Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept, by Gen. Robert Spalding, is a good companion to Shadow War, by Jim Sciutto. Both books offer deeply knowledgeable insights into the current conflict between the US and China. Both authors believe the US is essentially at war with China, except most of us have no idea that this war is actually occurring. It’s an odd state of affairs, but it’s very much the way international conflicts are being waged in the 21st century.
Spalding, who served on the National Security Council (NSC) and in other national security roles, lays out a damning, and frankly terrifying overview of China’s plans to dominate the world and greatly (if not totally) reduce America’s power. He relies on publicly available documents from China (he is fluent in Mandarin) that explain China’s “Unrestricted Warfare” policy against the United States.
He describes, in harrowing detail, the myriad ways the China has undermined America’s economy and military.
He describes, in harrowing detail, the myriad ways the China has undermined America’s economy and military. He also lays out the long historical antecedents to this war, a history that the vast majority Americans do not know. As but one of many examples he shares, China manufacturers parts for the F-35 fighter. How can that happen? How can the US allow its biggest enemy to make parts for its ultra-secret weapon? It’s complicated, as you might imagine, but also extremely simple. It all comes down to money.
The book reports on case after case of American business executives, public policy “think tanks,” universities, and even elected officials who take Chinese money and then justify decisions that deprecate America’s power and increase China’s. It’s an alarming scenario: The country is being strangled on every imaginable level by a well-funded, aggressive enemy and everyone who can do anything about it has been bought off. Time after time, the US has declined to respond to attacks that are not hard to see, if you know what to look for. So, it’s not so much that America’s elites are “asleep.” They’re just getting paid to look the other way.
The book delves into cybersecurity issues, which is why I read it. From Spalding’s perspective, stealing American technology is one of the main goals of China’s aggressive cyber campaign against the US. The unrestricted warfare doctrine embraced by China’s leaders and all-power communist party, the CCP, calls for the theft of foreign technology whenever possible. The goal, of course, is to make China the world’s leading technology power.
This goal appears to be well within their reach, especially given the CCP’s unfair and dishonest practices for keeping foreign investment inside the Chinese economy. As he puts it, the CCP is getting foreign investors to fund its war machine. For example, he cites a billion-dollar bond issue from China that was a thinly masked attempt to get Americans and others to pay for construction of a nuclear aircraft carrier.
…the CCP is getting foreign investors to fund its war machine.
He also frames Chinese cyberattacks in terms of societal control. If you want to understand why China is stealing Americans’ credit scores, health records and Target purchase data, you can look to how China is now using surveillance and AI to control its own population. When, what or why this is coming to the US is a matter of speculation. But, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, whatever the Chinese reason is for stealing Americans’ personal data, the answer cannot be good for Americans.
The book ends with a number of policy recommendations, including more comprehensive bans on Chinese 5G technology, the development of more isolated secure networks for the DoD and so forth. This is an important book, one that should have a wider audience and more publicity than it appears to be getting. Spalding believes America can reverse its course if official “take a stand.” I’m not so sanguine about that possibility. If past behavior is any guide, rich Americans who profit off China will continue to feed at the trough of bribes and easy transaction/consulting fees until it’s too late.
If you want to understand why China is stealing Americans’ credit scores, health records and Target purchase data, you can look to how China is now using surveillance and AI to control its own population.
The other worrisome thought provoked by this book is indirect. Spalding discusses the “China Shock” extensively—highlighting how China’s unfair trade practices and currency manipulation have contributed to the loss of over 5 million American manufacturing jobs. He explains how both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders tapped into the anxiety and anger that the China Shock produced in the 2016 election. He credits Trump for taking a stand against China with his tariffs.
That is all fine, and while it may be outside the purview of a book like this, Trump’s main path to power was to blame the results of the China Shock on…. Mexicans. Whether he realizes it or not, Trump has channeled Americans’ fury at their declining economic prospects, which are largely due to China’s unrestricted war and the complicity of America’s financial elites, onto Mexican immigrants.
This is a dangerous trend in American political life. It’s also personal for me. The gunman who killed 11 of my fellow Jews in Pittsburgh last year blamed the Jews for the “invasion” of Mexican immigrants. This incident, while minor in the scheme of things, is a sign of what’s coming: American chaos and hate-filled violence as foreign aggression destroys the US economy.
Buy the book: