Small Wars Journal

Great Power Competition — China’s Use of Guerrilla Warfare and Information Power in Pursuit of Its Epochal World Order

Sat, 07/02/2022 - 1:32pm

Great Power Competition — China’s Use of Guerrilla Warfare and Information Power in Pursuit of Its Epochal World Order


By Richard M. Crowell


…the guerrilla campaigns being waged in China today are a page in history that

has no precedent.  Their influence will be confined not solely to China in her

present anti-Japanese struggle, but will be world-wide.

- Mao Tse-Tung, Yu Chi Chan, 1937[1]


     There is a war out there, old friend - a World War.  And it’s not about whose got

     the most bullets; it’s about who controls the information.  What we see and hear,

     how we work, what we think.  It’s all about the information. 

- Cosmo, Sneakers, 1992[2]



Great power competition (GPC) has returned to the global stage with rivalry between the People’s Republic of China and numerous nations with which they are competing.[*]  The idea that the world’s most prized resource is no longer oil but data has changed the character of GPC in the twenty-first century.[3]  Today nations are competing for access to data vital to control machines of trade and war vice oil essential to operate the engines of the industrial age.

Phillip Bobbitt, the noted constitutional scholar, defines a great power as a state capable of initiating an epochal war—a conflict that threatens the survival of the leaders of the society of states.[4]  Bobbitt contends that GPC throughout the twentieth century can be viewed as one long war to answer the constitutional question of how nation states would be governed— communism, fascism or parliamentary democracy.[5]  When the Cold War ended many believed the question was answered with parliamentary democracy.  However, once China’s twenty-first century actions are viewed holistically, it is clear they have become a threat to existing constitutional order of states in which they are competing.  The Communist Party of China (CPC) skillfully promotes their closed authoritarian model as an alternative to democratic governance and free-market societies.[6]  Furthermore, Bobbitt describes the relationship between how states are governed and how they conduct war, “Fundamental innovations in war bring about fundamental transformations in the constitutional order of states, while transformations in the constitutional order bring about fundamental changes in the conduct and aims of war.”[7]  The CPCs fundamental innovation in war, a successful guerilla war, determined how they govern China and subsequently how they view competition and war.[8]  

This paper brings together disparate Chinese activities to highlight the CPCs ability to control information which enables control of their people and many others in pursuit of their epochal world order.  China’s vision of the world is one in which it is the leader in every major industry and technology, the economic and strategic center, with a military that can successfully defend their overseas interests.[9]  China’s increasing ability to control behavior comes from taking advantage of the uncontrolled and poorly protected aspects of cyberspace,[10] and the elements of democratic societies that have been heretofore unprotected or minimally protected; the political, education, social, and informational systems in free and open states.

Comprehending China’s twenty-first century global actions in search of wider power requires knowledge of their perspective on power and competition.  That lens is one which sees guerilla warfare and information power used to invade social order to change the existing order in favor of the CPC.  Insight into their methods reveal their path to victory is in the truest wisdom of Sun Tzu, “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.”[11]

This work is divided into six parts. The introduction defines GPC and describes its changes in the twenty-first century.  Part two describes China’s reformulation of its national security strategy, prioritizing the use of guerilla warfare and information power.  The third part presents information power, the information environment and cyberspace to illustrate how information is moved and used in the twenty-first century.  Part four describes China’s strategic innovation in using information to control its people and others, often by creating dependency on the CPC for access to information communication technologies (ICT) necessary to communicate with family and friends.  This section describes how China is competing in the globally uncontrolled spaces with machines and humans, it includes examples of China’s information power used in the Philippines.  Part five cautions policymakers and leaders on the risks of using Chinese ICT and provides a look at future competition and conflict with China as a great power.  Part six offers concluding thoughts.


China’s Reformulation of Power 

In Social Order and the General Theory of Strategy, Alexander Atkinson contends that to understand China’s views on competition and conflict we must look to their strategy of changing and securing social order.[12]  The CPC’s guerilla war from 1927 to 1949 to defeat the Republic of China on the mainland and the evolution of communism highlights the relationship between changing constitutional order and controlling social order.  Following the CPCs victory, the party started metering access to information.  Beginning with education, the party focused on two main objectives: first was equipping the people with the academic skills necessary to create productive workers, and second was indoctrinating the populace with correct political thought.[13]   Indoctrination became a prime means of securing social order.

China began reformulating its national security strategy near the end of the twentieth century, prioritizing information power as a way to compete globally.[14]  Compromising an opponent’s will to wage war by controlling information became a goal of the CPC.  The strategy employs practices and tools adapted from the CPCs domestic information control to change constitutional order and control the social order of states in which China is actively competing.  The CPCs actions reveal that rather than living in a world either at peace or at war, we live in a world of enduring competition.[15]   

The CPCs persistent competition is built upon their ideas on revolutionary guerilla strategy.  One that changes the constituent parts of the existing state, its political, economic, military, social, and psychological [informational] systems, its social order, to a desired state.[16]  A key element of this stratagem is managing the competition aims to subtly create dependency on key Chinese goods and services that a majority of the people in developed nations want and people in developing nations need, particularly ICT.  Dependency enables the CPC to influence behavior of many of the policymakers in competing nations. 


Fundamental Innovations in War – Guerilla Warfare and Information Power

The idea of guerilla or small war became popular following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1807.  The type of warfare and irregular forces used to compel Imperial France to change its policies were named guerilla war, Spanish for “little war.”  While there are many thoughts on guerilla warfare over the past two centuries, this paper will use the following concepts from successful practitioners.

In Small Wars for the 21st Century, General Mattis tells us that these wars are first and foremost information wars.  Small wars differ from big wars where destruction is the norm; in guerilla wars persuasion and influence are more often the objective.[17]  Additionally, Mattis contends that the role of intelligence should have a different focus in these wars.  Intelligence must strive to understand culture to develop detailed knowledge of the ethnic, tribal, racial, economic, technical, religious, and linguistic groups in host nations; this extends to the underlying cultural beliefs and narratives that distinguish their value system.[18]  This in-depth understanding creates a greater appreciation of how policymakers and citizens react to information.  Mao Zedong asserted guerilla warfare takes place in and among the people and in spaces where there is little or no control; they are comprised of three merging phases: 1) Organization, Consolidation and Preservation; 2) Progressive Expansion and 3) Decision or Destruction of the Enemy.[19]  Perhaps the most useful idea comes from Major-General Charles Callwell, British Army, “The expression small war has in reality no particular connection with the scale on which any campaign may be carried out; it is simply used to denote, in default of a better, operations of regular armies against irregular, or comparatively speaking irregular, forces.”[20] [emphasis added]

As the struggle for China culminated in Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949, Mao realized that in order to complete his evolution to a communist state he needed to control the uncontrolled terrain—the people.[21]  The fledgling Republic of China was changed to the communist Peoples Republic of China by attacking and changing its constituent parts.  The new social order was necessary to control society; a population that grew from approximately 450 million to 931 million in Mao’s lifetime.[22]  Control was achieved in large part through information means; manufacturing public opinion and creating new communities, particularly through developing new collective entities with shared economic interests.[23]

Behavioral control expanded in the early 1950s when the CPC created dependency on

the state for jobs, education, and healthcare—generating a cradle to grave welfare system.[24]  The dependency became known as the Iron Rice Bowl and was an innovative element of social control.  Eventually the CPC recognized its original style of communism had to adapt to survive.  Throughout the last few decades of the twentieth century China evolved through various versions of socialism with four modernizations: agriculture, industry, science and technology, and the military to modern communism and state capitalism.  The most recent adaptation comes with the CPC allowing citizens to share information via cyberspace.  This seemingly open gesture actually enables increased control of the populace.


Information Power

One of the most significant innovations since the Second World War is the ability to control the movement of information and how that control is used to influence human behavior. Information power is defined by Daniel Kuehl as “The use of informational content, technologies and capabilities enabling the exchange of that content, used globally to influence the social, political, economic, or military behavior of human beings, whether one or one billion, in the support of national security objectives.”[25]   

The ability to control the movement of information may be seen as disruptive technology; specific technology that profoundly changes established technologies, the rules and industry models of a given market, and often society overall.[26]  The smartphone and social media are examples of great changes to the internet and the world wide web that resulted in pronounced transformations in social order.  Two important features of the near constant connectivity are first, when modern machines, smartphones or tablets are used to communicate, they generate an addictive hold on many humans that use them,[27] and second, countless users of these machines either do not understand or do not care that data moving through them is easily accessed by third parties who may use the data or the machines for nefarious means. 

The skill to compel another to do your will is the highest form of power in human competition.  Delivering precise content or code (software) to humans or machines can influence human action or operate machines independent of the owners.  The relationship between humans and information exists in four levels; see Figure 1.  Data forms the foundation and movement up the levels leads to expertise.  Expertise comes when the humans have the ability to use the knowledge to achieve objectives.


Pic 1                                     

Figure 1.  The four levels of information[28]


Behavioral power can be used to get humans to do what they would not do otherwise.[29]  Joseph Nye describes command power and co-optive power: command power is the ability to change what others do based on coercion or inducement and co–optive power as the ability to shape what others want relying on the attractiveness of one’s culture and values or the skill to manipulate the agenda of political choices.[30]  Precision delivery of malicious information can effect global events influencing behavior and social order.  Today the manipulation of content and code happens within the information environment, most often using cyberspace for delivery. 

The Information Environment and Cyberspace


The information environment (IE) is a term of art defined as, “The aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect process, disseminate, or act on information.  This environment consists of three interrelated dimensions that continuously interact with individuals, organizations, and systems.  The dimensions are the physical, informational, and cognitive.”[31]  The nexus of the dimensions is where humans and machines come together receiving information to make decisions and execute control. 

Cyberspace is often difficult to understand.  Unlike other domains where maps and charts exist to describe the physical features and boundaries, cyberspace remains largely uncharted.[32]  Kuehl provides a particularly useful definition of cyberspace as, “A global domain within the information environment whose distinctive and unique character is framed by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) to create, store, modify, exchange, and exploit information via interdependent and interconnected networks using information– communications technologies (ICT).”[33] [emphasis added]  Cyberspace knits together the dimension of the IE making it the primary field of action that allows information to move between humans and machines. 

Similar to the ways in which humans build machines – ships, trains, automobiles, aircraft, and space craft – to compete with trade and war in the traditional domains, mankind builds the machines necessary to control the movement of information and places them in the uncontrolled cyberspace domain.  Like the sea, human use of cyberspace has expanded to include trade and war, and naturally evolved to competition for control and denial.[34]  The idea of cyberspace existing within the information environment is important to understanding the domain as humans create and adapt the physical connectivity – smartphones, computers, servers, routers, and industrial control systems – to move information, facilitate human decision making, and ease work.  Simply put, cyberspace is a largely man-made domain that enables the innovative movement of information with great speed, depth and precision.



Intelligence is the field that has historically been tasked with translating data and information into knowledge and expertise during military planning and operations.  Intelligence is the product of collection, processing, integration, evaluation, analysis, and interpretation of available information concerning foreign nations, hostile or potentially hostile forces or elements, or areas of actual or potential operations.[35]  There are numerous forms of intelligence that exist within and between nations or groups.  Examples include but are not limited to: military, diplomatic, economic, domestic, communications, electronic, foreign, signals, imagery, medical, open-source, scientific and technical intelligence.  Effective use of intelligence yields insight, knowledge and expertise into how a competitor or enemy nation and its society functions; this expertise is necessary should one desire to change how rivals’ function.  Because so much data is stored digitally today, cyber-espionage has become a primary means to gather intelligence. 


Twenty-first Century Information

Connecting machines to machines and humans to machines significantly increases the amount of data moving through cyberspace.  Today, movement between levels of information not only happens faster than at any other time in history, the use of machines enables processing of considerably more data, more rapidly than ever before.  In order to extract meaning from this increasing array of data the distinct fields of data science (DS), machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) have been developed and formalized. 

Data science is focused on improving decision making through the analysis of data.[36]  The general method of applying data science is sourcing, aggregating, exploring the data and analyzing patterns through machine learning to make better decisions.[37]  ML focuses on the design and evaluation of algorithms (mathematical models) for extracting patterns from data.[38]  If one uses Kuehl’s earlier definition of cyberspace, it is hard to believe these fields could exist without this new domain.  Stuart Russell, founder and head of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence, University of California Berkeley tells us that, AI aims to build machines that are better at making decisions and solving problems.[39]  He cautions, humans must ask the machines to solve the right problems, if we are unclear the machines may achieve something other than what we want.[40] 

AI is best understood by separating it into the current and future capabilities of artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) and artificial general intelligence (AGI).  ANI is the present capability of data-based, algorithmic, decision-making software utilizing machine learning within a controlled environment.[41]  AGI describes a future capability where software recognizes, reasons, and solves problems in a contextual manner identical to humans. [42] [emphasis added]

There is a vast amount of data available today, however it is often what is termed dirty data, making it difficult or impossible to use.  Figure 2 shows the process to make data useable employing DS and ML to source, aggregate, and clean the data.  It represents the activity of moving from raw data to decision.  Once cleaned, the data can be summarized for presentation so that algorithms and ANI may be applied to ask and answer questions.  What is learned from answering these questions is used by humans to make better decisions and may be used to influence humans to act in specific ways.  At some time in the future AGI may use only machines to make decisions identical to humans, however, today it remains decades away from reality.[43] 



Pic 2

Figure 2.  Data Science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence[44]


Expertise to control the movement of data enables data scientists and those able to manipulate the information (computer code and content) to set issues, shape agendas, and control human behavior in pursuit of objectives.  In Weapons of Math Destruction – How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, Cathy O’Neil tells us that algorithms and the information gained from them can be powerful tools for behavior modification.[45]  The authors of the algorithms can use the embedded code to manipulate human action.[46]  These models can encode human prejudice, misunderstanding, and bias into the software systems that manage human life.[47] 


Strategic Innovation and Constitutional Order

China began granting its citizens limited use of ICT at the end of the twentieth century.  Access included controlled use of the internet which became the seeds of large scale innovation.  As early as 1999 the CPC created national websites in addition to election and governance websites.[48]  The CPC began monitoring websites following natural and man-made events in 2004.[49]  Monitors focused on negative social events or what they termed hot incidents.[50]  Observation led to collecting data on public opinion and eventually analysis of information to use for the benefit of the state.[51]  The information gleaned was used to score how well sites reported on events that impacted the state.  The CPC learned that websites could not just report on events, but deliver information and thereby influence behavior of the citizens.[52] 

An increased desire to control electronic communication inside China led to establishing the Network Bureau of the Central Propaganda Department (CPD) in 2006.  Figure 3 shows the structure of the CPD with links between direct reporting points, monitoring and research centers and connections to the CPD Network Bureau and the Politburo.  The CPD works closely with State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and General Administration of Press and Publication monitoring content to ensure China's news, entertainment and print media do not publish anything that is inconsistent with the CPC political dogma.[53]



Pic 3

Figure 3.  China’s Network Public Opinion Agencies [54]


China began aggressively competing globally in cyberspace shortly after the turn of the century using cyber-espionage to steal information.  CISCO, a global leader in ICT was hacked in 2003.[55]  While the CPD initially had limited data analysis capabilities, it was able to take advantage of luck and chance when Google decided to enter the world’s largest internet market, launching in 2006.  Many believed that Google’s access in China would lead to reforms and greater openness for the people of China.  In reality that notion displayed a clear mis-understanding of the CPC authoritarianism. 

