Treble Spyglass, Treble Spear?: China’s Three Warfares

chinese_chess “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” -Sun Tzu

Timothy Walton has an interesting paper entitled “Treble Spyglass, Treble Spear?: China’s Three Warfares” (385kb PDF) in the Winter issue of Defense Concepts, a journal put out by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. 

The paper essentially describes the Chinese as adjusting military strategy to incorporate all of the elements of power. In the U.S., this is called DIME, for Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economic (or the expanded version that never gained the same traction: DIMELIF, DIME + Finance, Intelligence, Law Enforcement). Still, if you are interested in China, this is worth a read.

Other resources on the subject I strongly recommend are:

Excerpts from Walton’s paper:

Information warfare has assumed a central role in Chinese military writings over the past decade. Since December 2004, the phrase ‘informatized war’ has largely replaced the phrase ‘local war under high-technology conditions’ in Chinese military strategy writings. Achieving information superiority is seen as the precondition for achieving and maintaining battlefield supremacy. “The conduct of information warfare also greatly emphasizes the concept of ‘gaining mastery by striking first.'” In fact, some Chinese writings suggest that successful information operations require striking first electronically or kinetically. Thus, it appears that Chairman Mao’s principle of “accepting the first blow” (houfa zhiren) has been replaced with “gaining the initiative by striking first” (xianfa zhiren).

As part of the Three Warfares, Media Warfare is “aimed at influencing domestic and international public opinion to build public and international support for China’s military actions and to dissuade an adversary from pursuing policies perceived to be adverse to China’s interests.”xxviii The wide scope of activities which fall under this purview range from “guiding” opinion to blocking content to active repression of those who circumvent the system. Overall, PLA planners seek to control domestic information access to guide public opinion, and thus present an ‘united front’ among the intelligentsia, common citizens, and the CCP. Media warfare is also essential for reinforcing actions of Psychological and Legal Warfares. Renowned Chinese propaganda scholar Anne-Marie Brady opens her seminal work on China’s propaganda efforts by sharing the sentiment of a mid-ranking propaganda official, “Propaganda work is spiritual work and the propagandists are like priests guiding their flock.”

Over the past few decades, China has adopted more sophisticated Media Warfare
methodologies. In particular, China has incorporated many methods of mass persuasion from the Western world, including political public relations, incorporating the theories of mass communication, and individual and group psychology.

Taiwan’s first Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), issued in March of 2009 by the Ministry of National Defense, identified the “three-front war” by China–legal, media, and psychological warfare as a threat to the defense of the country.

See also: