Category Archives: China

Summary of NSF Meeting on Chinese Policies


We had a most interesting exchange on the topic of China’s Politico-Military Posture: Is it defensive or aggressive. We asked UNR professors John Scire and Xiaoyu Pu to debate the issue. Although neither felt strongly one way or the other, for the sake of argument they agreed to take opposite sides on the issue for the purposes of illuminating aspects of Chinese regional and domestic activities.

Here is a summary of their presentations and the PowerPoint slides they used. 


China’s Politico-Military Posture and Behavior Reflects a Very Aggressive Stance

China is an emerging world power which shows clear signs of becoming an aggressive one. Politically, they actively oppose US efforts in the UN to reign in rogue regimes, such as Iran and especially North Korea, a very dangerous state with the ability to start a war with the US.

They are actively pushing their territorial demands on to their neighbors in SE Asia, including Viet-Nam, the Philippines, and even Malaysia. China is laying claim to many islands and their resources in the East and South China Seas, lying far beyond even the 200-mile internationally accepted economic zones. They have also initiated a number of incidents with Japan.

Economically, they have engaged in very aggressive neo-mercantilist policies which have adversely affected the US economy. By not living up to provisions of the WTO, by allowing massive theft of US patents and copyrights and methods of production, and by directly subsidizing industries that dump products on the US, they are engaging in economic warfare.

Militarily, China seems bent on developing a Navy and Air Force which are clearly meant to project power far from their borders.  This includes an active carrier-building program. China has fielded a powerful long range missile force, with increasing capability to target the US mainland as well as our deployed forces in the Pacific. I should also note the active stealth aircraft development program. They have exchanged fire with several SE Asian nations and US allies in the region.

It is in the Cyber arena that does and should raise the most concerns. Here China has implemented a very far-reaching cyber intrusion program, with the capability of intercepting our most secret communications. The PRC seems intent on using their growing cyber capabilities to assist in its economic espionage efforts. Finally, China appears capable of having the ability to essentially “blind” American military forces if a conflict should occur.

The Chinese are behaving as aggressively as they can be given their relative weakness vis-à-vis the US. However, as their military power grows, I believe they will become even more aggressive world-wide.

Dr. John Anthony Scire

Click here for Dr. Scire’s presentation: China’s Aggressive Actions



China’s Politico-Military Posture Should Be Considered Primarily as a Defensive One

The media increasingly describes China as an assertive power. While there might be some valid reasons to worry about the intentions of a rising power, many discussions confuse “assertiveness” with “aggression.” “Assertiveness” refers to a confident and direct way of defending a country’s rights or claims. While China’s “assertiveness” seems to be inevitable, we should differentiate different types of assertive behaviors. The first type is “offensive/expansionist assertiveness,” which refers to the aggressive behavior exerted by a great power to expand its interest and influence without provocation from other countries. The dominant strategic thinking in China is that the expansionist/aggressive approach would not work to promote China’s national interest and security. The second type is “defensive assertiveness,” which refers to a great power’s willingness and capability to defend its current interests in responding to challenges from other countries. The third type of assertiveness is “constructive assertiveness,” which refers to the active and constructive approach taken by a great power to solve regional and global problems. Many of China’s behaviors are defensive because China is responding to the provocations of other countries. China’s assertive behavior is not necessarily bad if it is a constructive behavior to solve regional and global problems.

Furthermore, Chinese leaders’ major security concern comes from internal threats. China recently announced  that a high-level security commission will focus more on “state security” or domestic challenges, although it might coordinate foreign affairs as well.

Chinese leaders are also constrained by China’s geopolitical environment at regional level.  Since the US announced its “pivot” to Asia, Chinese elites have worried about the implications but have taken a restrained response.  At the global level, China has limited power projection capabilities. We currently see little if any evidence that China is already taking an aggressive approach. China’s assertive behavior is mostly responsive and defensive. China is both a rapidly rising power but also a fragile developing country.

China is not eager to challenge the US leadership. The world should welcome a China that is taking a constructively assertive approach to solving global and regional problems.