China launched Operation Aurora in 2009, the hacking of Google and other US technology and defense corporations.  The operation stole valuable information necessary for the CPC to advance its national security agenda, leapfrogging the West in disruptive technology.[56]  Perhaps the most significant item stolen during the hack was Google’s source code—software that powered Google’s vaunted search engine.[57] 

Social media and internet service corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon make money by predicting human behavior as accurately as possible.  These corporations and others monitor all of one’s online actions and collect the associated data.  Captured data is used to develop models, predictive mechanisms, that can forecast future behavior such as a click, purchase, or an action.[58]  The more data a company has on an individual the more accurately they are able to predict behavior.  Google became one of the richest corporations in history by understanding that the human is the product in the free market model.  Tristan Harris, former Design Ethicist at Google tells us that their business model is based in large part on delivering information to the users of its platform so that they will think about things that they would never have done so on their own.[59]  Jarod Lanier, a Microsoft researcher, computer philosophy writer and one of the creators of virtual reality explains, “These corporations have created an entire global generation of people who were raised within a context where the very meaning of communication, the very meaning of culture is manipulation.”[60] 

The CPCs innovation in constitutional order comes with understanding that in their authoritarian model, predicting human behavior yields control of the populace.  China’s use of information power for its national security is built upon competing in cyberspace and the traditional domains by creating low cost emotive machines and content on a scale that has never before been seen.  China is using the production and sale of these to change social order by creating dependency on connectivity and a subsequent reliance on the CPC to fulfill the needs and wants of the people.  The innovative adaptation of ICT increases the CPCs ability to control behavior.


Information Power – Expertise to Control Behavior Inside China

The theft of Google’s source code enabled the adaptation of the code from a marketing tool to one for controlling societal norms.  China places machines in and among the people to monitor and control all forms of social behavior.  Everyone who moves or acts in cities wherever there is a camera or microphone installed has their data collected.  Monitoring 1.4 billion people also requires the ability to control personal machines independent of the owners.  To accomplish these goals, the CPC developed a network of state sponsored and state favored tele-communications corporations.  The most widely publicized of these are Huawei and Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Corporation (ZTE), two of the largest tele-communications firms in the world.  These companies and others produce machines that are used in state-of-the-art surveillance networks.  These networks are key to the CPCs ability to collect data and expertly use information power to construct and maintain social order.

One of the CPCs primary controlling mechanisms is the social credit system (SCS).  China takes advantage of the human desire to be connected via social media and the addictive hold it has on so many by judiciously allowing its citizens access to its version of the internet.  China’s internet exists behind a great firewall and permits connectivity to the outside world in very limited cases.[61]  The CPC provides access to low cost smartphones and computers that create dependency on the state in order to communicate with family and friends.  The addictive hold Chinese ICT has on many may be seen as a modern iron rice bowl or a cyber rice bowl.  It is believed that many of the electronic devices Chinese citizens and others use have spyware installed so that the state can monitor online actions.[62] 

Nearly all electronic communication in China is monitored by the state.  Chinese citizens using the internet are graded on all forms of online behavior.  Behavior in the physical domains is also tracked via an intricate surveillance network described below.  The data collected is used to create an individual’s social credit score and predict behavior.  The score ranks how well individuals conform to CPC norms.  One’s score controls access to information, banking, education, and nearly all goods and services to include the ability to travel internally and outside of China.  Compliance yields greater access.  Noncompliance leads to degraded or denied access to necessary resources, re-education, or even prison.[63]

The CPC prioritizes collecting data on citizens in the western autonomous region of Xinjiang, home to a Uighur Muslim minority.  Data collection encompasses all aspects of life including movement in and between buildings, villages, towns, and cities; often including biometric information with voice samples, iris scans, facial scans, and even DNA samples.[64]  What is learned in Xinjiang is often applied across China.[65]  Collecting vast amounts of data requires the ability to turn data into useable information and knowledge and eventually expertise in support of China’s national security aims. 

Guizhou is a rural region in southwest China that until recently had minimal tele-communications links to wider China and the outside world.  In 2015 Guizhou was selected to showcase the CPC big data collection capabilities linked to the social credit score.[66]  Chinese and international technology giants Baidu, Huawei, Alibaba along with Google and Microsoft established research facilities and data centers in the region in 2017.[67] 

Data collected and analyzed is expertly used by Chinese civil courts and municipal leaders to control behavior.


[A] Hebei court released a WeChat “map of deadbeat debtors” on January 14.

According to China Daily, “users are given an on-screen radar, which allows

them to discover if there is anyone who owes money within a 500 metre radius.”                 

Individuals are then encouraged to tell authorities if they believe the person can

afford to pay back what they owe.


Such peer evaluations are being incorporated into some social credit system pilots.

In Rongcheng, a team of 10 municipal representatives are tasked with manually

taking note of relevant actions and assigning appropriate scores to residents.

Similarly, in Qingzhen, a city in Guizhou Province, a list of 1,000 indicators are                 

reportedly used to assign a point value to citizens, including some based on peer

evaluations and community monitoring.


The combination of material rewards and repressive goals is likely to intensify

the pressure on local administrators and ordinary citizens to report peaceful but            

nonconformist behavior by their neighbors.[68]


In 2019, the police in the central China industrial city of Zhengzhou installed international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) catcher equipment in an apartment complex.


Over four days in April, the [IMSI] boxes identified more than 67,000 phones. The

cameras captured more than 23,000 images, from which about 8,700 unique faces

were derived. Combining the disparate data sets, the system matched about 3,000

phones with faces, with varying degrees of confidence. This single system is part of

a citywide surveillance network encompassing license plates, phone numbers, faces

and social media information, according to a Zhengzhou Public Security Bureau database.[69]


Electronic surveillance in large cities gives the CPC keen understanding of the social order that exists in much of twenty-first century China and subsequently better control of its citizens.  The monitoring may be seen as using irregular forces and guerrilla methods for gaining information necessary to construct public opinion in the modern party-state.[70] 


Competing in Uncontrolled Spaces with Machines and Humans

The CPC has been placing its ICT and party members in positions around the world for a number of years.  A notable increase in global competition began in 2013 using diplomatic, informational, and economic levers of power with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  The BRI is a foreign policy and economic development initiative encompassing more than 70 nations, often incorporating coercion with predatory lending practices.[71]  The BRI features railroads stretching as far as Spain, ports and maritime infrastructure from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and Mediterranean Sea, oil, gas and mineral exploration on land and at sea.  The initiative is key to their vision of its epochal world order.  The cyberspace elements of the BRI are seen in the installation of low cost CPC telecommunications infrastructure across much of the globe.   



Chinese corporations produce some high-quality electronics.  Many Chinese cell phones are on par with Apple and Samsung.  Social media platforms and online shopping are also generally high-grade, easily accessed and provide for the wants and needs of billions of users.

 ZTE is the world’s fourth largest smartphone vendor with operations in 160 countries and is partially owned by the CPC.[72]  China Telecom (CT) is a state owned corporation and the largest fixed line and third largest mobile telecommunications provider in China.[73]  CT began operations on North American telecommunications networks at the turn of this century, and has expanded to ten points of presence, eight in the United States and two in Canada; their access spans both coasts and major exchange points in the US.[74]

Chinese video surveillance companies Hikvision, Dahua, Hytera and Dà-Jiāng Innovations (DJI) are industry leaders and successfully market their security technologies at very appealing prices to many nations and their militaries.[75]  The number of nations electing to use Chinese surveillance equipment has grown from a handful in 2008 to more than 80 in 2019.[76]  When these technologies are marketed to new clients they often come with training and operations packages.[77]  Nations needing to train their constabulary or military forces to use these machines can receive instruction at home or in China.  Alternatively, the surveillance and security technologies may be operated by Chinese personnel in place or remotely from bases in China.

