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May 9, 2019
Notes from the Pentagon

Inside Chinese negotiating deception
China is playing games with President Trump by delaying the contentious trade talks that have been underway for months, according to an administration official.

The Chinese game plan, an administration insider tells Inside the Ring, is to put off reaching a trade agreement by stretching out the talks through delaying tactics.

Mr. Trump weighed in Wednesday, tweeting that China pulled back from finalizing a deal and tried to renegotiate the entire package in a bid to wait out the administration. China hopes “they will be able to ‘negotiate’ with Joe Biden or one of the very weak Democrats, and thereby continue to rip off the United States (($500 Billion a year)) for years to come,” the president tweeted.

“Guess what, that’s not going to happen!” he tweeted, adding that he’s skeptical that the latest Chinese trade delegation expected in Washington on Thursday for the 10th round of talks is coming to make a deal. “We’ll see, but I am very happy with over $100 Billion a year in Tariffs filling U.S. coffersgreat for U.S., not good for China!”

Paul Midler, an adviser on doing business in China, said Beijing’s tactics in the trade talks reflect the regime’s standard approach to negotiations.

“Beijing is going through the motions here. The tactics are all run of the mill, even if the process of trade talks itself is lengthy. This would suggest that Beijing has already chalked up a win,” said Mr. Midler, author of the book “Poorly Made in China.”

“Their worst-case scenarios have been averted, and they are merely seeing how much better they can do from their established, satisfactory base,” he said.

A key indicator is that there have been no signs of serious frustration from Beijing. For the Chinese, when things are truly not going their way, they writhe and howl in pain. The Chinese will claim they have been abused and demand fair treatment and threaten retribution for harm caused, Mr. Midler says.

Another familiar Beijing tactic is to take a deal entirely off the table at a critical juncture. “It’s not done with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude, but is linked to some external factor,” Mr. Midler says. “And the bad news is almost always delivered apologetically with the suggestion that all parties involved remain friends.”

It’s a backtrack, Mr. Midler says, that the Chinese government and its negotiators believe serves three main goals.

First, it reminds foreigners just how much they need the deal by pulling the rug out from under the negotiating team. In these talks, it would force the U.S. side to imagine the cost of ending up empty-handed.

Second, it gives the Chinese team an opportunity to gauge the U.S. reaction. “If the foreigners express fear, the Chinese side is emboldened,” Mr. Midler said. “If the foreigners remain cool, Chinese will have to wonder what other cards they are holding.”

Finally, the feint is often delivered at precisely the time the foreigners think they’re in the home stretch and doing well. In this case, it would be a tactic aimed at maximizing the Trump administration’s frustration.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday that the U.S. and China were inching closer to a deal when Washington announced plans to raise import taxes on Chinese products. “The U.S. approach is indeed regrettable and will not work,” Xinhua stated.

That article expanded on another negotiating tactic employed by Beijing: Offer a compromise that meets China halfway.

“The U.S. side must address the urgency of meeting China halfway to reach a mutually beneficial trade deal on the basis of mutual respect as soon as possible,” the article said.

Mr. Trump is not folding so far. He announced last week that he will increase tariffs from 10% to 24% on Friday on $200 billion worth of Chinese products.

Every president since the end of World War II has used clandestine intervention in the form of support to resistance movements or insurgencies, according to a study produced by Joint Special Operations University, based at the Special Operations Command near Tampa, Florida.

“Support to resistance can be thought of as a means of bridging the hazy gap between soft power and hard power,” states Will Irwin, author of the report and a former special operations commando, now a resident fellow at the university.

The report, “Support to Resistance: Strategic Purpose and Effectiveness,” dissects 47 cases and identifies three categories of U.S. covert action programs carried out over the past 70 years in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. They include disruptive operations, coercive operations and regime overthrow operations.

