China strategically withdraws in Art of War offensive
China, facing trade war retaliation and Hong Kong protests, is following an ancient Art of War offensive strategy by temporarily withdrawing when meeting concerted opposition.
Sun Tzu's Art of War military treatise may have been written about 2,500 years ago, but it continues to be the most important modern primer for strategy and tactics. The sage text has had life-changing impacts on Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong and American Gulf War general Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and undoubtedly influenced New York Military Academy first captain and now president Donald J. Trump.
Enodo Economics's Diana Choyleva coined the term "Digital Cold War" in 2018 to describe a "contest for future hi-tech supremacy" as ascendant China seeks to supplant America in setting artificial intelligence and quantum computing "standards." Short of a "change of regime or ideology in either China or America and no military confrontation," Enodo warned investors to be aware of a protracted "messy decoupling" as East and West jockey for economic and geopolitical dominance.
Sun Tzu stated as a leader's premier strategy for victory: "He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight." Tactics for war revolve around timing, chaos creating opportunities, subduing enemies without fighting, use of deception, letting success compound on itself, and understanding that no one profits from prolonged warfare.
Chaos from the Soviet Union's collapse was timed with China's declaration of "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics," to provide Western justification for funding China's economic transition from rural impoverishment to urbanized factory to the world.
China was so successful in subduing its historic adversaries in the West without a fight that Business Insider published a slide deck in October 2015 titled "How China went from Communist to Capitalist." B.I. joyfully trumpeted that "China's economy is the second-largest in the world and will likely overtake the U.S. sometime this century."
But at the time, China president and chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping was quietly using the China's national security apparatus to detain 27 full members and 8 alternative members of the Communist Central Committee in his "tigers and flies" anti-corruption "great purge" that ensnared at least 1.34 million high- and low-level Chinese officials, according to a BBC review of public records.
President Xi openly announced dual technology initiatives in 2015: Internet Plus to meld digital and real-world economies and Made in China 2025 to surge core technology competitiveness. Domestic content goals for advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, automated machine tools and robotics, rail transport and self-driving vehicles, power and agricultural equipment, and new materials and bio-pharma products were raised to 40 percent by 2020 and to 70 percent by 2025.
To maximize control, 2,300 Communist Party officials in 2017 voted to elevate President Xi to the "core" paramount status of level of legendary Chinese communists Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. A constitution amendment enshrined "Xi Jinping thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristic for a new era" as governing philosophy.
Such brazenly confrontational moves ran directly counter to Sun Tzu's tactical warning: "For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the supreme of excellence. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence."
Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 on a commitment to "Make America Great Again" by confronting what he called a series of unfair international trade deals. The blatant American job-killing goals of the Made in China 2025 manifesto validated his stated desire for the United States to unleash an escalating trade war against China.
With the trade war already sapping the domestic economy, China inexplicably introduced confrontational legislation to allow extradition of semi-autonomous Hong Kong residents to mainland China. Mass demonstrations turning violent with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at college-age students symbolically dropping umbrellas and storming the city's parliament building were broadcast live across the globe.
Geopolitical Futures suggests that "Beijing's main concern today is that the city-state could be used to destabilize China." Leadership worries include "muckrakers circumventing state media controls to air Communist Party leadership's dirty laundry," dissidents funding mainland political movements, and China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection seeking recovery of billions of dollars in tycoon "ill-gotten wealth."
Having pushed its goals to the point of concerted opposition, China's leadership seems to be paying attention to the importance Art of War assigns to "no one profits from prolonged warfare," as Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam announced an indefinite suspension of the extradition bill on Saturday.
No one should underestimate China's continuing determination to seek economic and geopolitical dominance. But in a classic Art of War response as two million of Hong Kong's seven million residents took to the streets to protest on Sunday, Hong Kong security forces remained almost invisible.