When numerous US government agencies, military units, and municipal governments began purchasing DJI surveillance drones, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an Intelligence Bulletin stating that, “DJI was using its products to provide critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.”[78]  Since then the majority of US government users have removed DJI drones from service.  The collection of data is also made possible via mobile applications (apps) installed on smartphones, tablets and computers produced by CPC sponsored industries. 


Chinese Apps

Apps are software written to program devices to receive and send information.  They are downloaded to mobile devices to perform communication, entertainment and shopping functions.  A majority of apps are free to consumers because user agreements grant access to the machine for proper operation.  The terms of use frequently include granting access to one’s contacts list, locations, search history, or total access to the machine, enabling the apps to capture vast amounts of data.  Harris reminds us that, “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.”[79]

China has a robust industry creating world class apps.  The CPC has developed an app for users to study communist ideology named Xuexi Qiangguo.  “The app has been called Xi’s high-tech equivalent of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book and was launched amid a campaign to bolster the Communist Party’s ideological control over the Chinese population.”[80]  Xuexi Qiangguo grants superuser access to devices enabling developers to control the machines independent of the owners.[81]  The popular and emotive Chinese video sharing app TikTok announced in June 2021 that it will automatically harvest users biometric data to include faceprints and voice-prints.[82]  This data is critical to creating deepfake videos.  Deepfakes use DS, ML and ANI to produce synthetic videos that replace existing images and audio with another person’s artificial likeness.[83] 

Chinese made apps have billions of users globally.  In many cases, Chinese apps are more popular than Western ones; see Table 1.  In pursuit of greater control, aimed in part at apps, social media, online shopping corporations and banking, the CPC created the 2017 National Intelligence Law of the People's Republic.  Article 7 of the law states, “Any organization or



pic 4 

Table 1. Comparison of Chinese and Western Mobile Applications and Monthly Users[84]


citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and keep the secrets of the national intelligence work known to the public.”[85]  One of the primary goals of this law is to turn individuals, organizations, and institutions into CPC intelligence agents in the name of public safety and state security.  This law is particularly powerful when applied to technology corporations as they have the ability to collect vast amounts of data on their users.

Billions of global users of Chinese apps are at risk of the data from their personal electronics collected by the CPC.  Data moving through Chinese made machines or apps can be analyzed and used by the CPC to make decisions in its enduring competition in peace and war.


Controlling Global Information – A Belt and Road in Cyberspace

One of Xi’s key initiatives focused on controlling global information is the creation of a wall of regulations designed to control the flow of ideas, culture, and even capital between China and the rest of the world.[86]  In January 2017 President Xi declared China’s national strategic contest would focus on the power to control the internet.[87]  The CPCs ultimate goal is to control all content on the global internet, enabling the regime to wield what Xi describes as “discourse power” over communications and discussions on the world stage.[88]  The result is China’s true innovation in peace and war—development of a less recognizable belt and road, connecting humans and machines through cyberspace.  ICT produced by China’s telecommunication giants and others is often provided to developing nations at low or no cost.  Transactions are frequently expressed in terms of public safety and national security of the receiving nation.  Appealing prices generate dependency on Beijing for access to the attractive technologies and exposes the existing social order to CPCs information power.  China’s path to dominance in controlling information includes investment in fifth generation tele-communications technology (5G), cloud computing and AI.[89] 

China is a global leader in 5G.  Huawei is the world’s largest producer of 5G cellular communications.  5G connectivity is designed to run the Internet of Things (IoT) in the coming decades.  It will provide the near constant connectivity to support on demand data for much of the modern world.  Data streaming will allow individuals to connect when and where they desire.  5G will impact nearly all aspects of modern life as it will be built into production, supply chain management, and operation of virtually all modern machines.

Patents are key to 5G, they include user equipment (boxes, wires and cables), radio access networks (parts of the electromagnetic spectrum) and the core networks.[90]  By early 2020, there were 16,609 standard essential patents filed globally for 5G, with 36 percent from Huawei and ZTE.[91]  Huawei is also a global leader in cloud storage and computing, claiming to provide cloud services to more than 140 nations.[92]  This means that a substantial amount of global data will move through or be stored in machines that the CPC directly controls or can easily access.

In 2017, the CPC State Council announced their plan to develop the next generation of AI.  The strategy includes connecting large portions of the world with Chinese 5G connectivity, enabling collection and processing of vast amounts of data moving through CPC tele-communications infrastructure.  The State Council notice stated,


AI brings new opportunities for social construction. China is currently in the

decisive stage of comprehensively constructing a moderately prosperous society.

The challenges of population aging, environmental constraints, etc., remain

serious… AI technologies can accurately sense, forecast, and provide early warning

of major situations for infrastructure facilities and social security operations; grasp

group cognition and psychological changes in a timely manner; and take the

initiative in decision-making and reactions—which will significantly elevate the

capability and level of social governance, playing an irreplaceable role in effectively

maintaining social stability.[93] 


The State Council plans clearly describe the value of 5G, cloud computing and AI in constructing and maintaining social order inside China and across the globe.  The CPC has perfected the placement and use of these technologies in support of their totalitarian model.  Placing humans in meaningful positions around the world is also key to the CPCs conduct of guerilla warfare and use of information power.



The CPC employment of humans for information power is recognized through data theft and spreading content.  In 2019 there were more than 490 million people of Chinese birth living abroad.[94]  Three CPC programs employing key expatriates and other supporters are Confucius Institutes (CI), United Front Work Department (UFWD), and the Thousand Talents Program (TTP).  CIs are public educational partnerships between colleges and universities in China and colleges and universities in other countries; the partnerships are funded and arranged in part by Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Culture International, which is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education.  Their stated aim is to promote Chinese language and culture, support Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.  There are more than 471 CIs in 54 countries.  The US State Department describes CIs as sponsored by Beijing and pushing skewed Chinese language and cultural training for US students as part of Beijing’s multifaceted propaganda efforts.[95] 

The UFWD is rooted in Leninist theory of uniting with lesser enemies to defeat greater ones and has been a key element of the CPC’s strategy, both domestically and internationally, since the days of Mao.[96]  The international arm of the UFWD deliberately recruits, fellow travelers, mostly famous intellectuals, writers, teachers, students, publishers, and business people who were not necessarily themselves Communists.[97]  A key element is the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA).  The controlling mechanism for student behavior is based on a range of threats and rewards to incentivize supporting CPC goals.[98]  CSSA members often take part in online shaming and cancelling free speech of Chinese citizens living abroad who criticize the state.[99]  The UFWD routinely conducts influence operations targeting foreign actors and states using narrative control to create positive images of China.  The UFWD has been quite successful at co-opting or subverting potential opponents in neutralizing much of the open political opposition, including from religious groups and ethnic minorities.[100]

The TTP began in 2008 with a goal to incentivize individuals engaged in research and development in the United States to transmit knowledge and expertise gained from US funded research to China in exchange for large salaries, research funding, lab space, and other incentives.[101]  The TTP focus is American science and technology research that supports China’s economic and military gain.  By 2017, the CPC had reportedly recruited 7,000 researchers and scientists and the TTP is just one of over 200 Chinese talent recruitment plans through which the CPC has direct control.[102]

These organizations operating outside of China are important parts of a strategy to both collect data and influence decisions.  In 2017, the CPC passed its National Intelligence Law requiring all individuals, organizations, and institutions to assist Public Security and State Security officials in carrying out a wide array of intelligence work.[103]  In late 2020, it was announced that the CPC has approximately two million party members working abroad in key posts enabling them to further the party’s aims.[104]  An example from the United Kingdom (UK) highlights the depth of China’s penetration into western businesses and academic institutions.  More than 600 CPC members work in UK international banking, over 120 members work at pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca, academics conduct research in aerospace engineering and chemistry at British universities, and hundreds of party members work in the UK aerospace and defense industry.[105]

The CPC is taking advantage of the changing character of GPC by occupying the uncontrolled spaces, using irregular forces in ways not readily understood by western policymakers.  The widespread result of the CPCs actions is the changing of social order beyond Mao’s wildest dreams, as millions of people become subject to totalitarian norms. 


