concepts or principles.

1. Omni directionality – There is no longer any distinction between what is or is not a battlefield. Natural spaces like the ground, air, sea and outer space are battlefields and so are artificial spaces such as networks and social media, politics, economics and the human psyche are all considered as battlefields.

2. Synchrony – A combination of strategy or even tactics can be applied at once or in simultaneous action/ tempo. Synchrony is stressed or favored over the traditional phasing.

3. Limited Objectives – The objective must always be smaller. It must not go beyond the resources available. It must be realistic and the feasibility of accomplishing them can be a reality.

4. Unlimited Measures – Unlimited measures to accomplish limited objectives is the ultimate boundary. The only limit is not to exceed the objectives.

5. Asymmetry – Refuse a head to head confrontation. Use asymmetry to accomplish the objectives or find the weak spot on the enemy’s strategy, ideology, systems, thinking or tactics.

6. Minimal Consumption – use the least amount of combat/ political/ economic resources sufficient to accomplish the objectives.

7. Multidimensional Coordination – Coordination and cooperation among different forces in different spheres in order accomplish an objective.

8. Adjustment and Control of the entire process – a continually acquire information/intelligence and adjust attack/action and control the situation while the operation happening for the purpose of initiative.

China's 9-dash line, rejected by the Arbitral Tribunal
China's 9-dash line, rejected by the Arbitral Tribunal

If one will take the analogy of a drink… it would be a “martial cocktail” drink. The General or Leader that will win will be the one who can best combine “Military Action + Economic Action + Media + Political Action +Terrorism + Humanitarian aid” … the combinations are unlimited.

The Unrestricted Warfare is a very important reading material for policy makers, defense and security consultants, soldiers and even civilians.

It must be understood and studied carefully. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

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