As a Chinese spy balloon flew over the US earlier this year many Americans may have asked what’s going on with China. This book is a good place for them and others to find answers.
Newsham is a former marine officer with first-hand experience of China and the Indo-Pacific over several decades from military, diplomatic, and business perspectives.
The book clearly sets out what the nature of the threat is, what China intends to do and has been doing to the US and why. It also explains what happens if the US loses, and what to do about it.
The military part of the China threat is brilliantly covered. But Newsham argues convincingly that it’s just one part of the broader story. He suggests that China is already at war with the US even if it may not be “war” by American standards.
He argues that it’s been largely successful in weakening the US to the point that when the time for “kinetic” action comes it may not even be necessary. He refers to this as entropic warfare. Eroding the enemy from within.
The book considers a range of different fronts, most of which tie into each other so that success by China on one front translates into success on another. On the economic warfare side, for example, the author suggests that sending a huge chunk of the US manufacturing industry to China over the last 30 years was an act of self-harm.
As for biological warfare he argues that while Covid’s precise origins may be debatable what’s not is the country it came from. A successful test run. And with cyber warfare he sets out the cases of stolen military and commercial secrets and how China’s ready for offensive action against US networks and power grids. The vulnerability the book highlights for China is that the Chinese currency isn’t freely convertible. China doesn’t have much of a chance in a financial war.
The book covers proxy warfare. It points out how US elites often take China’s positions. He notes that sometimes US media outlets even accept overt Chinese-paid propaganda, as the Washington Post did with its China Daily insert. Chinese officials have no difficulty finding outlets in the US media for their propaganda.
Newsham argues that if the US doesn’t stop funding the Chinese economy, and by extension the PLA, it really can’t expect to prevail. The book examines China’s psychological warfare and how it’s been successful in shaping US thinking.
But Newsham argues that the US has got a good hand to play even if it’s late in the day. He says the US needs to admit that it’s in trouble and that there’s no deal to cut with the PRC.
The book argues that the US needs to relearn political warfare and go after CCP vulnerabilities, not least its lack of real legitimacy and its economic and financial vulnerabilities. It also needs some real alliances to take on the CCP and go hard on human rights and CCP elite corruption.
Getting the US military in fighting shape is a key message. But it’s not just a book for Americans. Newsham uses examples from other nations that have been under PRC attack. On this country, Newsham notes that “the Australians are as game an ally as there is. It would be good if there were more Aussies” and the US should “consider doing what the Australians did to shine light on the worst of Chinese political influence in politics and the media”.
On the Pacific Islands he says that the US shouldn’t be squandering opportunities that come along: “Too often when the local governments practically beg us to set up shop, we have been too busy or too uninterested” and notes here Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
He raises the scenario of the pro-PRC Solomon Islands’ government calling in the PLA Marines under the guise of “peacekeeping” to put down demonstrations in one of the provinces protesting against Chinese influence in the country.
The era of strategic competition we’ve entered is frightening. An overarching message screams out from Newsham’s study: Now that China has developed into a power that has a chance to beat the US and its allies, we’d better wake up and do what’s necessary. All free people will find this book of compelling interest.