The Institute for National Defense and Security Research, the Ministry of National Defense’s think tank, published an article in the Chinese-language Defense Situation Monthly on Aug. 30 about the government’s proposed legislative amendments to bar Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agents.
The article indicated that China has been gaining a lot of attention in the past few years by using “sharp power” to infiltrate and divide democratic societies. In response, the US, Australia and other nations have enhanced or formulated new laws against foreign agents and infiltration.
In Taiwan, Chinese infiltration has gone much further than just “sharp power” and it is now waging “hybrid warfare,” a term that originated in the US early this century when military theorists suggested that it be used to define armed operations that cannot be placed into the wartime or peacetime baskets.
The term makes a distinction from traditional and non-traditional warfare, and also refers to the combination of conventional irregular and asymmetric combat methods with continuous manipulation of political and ideological conflict.
The definition of “hybrid warfare” is ambiguous and complicated. It is a hostile operation, but the attacker does not pursue the goal of conventional military invasion. Rather, it seeks to suppress the enemy by taking implicit action to destroy, conduct cyberattacks, launch media warfare and support internal opposition forces.
To a great extent, hybrid warfare adopts a strategy of indirect action, which accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the approach.
Analysts in the UK and Australia find that hybrid warfare is much greater in scale than conflicts between states or other armed groups.
The main method of hybrid warfare is to use a fifth column to generate events of systemic crisis within the enemy’s territory and to establish branch points, or nodes, that facilitate the progression of crisis development within its governmental system.
The goal is to use direct or indirect support from armed opposition forces or radical violent groups to generate “controllable disturbances” leading to political and economic instabilities, which might allow the political forces supported or needed by the attacker to gain power.
Thanks to the rapid development of mass media and telecommunications technologies, the leaders of the aggressor and the opposition can influence people’s awareness and the collective subconscious more effectively to trigger large-scale disturbances, illegal conduct and clandestine destructive actions.
The most prominent characteristic of hybrid warfare is that the aggressor uses all available resources — technology, capital and personnel — to launch an invasive war.
The goal is to bring about the collapse of the enemy state from within and destroy its military and economic potential through continuous psychological warfare aimed at achieving the greatest possible effect, seeking to achieve political goals with as little military involvement as possible. These tactics go beyond military occupation.
In Taiwan, the fifth column consists of minor political parties that have fallen victim to China’s “united front” tactics, such as the New Party and the China Unification Promotion Party, and other organizations affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), such as the Concentric Patriotism Association and the dismantled CCP shrine in Changhua County’s Ershuei Township (二水).
These “red” communist agents — the essential standard “fifth column” — claim to use “liberal democracy” to set up bases of operations, and to promote the CCP’s “united front” propaganda, ideas and organizations.
They set up special organizational processes subject to “external control” within Taiwan’s state bureaucracy, then indirectly and implicitly exert control over the bureaucracy’s activities. Intending to alter or destroy Taiwan’s democratic values, these agents have entrapped the nation in the hybrid warfare launched by China.
To oppose hybrid warfare, the primary task is to maintain the stability of the state, social systems and public awareness, and to prevent internal and external forces from attempting to change the nation’s social and political system.
Efforts should be devoted to curb attempts to dismantle the state using communication technology commonly referred to as “fake news.”
The government should take immediate and decisive measures against the fifth column, which poses a threat to national security and democracy, by cutting off overseas financial sources and bringing such groups to justice.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) pledge to pass a proposed amendment targeting CCP agents in Taiwan during this legislative session is the best approach to counter China’s hybrid warfare.
To simultaneously prevent Chinese infiltration and protect freedom of expression, the government and the legislature should use the definition and characteristics of hybrid warfare as one of the main foundations when defining “CCP agent” and “threats to national security and sovereignty.”
Shawn Chen is a retired Republic of China Air Force pilot and combat officer and holds a master’s degree in strategy and national security from National Chung Cheng University.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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