Information Power – a Philippine Example

CPC telecommunications, power and banking industries are coercing, co-opting and influencing decision makers around the world to use Chinese made technologies.[106]  Nations electing to use Chinese technologies see upgrading their infrastructure at no or low cost as a win-win, however there are actual risks to national security.  The win for the CPC is the information that moves across the machines to/from the user can be sent back to state controlled companies in China.  That information often has corporate or national security value.

The Philippines is an example of how the CPC is changing the social systems within competing nations.  The Philippines and US have had generally good relations since the turn of the twentieth century.  The two nations were strong allies against the Japanese in World War Two and maintained positive ties until 2013. 

Following a longstanding maritime territorial dispute over Scarborough Shoal, Manila took Beijing to the international court at the Hague in 2013.  The result was a 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration decision in favor of the Philippines.  Since then, relations between the two nations have steadily improved, in large part due to deliberate CPC investment in the Philippines.  In late 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte announced his “separation” from the United States, declaring Philippine alignment with China.[107]

Under the guise of public safety, Philippine telecommunication corporations Smart and Globe installed and steadily increased their Safe City project throughout the nation, using largely Huawei infrastructure.[108]  During Xi Jinping’s 2018 state visit, the two countries signed a diplomatic agreement establishing a “Safe Philippines Project.”  The agreement impacts the political, informational and economic systems throughout the country.  The informational systems saw 12,000 surveillance cameras installed by the Philippine Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).[109]  The political, social, and economic agreement set targets of a 15 percent crime reduction and 25 percent improvement in response time with primary financing from a nearly $400 million loan from China’s Eximbank.[110]  Additionally, Philippine political and informational systems were accessed when the two nations agreed to construct an Intelligent Command, Control, and Communications Center (IC4) that handles video monitoring, critical communication, and information management and analytics, linking Philippine National Police, DILG, national 911 system, and fire and prison agencies.[111]

The State Grid Corporation of China, the world’s largest electric utility company, holds a forty percent stake in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.[112]  A 2019 Philippine government report on the risks associated with the turnover of control, warned the supervisory control and data acquisition system used to monitor substations, transformers and other electrical assets is completely dependent on Huawei technology.[113]  The report further stated, the Philippines' power grid is under the full control of the Chinese government and could be shut off in a conflict.[114]

President Duterte and the Philippine government have made decisions clearly favorable to the CPC.  While the exact reasons for these decisions might never be known, it is reasonable to believe that information presented to policymakers in combination with alternatives has been used to shape decisions and actions.  The Chinese are applying Nye’s ideas of command power and co-optive power in the Philippines.  They are shaping what policymakers want, relying on the attractiveness of their culture and values to manipulate the agenda of political choices in favor of Beijing. 


Way Ahead—Caveat Emptor

China’s co-option, coercion and concealment of their domestic and global actions to change and secure social order should concern leaders in free societies.[115]  What makes China’s strategy potent and dangerous to the free world is the integrated nature of their efforts across government, industry, academia and the military.[116]  Policymakers electing to install Chinese made tele-communications in their country may believe they are making sound decisions, but installation can come with significant risk—risk that has been known for some time.  The US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence reported in 2012 that the relationships between many Chinese corporations and the government created the means, opportunity, and motive to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes.[117]  In February 2018, the US Director of National Intelligence stated that US intelligence officials will not use Huawei and ZTE phones for fear of spying.[118]  In May 2018, Huawei and ZTE phones and supporting material were banned from sale in US military retail stores.[119]  Additionally, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed concern about the use of these products in the United States, stating there are “counter-intelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors.”[120] 

Many of these machines can be controlled independent of the owners.  Control creates the ability to gather data about the users and generates substantial security risk.  Eric Schmidt, the former Chief Executive of Google and Alphabet, stated, “There is no question Huawei sent data to the Chinese government, the company behaves like a signals intelligence entity and there's no question that information from Huawei routers has ultimately ended up in hands that would appear to be the state.”[121]  Google is not the only Chinese corporation sending data to the CPC as the 2017 National Intelligence Law requires all citizens and corporations at home and abroad to inform on their contacts. 


Future Competition and Conflict

Chinese authors from academia, industry, government, and the military have been writing for decades on the role information will play in future warfare.  Hai Lung and Chang Feng tell us, “Invisible forces must be considered in calculating the correlation of forces today.  These forces include computing capabilities, to include capacity, communications capacity/volume, system reliability, and the increasing competency and ability of reconnaissance systems to foresee situations.[122] 

Timothy Thomas explains that the most important concept to understand China views on future war is the idea of a strategic advantage or shi on the battlefield, in diplomatic relations and in geostrategic settings.[123]  A key contemporary shi is related to the ability to control movement of information.  Thomas notes that the premier journal, China Military Studies used the term information 102 times in titles between 2004 and 2013.[124] 

In Information Warfare? The Case for an Asian Perspective on Information Operations, Alan Chong describes Mao’s and subsequently the CPCs use of information power to convert, mobilize and control the people.[125]  Chong cites Wei Jincheng, Information War: A New Form of People’s War.


A people’s war in the context of information warfare is carried out by hundreds

of millions of people using open-type modern information systems… Political

mobilization for war must rely on information technology to become effective,

for example, by generating and distributing political mobilization software via the

Internet, sending patriotic e-mail messages, and setting up databases for traditional

education. This way, modern technical media can be fully utilized and the openness

and diffusion effect of the Internet can be expanded, to help political mobilization

exert its subtle influence.  In short, the meaning and implications of a people’s war

have profoundly changed in the information age, and the chance of people taking the

initiative and randomly participating in the war has increased.[126]


This shi is noteworthy in that China will have more of its citizens employing information power in support of national security objectives than the entire population of most nations with which they will compete.

A Machiavellian shi would be to use deepfakes discussed earlier, combining them with other synthetic media and fake news to remove trust from society, where people cannot, or no longer bother to, distinguish truth from falsehood.[127]  This hybrid action may be used as creative deception; when trust no longer exists, doubts about specific events can be used to control human behavior.[128]


China as a Great Power

China’s great power status is founded upon their successful guerilla warfare campaign and sustained by information power to threaten the survival of the leaders of the society of states.  The CPCs transformation of constitutional and social order has shaped their strategy for the conduct and aims of competition and conflict.  China’s early recognition of data as a valuable resource resulted in their reformulation of power, prioritizing information over armed power.  Xi’s ideas on “discourse power” may be viewed as a totalitarian version of Kuehl’s information power and key tenet of their strategy is successful control of uncontrolled spaces. 

