The symposium was named "How to Build a Superpower: Thoughts on China's Plan for Global Expansion." The headline topic was China, but Russian aggression in Ukraine was on everyone's minds that day. Two new terms kicked things off: "Cyber Westphalia" and Mutually Secured Systemic Resilience (MS2R). A Web search of that first term brings up links to discussions of nation-states deterring each other's aggression in the borderless domain of the electromagnetic spectrum. A search for that second term brings up nothing. One of those terms is thus fruitful for future blog articles. The key lesson is that control of the sea includes dominance of undersea telecom cables. Scale, proximity, and precision are three systemic advantages.
There is no grand unified theory for large-scale complex socio-technical systems (LTSs?) available in open sources. The closest is the ultra-large-scale system (ULSS) specific to the cyber-electromagnetic domain. The ULSS does not cover the sociological aspect of the LTS. Cyber doctrine is maturing. The spectrum of cyber-EM conflict is as broad as kinetic conflict in the land, sea, and aerospace domains.
Resilience in defense and targeted disruption in offense characterize cyber conflict. It is tempting to see the current US-North Korea conflict over the Sony hacking in this light. Sony was not resilient, and entire sectors of the US economy may be similarly unprepared. Targeted disruption is a perfectly appropriate response to a rogue state's encouragement of vandalism.
China's digital Great Wall separating its domestic networks from the outside world is well known. Capabilities honed in suppressing dissent are very useful in stealing technology from economic competitors. Strong US intellectual property controls offer resilience in defense. China's large but uncoordinated cyber effort is spread between the state and its SOEs, opening vectors for targeted disruption. The West has capabilities but lacks will.
The NWC's cyber presenter advised us to read Sun Tzu in cyber terms. Her proposed US strategy is to match deception and opaqueness to our scale / proximity / precision advantage. China's ancient Confucian mindset persists in cyber space. The Party retains the mandate of heaven so long as it delivers economic growth. Stalling growth opens a window of vulnerability. Use the bulletproof networks.
China and North Korea have a contentious relationship. They are no longer "as close as lips and teeth," to borrow a translation. Japan's dominance of the dagger-shaped peninsula was an interruption of thousands of years of Chinese imperial patronage and hegemony. The large China-DPRK trade imbalance in the junior partner's favor must make Beijing wonder what it gets in return. The mandarins certainly do not get North Korea's reportedly large deposits of high-grade rare earth elements. Continued Kim family purges of KWP China hands must irk Beijing to no end.
The US, China, South Korea, and Japan calibrate their regional moves as hedges against North Korean instability. No one is willing to admit in open sources whether North Korea can weaponize a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. This is why the US cannot rule out the outlier of a surprise strike. The inability of US elites to comprehend the North Korean nuclear program and missile program as existential threats indict their ability to safeguard a democratic society. Kim Jong-Un does not have reformist impulses. KGS NightWatch would concur.
South Korea policy elites should spend as much time studying South Africa's "Truth and Reconciliation" post-apartheid process as they do with other forms of transitional justice if they wish to preserve order in a collapsed DPRK. They should also smuggle some Choco-Pies into the North to destabilize its black market. I am serious. Seoul's Blue House should read my Third Eye OSINT article on "Mishandling One of the Two Koreas" for insights into Office 39.
China has an active space program. It is not a suitable partner for the US space program after our rupture with Russia. Open sources have little to say about US workarounds if China neutralizes our space assets. A resilient society has more workarounds than a closed society. China's odd approaches to legal classification and organizational structure pose analytical challenges. The inscrutable Orient was never just an Occidental myth. Anyway, the US easily falls for China's baloney about its space program. We should not be so gullible. Copying components is easier than replicating full systems and managerial competence.
Great power ASAT shootouts in low-earth orbit test the international community's limited tolerance for the weaponization of space. Cold War precedents for overflight of other nations' territory offer little moral suasion to the Chinese. The US cannot successfully co-opt China into openness as long as they can steal all the IP they need. Other means of penetration become imperative. An international effort to mitigate orbital debris fields could be a ripe area for US-China cooperation. Debris is a proportionately larger threat to smaller space-faring nations (i.e., South Korea) than to those with many satellites who can afford to lose one.
China watches Russia, and Russia watches China. They both covet superpower status. Each has something the other wants. Russia wants an export market for it oil and gas. China wants to test the limits of its expansionist impulse. The case for an anti-US conspiracy is weak given the history of imperial rivalries in Asia. Russian military exercises in its own far east are only nominally directed against the US; their more likely opponent is closer at hand. Russia's demographic decline and its geopolitical isolation from the West likely doom it to developing country status. Chinese encroachment into Siberia drives Russian paranoia. These two bears do not hibernate and they inhabit the same hunting grounds.
Compare "The Rising Sea Dragon in Asia" to the analysis at the NWC's China Maritime Studies Institute. One source will prove to have more predictive value in about thirteen years as China's demographics overwhelm its economy's ability to deliver satisfaction.
If much of this article comes across as a tease, then that is a condition my readers shall tolerate. Consider it my contribution to opaqueness. I am breaking from my usual discussion of public events by not fully disclosing many of the notes I took. Some of the insights therein are not meant to be shared. I intend to retain the strategic advantage they bring me. The departure this year of USPACOM's outspoken Naval intelligence officer is regrettable, because the red star is rising in the East.