Dr. Xiaoyu Pu

Click here for Dr. Pu’s presentation:  China’s Defensive Actions


Beijing’s Bitskrieg



Colleagues: Increasing attention is being directed at Chinese hacking, not only into private sector files, but penetrating military networks as well. Chinese hackers apparently have stolen the blueprints of a new multi-million-dollar Australian spy headquarters as part of a growing wave of cyber attacks against business and military targets, in the United States and in its allies. The hackers also stole confidential information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which houses the overseas spy agency the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

Australian officials, like those in the United States and other Western
nations, have made cyber attacks a security priority following a growing
number of attacks of the resource rich country, mostly blamed on China.

In the United States, the Pentagon’s latest annual report on Chinese
military developments accused Beijing for the first time of trying to break
into U.S. defense networks, calling it “a serious concern”.

In a highly embarrassing intrusion, Chinese hackers broke into the network of the super-secret defense contractor, QinetiQ, a company that had a $4.7 million cyber-security contract from the U.S. Transportation Command, which includes protection of the nation’s critical transport infrastructure. U.S. officials believe that China was able to access the computers at Redstone Arsenal through this portal as well.

During their multi-year assault on defense contractors, Chinese spies stole several terabytes—equal to hundreds of millions of pages—of documents and data on weapons programs. The U.S. cyber-security firm, Mandiant, has laid the blame for many of the intrusions at the feet of “Comment Crew”, which is the Chinese PLA equivalent of our National Security Agency.

China has dismissed as groundless both the Pentagon report and a February
report by the U.S. computer security company Mandiant, which said a
secretive Chinese military unit was probably behind a series of hacking
attacks targeting the United States that had stolen data from 100 companies.

Our friend, Dr. John Arquilla, labels this the “Beijing Bitskrieg: How China is Revolutionizing Warfare”. John posted that analysis on Foreign, which is reprinted below. I strongly recommend all read carefully.

This is the future of warfare, private sector security, and critical infrastructure protection. Ty


Beijing’s ‘Bitskrieg’

How China is revolutionizing warfare.

BY JOHN ARQUILLA | Foreign Policy.Com   MAY 13, 2013

As the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress, released in mid-May, makes abundantly clear, China is on something of a long march in cyberspace. While most attention is being drawn to the report’s assertions about Chinese snooping into sensitive classified areas and theft of intellectual property from leading American firms — and others around the world — there is some intriguing analysis of Beijing’s broader aims as well.

Indeed, the Pentagon sees a clear progression in Chinese strategic thought that, viewed as a whole, begins to elaborate what might be seen as an emerging military doctrine enabled by advanced information technologies. Just as the radio made skillful coordination of tanks and planes possible, introducing World War II-era blitzkrieg, so today the computer may be opening new vistas for cruise missiles, precision-guided munitions, and other smart weapons.

What’s coming from Beijing is, in a word, “bitskrieg.” The Pentagon report describes this as a three-phase process. First, there is a “focus on exfiltrating data” so as to gain vital information needed about military command and control systems as well as the points in our critical infrastructure that are vulnerable to disruption by means of cyberattack. It is believed that the Chinese have been engaging in this sort of intelligence gathering for many years — intrusions that Washington first openly acknowledged 10 years ago, giving them the code name “Titan Rain.” It has been raining steadily for the past decade.

With all these data in hand, the second step — per the Pentagon report — is to use the same intrusive means that mapped our defense information systems to disrupt them with worms, viruses, and an assortment of other attack tools. The goal at this point is to slow the U.S. military’s ability to respond to a burgeoning crisis or an ongoing conflict. Think of what might happen, say, on the Korean Peninsula, if our small contingent there — a little over 25,000 troops — were to lose its connectivity at the outset of a North Korean invasion by its million-man army. Without the ability to operate more nimbly than the attacker, these forces would be hard-pressed from the outset. Cyberattacks on mostly automated force-deployment and air-tasking systems could also slow the sending of reinforcements and greatly impede air interdiction operations. In the first Korean War, the Chinese intervened with massive numbers of troops. In the second one, they might only have to send electrons.

The real payoff for Beijing, though, is in what the Pentagon report describes as China’s envisioned third phase of cyber-operations. This is the point at which the information advantage — that is, the ability to coordinate one’s own field operations while the adversary’s have been completely disrupted — is translated into material results in battle. The Pentagon describes cyberattack at this point as amounting to a major “force multiplier.” Gaining such advantage means winning campaigns and battles with fewer casualties relative to those inflicted upon the enemy. In this respect, computer-driven “bitskrieg” could, it is thought, generate results like those attained by mechanized blitzkriegs — which also aimed at disrupting communications. In the Battle of France in 1940, for example, where the Germans had fewer troops and tanks, the Allies lost more than four times the number of soldiers as the Wehrmacht.