China understands that installation of their low cost, high-quality ICT creates dependence on Beijing and that armed power to resist the information power may be ineffective, in large part because the addiction influences policymakers’ decisions.   Globally placed Chinese made machines and vast diaspora represent contemporary irregular forces and are invisible to many.  They provide extraordinary access to intelligence and detailed knowledge of the social systems in competing nations.  These include the underlying cultural beliefs, narratives and value systems of policymakers and the populace.  Addiction to China’s cyber rice bowl is a primary means of preserving control; enabling the manipulation of agendas and political choices, shaping what decision makers want. 

The data gained from the CPCs global networks of humans and machines enables them to build better models (algorithms).  In keeping with Western big technology corporations’ ideas on data science––whoever builds the best models wins.[129]  Transformation of data into information and knowledge enables construction and maintenance of social order without resorting to armed conflict. 



GPC must be understood in terms of the spirit and character of the age in which we live.[130] 

One meaningful lesson from the 2022 war in Europe is that dependency on another nation for critical resources may greatly influence strategic decision making.  China’s use of irregular forces and information power creates reliance on the CPC that threatens constitutional order and presents the question––how will nations be governed in the future?  The CPC has learned from the placement of humans and machines in the uncontrolled and minimally protected spaces across the globe.  Some of the most important knowledge includes the way critical infrastructure operates, how policymakers think and react to information presented to them, and that building the right models (algorithms) can be used to subdue the enemy without fighting.  The CPC’s desired epochal world order is clear, “A world in which China’s power is the center––the sun around which the rest revolve.”[131]

The following closing thoughts are offered.  First, few policymakers and leaders around the world recognize that the CPC have prioritized noteworthy portions of their national security strategy to employing information power.  Democratic governments and free-market societies that view power and competition through the same lens as China will be best suited to successfully compete.  Second, nations electing to use Chinese affiliated ICT are at risk of over dependence on the CPC for critical infrastructure, exposing all aspects of their social order—political, economic, military, social, and informational systems to CPC information power.  Third, while the CPC are clearly using guerilla warfare, moving through Mao’s merging phases with a goal of defeating the enemy without fighting, should competitors not decide in favor of Beijing, the CPC will be prepared to employ new forms of control.  These will likely use the interconnected world the CPC has built and happen in ways that many have failed to imagine.

[*] The term great power competition is used as Bobbitt’s definition (below) provides a practical way to describe the CPCs actions that threaten the survival of the leaders of the society of states.  The US national security community is shifting to the term strategic competition (SC), which is not necessarily new, but often poorly defined.

End Notes

[1] Mao Tse-Tung, On Guerilla Warfare, trans, Samuel B. Griffith, II, (Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication (FMFRP) 12-18, (Washington DC: HQ US Marine Corps, 1989), 3.

[2] Sneakers, movie, director: Phil Alden Robinson, 1992.

[3] The Economist. “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data, May 6, 2017 edition (The Economist, 2017).

[4] Phillip Bobbitt.  The Shield of Achilles – War, Peace and the Course of History (New York: Anchor Books, 2002), 8.

[5] Ibid., 19.

[6] H. R. McMaster, Battlegrounds, Harper Collins Inc., Digital Edition, 2020, 88.

[7] Bobbitt.  Terror and Consent, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 23.

[8] The Communist Party of China (CPC) is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The CPC is the sole governing party, controlling nearly all aspects of life in China.

[9] Gillian Hand. Dr. Jonathan Ward discusses China’s vision of victory, The Institute of World Politics, February 13, 2020, .

[10] Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, believes that the internet was created to be free and open and to reach its full potential must remain a permissionless space for creativity, innovation and free expression. Cited in Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee responds to U. S. net neutrality threat, Web Foundation, accessed April 14, 2021; The author of this paper sees strong parallels between the naturally uncontrolled maritime domain and the deliberately uncontrolled cyberspace domain.  For an initial theory of cyber warfare using this analogy see: Richard M. Crowell. Some Principles of Cyber Warfare – Using Corbett to Understand War in the Early Twenty-First Century, London: King’s College London, The Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies, January 2017.

[11] Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Trans. Samuel B. Griffith. (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), 77

[12] Alexander Atkinson. Social Order and the General Theory of Strategy. (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul Ltd, 1981), ix, 3.

[13] Frank Crooks. Mass education in China under Mao. Concordia University 2010, accessed March 6, 2021,

[14] For in-depth analysis of the CPCs evolution of information power see: Timothy L. Thomas. The Chinese Way of War: How Has it Changed? (McLean, VA: The MITRE Corporation, June 2020); Timothy L. Thomas. Chinese Information-War Theory and Practice, (Fort Leavenworth KS: Foreign Military Studies Office, 2004); Timothy L. Thomas, Decoding the Virtual Dragon Critical Evolutions in the Science and Philosophy of China’s Information Operations and Military Strategy, (Fort Leavenworth KS: Foreign Military Studies Office, 2007).

[15] US Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Competition Continuum, Joint Doctrine Note (JDN) 1-19, (Washington DC: CJCS, 3 June 2019), v.

[16] Samuel B. Griffith, II, Introduction to Mao Tse-Tung, On Guerilla Warfare, (Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication (FMFRP) 12-18, (Washington DC: HQ US Marine Corps, 1989), 7.

[17] US Marine Corps.  Small Wars / 21st Century (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Combat Development Command, 2005), 73.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Mao Tse-Tung, On Guerilla Warfare, trans, Samuel B. Griffith, II, (Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication (FMFRP) 12-18, (Washington DC: HQ US Marine Corps, 1989), 20.

[20] Charles E. Callwell, Small Wars Their Principles and Practice, Third Edition, (London: General Staff War Office, 1906), 21.

[21] Mao Tse-Tung, On Guerilla Warfare, trans, Samuel B. Griffith, II, (Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication (FMFRP) 12-18, (Washington DC: HQ US Marine Corps, 1989), 20-21.

[22] Broadberry, Stephen, Hanhui Guan, and David Daokui Li. China, Europe, and the great divergence: a study in historical national accounting, 980–1850. Journal of Economic History 78.4 (2018): 955–1000; World Bank, accessed January 8, 2021, .

[23] Patricia M. Thornton, Retrofitting the Steel Frame: From Mobilizing the Masses to Surveying the Public, In: Mao's Invisible Hand, DOI: , 238.

[24] David Stanway. Heralding social, financial change, China aims blow at iron rice bowl.  Reuters, accessed March 11, 2021, .

[25] Daniel T. Kuehl, Defining Information Power, Strategic Forum 115, June 1997, accessed March 3, 2021,; While Kuehl’s definition was written at the end of the twentieth century when the understanding of artificial intelligence was less mature, it should be noted that the use of information power may now extend to controlling machines independent of the owners and eventually machines operating independent of humans in support of national security.

[26] Oxford Reference, accessed January 31, 2021,, 20110810104753313 

[27] Elaine Park. Q&A with Anna Lembke on smartphone technology addiction, The Stanford Daily. February 22, 2018.  Dr. Anna Lembke, an addiction expert at Stanford University, explains that the human brain has an evolutionary need for interpersonal connection and today that need is being filled largely by use of smartphones and the internet.

[28] Various sources including, Kitchen. The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data

Infrastructures, and Their Consequences, 2014 and Kelleher and Tierney.  Data Science, 2018.

[29] Joseph S. Nye Jr., "Cyber Power." Paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard

Kennedy School, May 2010, 2.

[30] Nye, “Soft Power & Leadership.” Paper, Harvard Kennedy School, 2004, accessed 15 June 2010,

[31] US Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Information Operations Joint Publication (JP) 3-13, (Washington DC: CJCS, November 27, 2012, Ch 1 November 20, 2014), I-1.

[32] The idea that the maritime domain is difficult to understand because there are few comprehensive charts and maps was presented by Geoffrey Till to the US Naval War College faculty in January 2021.

