All of this may seem a world away from Papua New Guinea but it provides some useful context for China’s efforts to extend its influence. People in the Pacific need to understand that nothing the Chinese do is just a gesture of goodwill or good neighbourliness
ADELAIDE – It’s important that we understand what the hell is going on in much of the world right now.
My recent comments about China in the Pacific, ‘Chinese now a real threat in the Gulf of Papua’, were informed by my reading of Major General Mick Ryan’s book, ‘War Transformed: The Future of Twenty-First-Century Great Power Competition and Conflict’.
In his book, Ryan explains in great detail how war is being reconceived as having many components other than ‘kinetic’ (violent) clashes between antagonists.
The Chinese and Russians in particular have developed quite elaborate strategic doctrines encompassing the political, social, economic, information, technological and military components of warfare.
For example, the Chinese talk about ‘informationising’ war by which they mean the strategic use of misinformation and lies to create confusion and uncertainty in the minds of antagonists.
Social media outlets like Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube are used to facilitate this process.
We have also seen people like Donald Trump exploit this same technology for similar political purposes.
The current head of Putin’s military, General Valery Gerasimov, has written extensively about the transformation of warfare and other matters that occurred during the process of reforming the Russian military.
As it turns out, Gerimasov’s reforms have been less successful than he or Putin hoped.
It turns out that certain aspects of the old Soviet military culture - such as a rigid hierarchy, a sclerotic command and control system and the lack of a corps of highly trained non-commissioned officers - has greatly hindered the army’s performance in Ukraine.
Entrenched corruption and incompetence have not helped either.
In contrast, after their humiliation in the Crimea in 2014, the Ukrainians have transformed their army in some of the ways Ryan describes in his book.
They have proved smart, agile, flexible, innovative and very determined.
They have won the information war hands down, with President Zelensky being exceptionally skilled at influencing people within and outside Ukraine.
Also, the Ukrainians have used hitherto largely underestimated technological advances in missile and drone technology to disrupt, destroy and confound the Russians.
Now they are beginning to master the lethal artillery technologies provided to them by the USA, UK, France, Germany and Australia.
In theory, with enough of these weapons the Ukraine military can at least neutralise the current Russian advantage with artillery.
Whether they can ultimately drive the Russians out of Ukraine is hard to say but there is a real chance they can do so if the Western powers are willing to stand by them for the longer term.
All of this may seem a world away from Papua New Guinea but it provides some useful context for China’s efforts to extend its influence in the Pacific.
People in the Pacific and elsewhere need to understand that nothing the Chinese do is just a gesture of goodwill or good neighbourliness.
Every commercial decision and action by a Chinese company or government agency requires some level of Chinese Communist Party endorsement.
The Chinese version of state corporatism contains echoes of the way the Italian and German fascists operated in the 1930s, when the activities of major corporations were subordinated to the needs and aspirations of the state.
At the apex of the Chinese state apparatus is the communist party and, specifically, President XI.
My comments might strike people as mere exaggeration or being the product of a neurotic mind, but this is exactly what those conducting ‘non kinetic’ warfare want to achieve.
Rational scepticism or doubt is presented as irrational or as evidence of unwarranted hostility or belligerence.
Blame for unpleasantness is always attributed to someone other than the Chinese government as has been repeatedly demonstrated in relation to Australia’s problems with China (even though Morrison’s blundering incompetence and vainglorious blustering didn’t help).
Ditto Russia’s insistence that Ukraine is the aggressor in the current war and that Russia is ‘liberating’ the oppressed Russian speaking peoples of the Donbas region.
The latter is obvious nonsense but is persistently and relentlessly stated in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Sadly, many Russians continue to believe such lies.
While our own governments are hardly without sin in relation to the use and abuse of the truth, at least their more egregious lies, distortions and obfuscations are eventually found out and exposed.
I contend that the Morrison government fell victim largely to its obvious dishonesty, double dealing and sheer incompetence.
Even the incredibly slippery and disingenuous Boris Johnson has finally if belatedly been forced out of office for repeatedly lying about his behaviour (although, like Trump and Morrison, he still has his supporters!).