Disruptive operations involve isolating, destabilizing and undermining the authority and legitimacy of hostile foreign governments or occupying powers. Operations examined in the report included covert actions in the Soviet Union, Poland, Albania, China, Tibet, Afghanistan, North Korea, Kuwait and Iraq.

Coercive operations involve supporting resistance through the use of threats or use of force to persuade foreign governments to change policies that are contrary to U.S. interests. Examples include North Vietnam, Angola, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Regime change operations seek to support resistance movements that can oust regimes hostile to the United States or regimes that threaten U.S. interests. The report looked at case studies from Albania, 1949-54; Cuba, 1960-65; Indonesia, 1955-58; Afghanistan in 2001 and 1989-91; and Serbia from 1999 to 2000.

According to the report, 70% of the operations were disruptive-type actions against foreign governments and had a 53% success rate and 41% failure rate with 6% inconclusive.

More successful were the coercive operations, with a 75% success rate. But overthrow operations had a 71% failure rate.

Coup operations in Iran and Guatemala were not covered in the report because the attempts did not have the backing of legitimate resistance groups.

The report provides important information for policymakers seeking to address the current rise of authoritarian and totalitarian states. A common thread in all 47 case studies in the report is that the targeted states were ruled by unfriendly occupying forces or repressive authoritarian regimes.

“Much has been written recently about the current global decline of democracy and the rise in authoritarian forms of government, where single-party regimes, strongmen, or autocratic military juntas have survived or have taken control of countries whose inhabitants have had at least some exposure to democracy or who have seen limits placed on freedoms they once enjoyed,” Mr. Irwin states.

“In some significant countries, strong leaders have held on to power for many years, some going so far as to declare themselves president for life” — a reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The tactics being used today by autocrats are part of a slow and steady approach to dismantling democracy around the globe, according to the study. That effort includes arresting political rivals, rigging elections, establishing controls over the judiciary, severely curtailing or blocking access to the internet, stifling free speech, quashing all forms of protest, censoring and intimidating the media, and jailing or otherwise neutralizing unsupportive journalists.

“Today, there are several countries around the world that fall into this category,” the report said. “Both Russia and China have boldly demonstrated expansionist tendencies, prompting Eastern European countries and the Baltic States to study resistance and [unconventional warfare] as a defensive measure.”

Popular discontent around the world is likely to spawn forms of resistance — both nonviolent and violent.

“The U.S. diplomatic, intelligence, and defense communities would benefit from a much-improved ability to forecast resistance activity and, where U.S. interests are at risk, to rapidly develop comprehensive interagency responses and possible intervention scenarios,” the report said.

The report could help the U.S. government better understand which support to resistance operations will work and which should be avoided.

Army Gen. Robert B. Brown, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, recently outlined his views on China in an article published by the Association of the U.S. Army.

“Chinese leaders see the future of conflict as local wars in high-technology environments — what they have monikered ‘informatized war,’” he said.

The ruling Communist Party of China, he says, has “sequestered itself behind a wall of surface-to-air missiles and land-based anti-ship missiles, what has become a giant and growing anti-access/area denial shield.”

If any Chinese interests are threatened or damaged, Beijing plans for “short-duration/short-distance amphibious tactics behind its anti-access/area denial bubble to gain territory or protect its interests.”

“However, China’s military tech machine is untested,” Gen. Brown said. “Autonomous aerial vehicles, long-range missiles, logistically efficient ships, artificial intelligence and electronic warfare railguns have yet to win the day, except in Hollywood cinema. Additionally, the Communist Party of China is having difficulty inculcating its troops with the cultural traits that necessarily accompany high-tech modern militaries: jointness, innovation and Mission Command.”

American military personnel are the key to winning wars, and despite Asia being optimal for air and naval forces, the Army will be a significant and central player in a future conflict, “even in a potential conflict with China,” Gen. Brown says.

“Now, as ever, it is only through the conscientious employment of the total joint and multinational team that we can expect to achieve success.”

Most signers were Air Force and Marine Corps generals.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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