[33] Daniel T. Kuehl. Cited in Franklin D. Kramer, Stuart H. Starr, and Larry K. Wentz, Eds., Cyberpower & National Security (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2009), 28.

[34] Richard M. Crowell. Some Principles of Cyber Warfare – Using Corbett to Understand War in the Early Twenty-First Century, London: King’s College London, The Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies, January 2017, 3.

[35] US Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dictionary of Military Terms, (Washington DC: CJCS, January 2020), 107.

[36] John D. Kelleher and Brendan Tierney.  Data Science. (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2018), 1.

[37] Ibid., 57.

[38] Ibid., 1.

[39] Stuart Russell, What do you Think about Machines that Think?, 2015, accessed February 8, 2021, .

[40] Tiernan Ray.  Stuart Russell: Will we choose the right objective for AI before it destroys us all?  ZDNet, accessed February 8, 2021, .

[41] US Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, Artificial Intelligence and National Security, R45178, 2019, 1-2.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Robert Giesler, Director, Strategy Coordination, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).  Discussion at US Naval War College August 8, 2019.

[44] Figure produced by the author.

[45] Cathy O’Neil.  Weapons of Math Destruction – How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, (New York: Broadway Books, 2016), 18.

[46] Cathy O’Neil, The Social Dilemma, Netflix Documentary, accessed 31 January 30, 2021.

[47] O’Neil.  Weapons of Math Destruction – How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, 12.

[48] Wen-Hsuan Tsai.  How ‘Networked Authoritarianism’ was Operationalized in China: methods and procedures of public opinion control, in Chinese Authoritarianism in the Information Age. Ed. Suisheng Zhao. (London: Routledge, 2018), 48-49.

[49] Ibid., 49.

[50] Ibid., 25.

[51] Ibid., 49.

[52] Chinese Authoritarianism in the Information Age. Ed. Suisheng Zhao. (London: Routledge, 2018), 2

[53] Congressional–Executive Commission on China.  Agencies Responsible for Censorship in China, accessed June 9, 2021,

[54] Figure reproduced from digital version of Chinese Authoritarianism in the Information Age Internet, Media and Public Opinion. Chapter 1, Wen-Hsuan Tsai. How ‘Networked Authoritarianism’ was Operationalized in China: methods and procedures of public opinion control.  Ed. Suisheng Zhao. (London: Routledge, 2018), 24.

[55] Scott Thurm.  Huawei Admits Copying Code From Cisco in Router Software, accessed June 9, 2021, Following a law suit Huawei Technologies Co. admitted that a small portion of its router software apparently was copied from Cisco Systems Inc.

[56] David Goldman.  Inside China’s Plan for Global Supremacy, The Tablet Magazine, March 19, 2019.

[57] Ellen Nakashima, Chinese hackers who breached Google gained access to sensitive data, US officials say. Washington Post, May 13, 2013, accessed January 16, 2021, .

[58] Phan, Nhathai et al. A deep learning approach for human behavior prediction with explanations in health social networks: social restricted Boltzmann machine (SRBM+). Social network analysis and mining vol. 6 (2016): 79. doi:10.1007/s13278-016-0379-0, 1.

[59] Tristan Harris, The Social Dilemma, Netflix Documentary, accessed 31 January 30, 2021.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Elizabeth C. Economy. The Great firewall of China: Xi Jinping’s Internet shutdown, accessed March 26, 2021, .

[62] Eugene Chow. Is your Chinese made smartphone spying on you?  The Week, February 19, 2018;

David Richards.  Spying Malware Found on Chinese Phone Brands Sold in Australia. Channel News, August 26, 2020.

[63] For more information on the CPC monitoring and controlling of information see: Rogier Creemers, China’s Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control. SSRN, 2018, accessed May 2, 2022, and State Council, ‘Shehui xinyong tixi jianshe guihua gangyao (2014–2020 nian)’ [‘Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014–2020)’], (27 June 2014), accessed May 2, 2022, translation, available at: .

[64] Human Rights Watch. China's Algorithms of Repression: Reverse Engineering a Xinjiang Police Mass Surveillance App. June 25, 2019. .

[65] Yael Grauer. Revealed: Massive Chinese Police Data Base - Millions of Leaked Police Files Detail

Suffocating Surveillance of China’s Uyghur Minority, accessed March 26, 2021, .

[66] Meg Jing Zeng.  China’s Social Credit System puts its people under pressure to be model citizens, The Conversation, accessed February 5, 2021, .

[67] Ibid.

[68] Freedom House, China Media Bulletin 133, China Media Bulletin: Social credit incentives, elite jailings, #MeTooUyghur, February 2019, accessed February 5, 2021, .

[69] Paul Mozur and Adam Krolik.  A Surveillance Net Blankets China’s Cities, Giving Police Vast Powers.  The New York Times, December 17, 2019, accessed June 6, 2020, .

[70] Thornton, Retrofitting the Steel Frame: From Mobilizing the Masses to Surveying the Public, In: Mao's Invisible Hand, Chapter 8, Pages: 237–268. DOI:

[71] Mark Green. China’s Debt Diplomacy–How Belt and Road Threatens Countries Ability to Achieve Self Reliance.  Foreign Policy, April 25, 2019.  These practices occur globally.  A specific example comes from Sri Lanka.  The nation was unable to repay China for a loan used to build a new port in the city of Hambantota, in 2017 Sri Lanka signed over to China a 99-year lease for its potential use as an operational base for China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). 

[72] Company Overview – ZTE Corporation, accessed May 12, 2018,; Huang Guo, 20 years of History of ZTE Corporation, ZTE.

[73] China Telecom, accessed February 18, 2021, .

[74] Demchak, Chris C. and Shavitt, Yuval (2018) "China’s Maxim – Leave No Access Point Unexploited: The Hidden Story of China Telecom’s BGP Hijacking," Military Cyber Affairs: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Article 7. .

[75] Camilla Hodgson. China-made surveillance cameras continue to watch over US military bases - Hikvision equipment still being used just weeks ahead of a federal ban. Financial Times, accessed June 25, 2020, .

[76] Sheena Chestnut Greitens. Dealing with Demand for China’s Global Surveillance Exports. Brookings Institute, April 1, 2020, accessed July 7, 2020, /FP_20200428 _china _surveillance_greitens_v3.pdf, 3.

[77] Paul MozurJonah M. Kessel and Melissa Chan. Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State, New Your Times, April 24, 2019, accessed November 25, 2020, .

[78] Gidget Fuentes.  Pentagon Grounds Marines’ ‘Eyes in the Sky’ Drones Over Cyber Security Concerns, USNI Proceedings, June 18, 2018, accessed February 5, 2021, 

[79] Tristan Harris, The Social Dilemma, Netflix Documentary, accessed 31 January 30, 2021. 

[80] Anna Fifield.  Chinese app on Xi’s ideology allows data access to users’ phones, report says, The Washington Post, accessed June 7, 2021, .

[81] Ibid.

[82] Bruce Schneier. TikTok Can Now Collect Biometric Data, CRYPTO-GRAM, accessed June 15, 2021, .

[83] Deepfakes can be produced with as little as 15-20 minutes of captured video and audio and have been used to create fake news, political hoaxes and commercial fraud.

[84] Compiled using information from the following websites, accessed May 8, 2021: WECHAT, WeChat Pay, QQ, BAIDU, ALIBABA, WEIBO, ALIPAY, TAOBAO, YOUKU, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp, PayPal, Viber, Google, Amazon, Twitter, Square, Amazon, YouTube, and Vimeo

[85] National Intelligence Law of the People's Republic (Adopted at the 28th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress on June 27, 2017), accessed by Google cache 25 March 2019, .