When my long-time research partner David Ronfeldt and I introduced our concept of cyberwar 20 years ago, the second and third phases of cyberattack that the Pentagon report describes are what we had in mind. In our view, striking at an enemy’s ability to maintain information flows, while keeping one’s own communications secure, would be the key to gaining a war-winning advantage in conflicts to come. But this would only hold true, we affirmed, if senior leaders recognized that cyberwar poses “broad issues of military organization and doctrine.”

The point being that technology alone doesn’t create or sustain the advantage. In the case of blitzkrieg it was concentrating tanks in panzer divisions and closely linking them with attack aircraft that made the difference. To succeed at cyberwar, it will be necessary both to scale down large units into small ones and “scale them out” across the battlespace rather than mass them together. In this fashion — spread out but completely linked and able to act as one — the sweeping maneuvers of blitzkrieg will be supplanted by the swarming attacks of bitskrieg, characterized by the ability to mount simultaneous strikes from many directions. The guiding organizational concept for this new approach flows closely from technologist David Weinberger’s thoughtful description of online networks: “small pieces, loosely joined.”

Thus should the Pentagon annual report to Congress be delved into more deeply — for the document reflects a clear awareness of, and takes a subtle, layered approach to thinking about, the Chinese cyber threat. One can only hope that the U.S. military analysis of Beijing’s looming capacity for bitskrieg is mirrored by introspective views and similarly nuanced considerations of American capacities for waging cyberwar. For the three phases described in the Pentagon report — so consistent with the original vision Ronfeldt and I described two decades ago — reflect the kind of conflict that is coming.

The militaries of most advanced countries think of cyberwar as a new form of strategic attack on power grids and such. The Chinese view differs, seeing this mode of conflict as much less about turning off the lights for a while in some other country and much more about defeating an opposing military grown dependent upon sustained, secure, and ubiquitous flows of information. Lights can always be turned back on. Soldiers’ lives lost amid the battlefield chaos caused by a bitskrieg can never be reclaimed.

Thoughtful reading of the Pentagon report should affirm this — and appropriate action, along the lines of scaling down and “scaling out” our forces, and encouraging them to “swarm,” must follow.

John Arquilla is head of the Defense Analysis department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. This article is reprinted with the permission of the author.

March 21st Meeting on China’s National Security Challenges


The National Security Forum presents

Richard W. Mueller


“China’s National Security Challenges”

(Or, “Comrades, Crap, We Are Totally Surrounded!”)

A report to the Politburo by the

Chinese National Security Advisor


The Ramada, Thursday, March 21, 9 am


Much attention has been given to the emerging threat to America’s national security interests from China. However, insufficient analysis has been devoted to understanding how the threat picture might look if you were a member of the national security team in Beijing.

Long-time China hand and retired Foreign Service Officer Richard Mueller will assume the role of the PRC’s National Security Advisor. His presentation will portray the “threat” to China as most likely seen by a key advisor to the Politburo.

Many Americans do not appreciate that China has had antagonist relationships and/or military conflicts with many of its surrounding neighbors over the centuries. Chinese leaders are well aware of this history and thus are hyper-alert to the need for strong military defenses and creative diplomacy. The economic boom of recent years has produced growing budget revenues allowing Beijing to make increasingly significant investments in its military. While few expect overt military hostilities in the foreseeable future, Beijing is determined to have the capability to protect its core interests, which include territorial integrity, eventual re-integration of Taiwan, and a better military balance with the United States.

Mueller will also outline other developments which could undermine China’s national security interests in the coming decades. These include severe drought and water shortages, reduced supplies of domestically produced foodstuffs, adverse demographic factors, confrontations with Tibetan and Muslim populations, and significant social disruption if political governance is not addressed.

Richard Mueller was a 32-year career Foreign Service Officer specializing in China and Asia, with a stint on Secretary of State George Shultz’s executive staff. His last assignment was as chief of mission/American Consul General in Hong Kong, from 1993-96. He subsequently became head of school of Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts and then of the Hong Kong International School.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($20 at the door; free for students with ID), so recommend you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some coffee and conversation.