[86] Elizabeth C. Economy. China’s New Revolution The Reign of Xi Jinping, accessed April 2, 2022, ,

[87] Nicole Hao and Cathy Lee.  Chinese Leader Xi Jinping Lays Out Plan to Control the Global Internet: Leaked Documents, Epoch Times, accessed May 5, 2021, .

[88] Ibid.

[89] Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services – from applications to storage and processing power – typically over the internet and on a pay-as-you-go basis.  Steve Ranger.  What is cloud computing, accessed May 29, 2021, .

[90] Amplified and GrayB.  Exploration of 5G Standards and Preliminary Findings on Essentiality, accessed February 3, 2021, .

[91] Ibid.

[92] Jonathan E. Hillman and Maesea McCalpin. Huawei’s Global Cloud Strategy – Economic and Strategic Implications.  CSIS Report May 17, 2021.

[93] State Council Notice on the Issuance of the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, Chinese State Council, July 8, 2017, 3 [translated by New America].

[96] Alexander Bowe.  China’s Overseas United Front Work Background and Implications for the United States, Washington, DC, US – China Economic and Security Review Commission, August 24, 2018, 4.

[97] Gerry Groot, “The United Front in an Age of Shared Destiny,” China Story, 2014, accessed January 29, 2021),  

[98] Bowe. China’s Overseas United Front Work Background and Implications for the United States, Washington, DC, US – China Economic and Security Review Commission, August 24, 2018, 7.

[99] Jonathan D. T. Ward.  China’s Vision of Victory, The Atlas Publishing and Media Company LLC, Digital Edition 2019, 259-261; The CPC has a robust network of online actors that are capable of forming internet troll mobs.  They possess the ability to post tens of thousands of comments per day to counter anti-CPC voices.  One group is called the 50 cent army for the amount individuals are paid per post.  These pro CPC actors have been known to post nearly 450 million comments per year in support of the CPC.  Gary King, Jennifer Pan and Margaret E. Roberts.  How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument, (accessed April 12, 2021),

[100] Bowe. China’s Overseas United Front Work Background and Implications for the United States, Washington, DC, US – China Economic and Security Review Commission, August 24, 2018, 4.

[101] Rob Portman and Tom Carper. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Threats to the US Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans, United States Senate, November 18, 2019, 1.

[102] Ibid., 7.

[103] National Intelligence Law of the People's Republic (Adopted at the 28th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress on June 27, 2017), accessed January 29, 2021, .

[104] Jay Jay.  Massive Data Leak Exposes Identity of 2m Chinese Communist Party Members. Teiss.Co.UK, (accessed January 27, 2021), .

[105] Ibid.

[106] McMaster, Battlegrounds, Harper Collins Inc., Digital Edition, 2020, 111.

[107] Bill Ide, Duterte Announces Philippine 'Separation' from US. VOA News, October 20, 2016, accessed March 9, 2021, ; In March 2019 Secretary of State Pompeo attempted to reassure the Philippine government that the US will stand by Articles IV and V of the Mutual Defense Agreement, Michael Green and Greg Polling. The US Alliance with the Philippines, Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 3, 2020, accessed 5 April 2021, .

[108] Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Dealing with Demand for China’s Global Surveillance Exports.

Brookings Institute, April 1, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2021, 5; Neil Jerome Morales. Philippines' Globe Telecoms launches 5G service backed by Huawei equipment,, June 29, 2019.

[109] Greitens, Dealing with Demand for China’s Global Surveillance Exports. Brookings Institute, April 1, 2020. (accessed January 30, 2021), 5.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Ibid.

[112] James Griffiths, China can shut off the Philippines' power grid at any time, leaked report warns,, accessed February 5, 2021, .

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid.

[115] McMaster, Battlegrounds, Harper Collins Inc., Digital Edition, 2020, 110.

[116] Ibid.

[117] Mike Rogers and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Investigative Report on the US National Security Issues Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE, U. S. House of Representatives, 112th Congress, October 8, 2012, 2.

[118] Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle, Reuters, US intelligence officials all say they wouldn't use a Chinese-made Huawei or ZTE phone for fear of spying, The Business Insider, accessed May 14, 2018, .

[119] US Military Bans Huawei, ZTE Phones, accessed May 14, 2018, .

[120] Chiacu and Zengerle, Reuters, US intelligence officials all say they wouldn't use a Chinese-made Huawei or ZTE phone for fear of spying, The Business Insider, accessed May 14, 2018, .

[121] Gordon Corera. Eric Schmidt: Huawei has engaged in unacceptable practices, accessed February 1, 2021,

[122] Hai Lung and Chang Feng. Chinese Military Studies Information Warfare, Kuang Chiao Ching, Number 280, 16 January 1996, pp 22-23 as translated in FBIS-CHI-96-035, 21 February 1996, pp. 33-34. Cited in Timothy L. Thomas. Dragon Bytes – Chinese Information War Theory and Practice. Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS, 2004, 94

[123] Timothy L. Thomas. The Chinese Way of War: How Has it Changed? (McLean, VA: The MITRE Corporation, June 2020), 5.

[124] Ibid, 11; The China Military Studies journal is akin to the highly respected US Joint Force Quarterly.

[125] Alan Chong. Information Warfare? The Case for an Asian Perspective on Information Operations, Armed Forces & Society, 2014, Vol 40(4), 615-616.

[126] Wei Jincheng, ‘‘Information War: A New Form of People’s War,’’ article excerpted from the Military Forum column, People’s Liberation Army Daily (June 25, 1996), accessed June 20, 2010,

[127] Ian Sample.  What are deepfakes – and how can you spot them.  The Guardian, accessed May 2, 2022,

[128] For a more in-depth look at deepfakes see: Tim Hwang. Deep Fakes – A Grounded Threat Assessment, Center for Security and Emerging Technology, July 2020. doi: 10.51593/20190030; Cristian Vaccari and Andrew Chadwick. Deepfakes and Disinformation: Exploring the Impact of Synthetic Political Video on Deception, Uncertainty, and Trust in News. Social Media + Society January-March 2020: 1–13, DOI:10.1 177/205630512903408; John Villasenor. Artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and the uncertain future of truth. Brookings, accessed June 15, 2021, .

[129] Aza Raskin. The Social Dilemma, Netflix Documentary, accessed 31 January 30, 2021.

[130] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 594.

[131] Ward.  China’s Vision of Victory, The Atlas Publishing and Media Company LLC, Digital Edition 2019, 444.

About the Author(s)

Dick Crowell is an associate professor, U.S. Naval War College.  Specializing in Information Operations & Cyberspace Operations, he is a senior associate of the Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups (CIWAG), a founding member of the Cyber & Innovation Policy Institute (originally the Center for Cyber Conflict Studies – C3S), and an associate at the Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies.

He has authored monographs on Information Operations, Cyberspace Operations, Hybrid Warfare and Small War. His work “Some Principles of Cyber Warfare – Using Corbett to Understand War in the Early Twenty-First Century,” presents the concepts of cyber control and cyber denial as methods of maneuvering through cyberspace.  His 2019 Small Wars Journal monograph, “Saving Blood and Treasure: The Evolving Art of War and the Application of Design Methodology to Complex Problems of 21st Century Small Wars” describes the first successful use of Design Methodology by the 1st MarDiv and I MEF in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 and critiques US Joint Doctrine conflating of concepts and linear approach solving complex problems. 

A retired naval aviator with 30 years of service, including Assistant Air Operations, Commander Naval Air Forces U. S. Atlantic Fleet; Operations Officer, NATO Multi-Service Electronic Warfare Support Group; military faculty teaching JPME Phase 2 and Information Operations at the Joint Forces Staff College and Info Ops sessions at the NATO School, Oberammergau, Germany.