Please RSVP on our website by clicking here or you may RSVP by phone (775) 746-3222 or email





Rise and Fall of China with Powerpoint

The “Rise” of China — and Its Coming “Fall”?

What it Will Mean for the United States.

 With Richard Mueller

Former Foreign Service Officer and experienced “China Hand” Richard Mueller gave a thoughtful presentation on China to the National Security Forum recently. The PowerPoint talk that Richard gave is attached—we thought you might enjoy perusing his slides.

Mueller noted that little more than three decades ago China was an inward looking country reliant primarily on its own productive abilities. It espoused a revolutionary ideology in opposition to Western capitalism and Soviet communism. The improvement of relations following President Nixon’s historic visit encouraged the PRC to participate more fully in the post-World War II international architecture – the UN, World Bank, IMF, etc.

In many ways US policy has succeeded brilliantly as China embarked on far-reaching economic and social reforms and (limited) political reform.  The US-China relationship has grown rapidly and broadly, and the two countries have acted to avoid military conflict and destructive confrontation, with Taiwan as a prime example.  China has now become a global player — economically, politically and increasingly, militarily.

As Richard notes, Chinese policy and practice today reflect a newly-developed self-confidence in identifying and protecting core interests even as they have led to frictions with neighbors and the US.  They also reflect leaders’ appreciation of China’s weaknesses, among them systemic governance questions, extreme income differentials, stresses on social cohesion, pervasive corruption, environmental degradation, a lack of openness and transparency and little modern experience as a world power.

There is also ongoing and intensive Chinese political debate on the best approaches to dealing with these internal and external issues. Mueller argues that China realizes it needs a stable world order in which to pursue its rapid economic development. Military conflict would seriously jeopardize that needed stability.

But can China choose and sustain policies that allow it to work collaboratively with other countries to ensure that long-term stability?  What are its core interests, including its objectives with regard to North Korea, Iran and Pakistan/ Afghanistan?

Richard Mueller’s 32-year Foreign Service career was capped by service as American Consul General in Hong Kong, 1993-96. Previously he served in the US Liaison Office in Beijing, 1976-78, and had two postings to the American Embassy in Saigon.  In Washington he worked for Secretaries Henry Kissinger, George Schultz and Jim Baker. Following his retirement from the State Department in 1998, he embarked on a twelve year education career, first as Head of School of Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, MA, and then Head of School of Hong Kong International School. He and his wife, Claire, who was also career Foreign Service, relocated to Reno in 2010.

Richard’s presentation is attached for your review.


NSF: The “Rise” of China — and Its Coming “Fall”? What it Will Mean for the United States

With Richard Mueller


Wednesday, February 29, the Ramada, 9:00 am

China’s “rise” has been so unexpected and stunning that we are still working to understand the long-term implications for China and the rest of the world. Chinese leaders themselves are feeling their way forward as they consider how best to use their new economic, political, and military influence.

Along with China’s “rise” and many successes have come massive challenges. These include fundamental questions of national governance; the role of the Communist Party and its fear of sharing political power; corrosive income inequality; environmental degradation; pervasive corruption; social dislocation and disruption; increasing censorship and arrest of “dissidents”; and growing restiveness among minorities, particularly Buddhist Tibetans and Muslim Uyghurs.

The autumn of 2012 will also bring an unusually large political turnover among the top Communist Party ranks. Seven of nine Politiburo Standing Committee members, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, will step down. There is an intense behind-the-scenes political struggle.

Richard Mueller will review these developments and explain why the “rise” of China may slow and become a “fall” for at least some period of time. While grappling with these challenges, could China be forced to re-focus internally? Could the Communist Party leadership risk some confrontation with neighbors in order to stir up Chinese “patriotic” sentiment? Meanwhile, the rest of the world would worry about Chinese instability and lack of clear, effective governance.

Mueller is a 32 year career Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State, serving in multiple Asian assignments, including Beijing, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam. His concentration was on China, culminating as American Consul General in Hong Kong.

Please RSVP (ACCEPTANCES ONLY) by emailing us here or by calling 746-3222. A complete breakfast will be served. There will be a $15 dollar charge at the door for the presentation and breakfast. We recommend arriving by 8:30 to enjoy some pre-presentation food and conversation.