As the world grapples with a sprawling health crisis, the Chinese Communist Party is using the pandemic to expand its global influence, according to China expert Robert Spalding.
The Chinese regime has seized upon the fallout from the pandemic as an opportunity to extend its control on the global supply chain and to deflect responsibility for having created the disaster, the retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general and author told The Epoch Times in an interview.
He describes it as “unrestricted warfare” in full force.
A strategy crafted by Chinese military officials in the late 1990s, unrestricted warfare—as he explained in his book, “Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept”—refers to using a series of unconventional warfare tactics designed to accomplish the goals of war without engaging in actual combat.
In playing out this campaign, the regime has combined different elements of warfare—economic, trade, political, information—to “create a convergence of challenges” for the United States and other Western democracies, Spalding said.
“It’s hard for people to grasp how powerful this new type of warfare is, because we’re so used to the traditional type of warfare, with planes and ships and bombs and tanks,” he said.
On the information warfare front, Chinese diplomats and state media have recently peddled conspiracy theories speculating about the virus’s origin and putting the blame on the United States, while fake accounts linked to Beijing have flooded Twitter to act as “cheerleaders for the government.”
“They’re covering up the actual truth while essentially creating a new truth on the ground and new facts on the ground,” Spalding said. “Because they control all the data coming out about the coronavirus or the CCP virus, then it’s all according to the narrative that they themselves control.”
Profiting Amid a Crisis
As the outbreak strains the global health system and weighs on medical supply chains, there are concerns that China is using the much-sought-after supplies for its own gains. White House economic adviser Peter Navarro told Fox Business last month that China had been stockpiling the N95 face masks by imposing an export restriction.
In the meantime, millions of the masks are flowing to European countries from China as part of aid packages.
“They see the coronavirus as an opportunity to do that, particularly because countries are going to be relying on them for medical supplies because they’re going to have the only factories open,” Spalding said. “They’re trying to essentially make it look like the Chinese Communist Party is the savior of Western Europe.”
The United States is heavily reliant on medical supplies from China, the world’s largest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients, according to a November 2019 U.S. congressional report (pdf); the spreading pathogen only exacerbated the problem. While Chinese officials denied there were official export bans in place, from late January to February, protective equipment manufacturers were asked to sell their products internally. China also produced half of the world’s masks prior to the outbreak.
China’s state-run news agency Xinhua, in an implicit threat in early March, said the United States would “plunge into the mighty sea of coronavirus” if China chooses to retaliate by controlling medical supply exports.
“We’ve offshored it, we don’t have it anymore. We can’t even produce for our own selves,” Spalding said.
A number of countries, among them Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands, recently complained about defects in Chinese exports of medical supplies for combating the virus.
Meanwhile, Beijing has been outlining policy measures since February to bolster its economic ambitions, Horizon Advisory, a U.S.-based independent consultancy, said in a report.
“Beijing intends to use the global dislocation and downturn to attract foreign investment, to seize strategic market share and resources—especially those that force dependence [on China],” according to the report.
The municipal government of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, told a local newspaper that it’s “possible to turn the crisis into an opportunity—to increase the trust and the dependence of all countries around the world of ‘Made in China.’”
The State Council, a Cabinet-like agency, also highlighted 5G technology and artificial intelligence—the signature tools for China’s pervasive surveillance state—as two of its top strategic objectives to showcase.
“In times of fear, it seems attractive, but what you allowed them to do is essentially insinuate themselves even deeper into the veins of your society,” Spalding said. “Their goal is to be able to have this coercive power over the world, and they’re using the CCP virus to basically perpetuate, accelerate, and deepen that.”
Throughout the outbreak, Beijing’s response can be characterized as a web of coverup, denial, and lies that make it the unmistakable culprit, according to Spalding.
“What we can say with certainty, with absolute 100 percent certainty, is that the Chinese Communist Party created the global pandemic,” he said.
On at least on two occasions—Jan. 1 and Jan. 3—Hubei and national health officials told Chinese labs to stop testing and to destroy existing evidence, according to reports by Chinese media outlet Caixin.
While U.S. federal health authorities repeatedly offered to send researchers to China since Jan. 6, only two were eventually allowed into the country—more than a month later.
By the time Wuhan imposed a drastic lockdown on Jan. 23, more than 5 million locals had left without undergoing a health screening, carrying the virus to other parts of the world. Then, as the outbreak became severe in the United States in March, Chinese diplomats began an aggressive disinformation campaign that accused the U.S. Army of bringing the virus to Wuhan.
A central tenet about the nature of the regime is its need for control, Spalding says.
“When it saw this virus come out, it was worried about its legitimacy.”
Internal documents obtained by The Epoch Times, as well as insider accounts, indicate that Chinese officials have made a top priority to control the outbreak narrative, both inside and outside of China.
Spalding is critical of the World Health Organization’s name for the disease caused by the virus. The name COVID-19—which the WHO says stands for “coronavirus disease 2019”—doesn’t clearly designate its origin in China, allowing the Chinese regime to whitewash its bungled response to the outbreak, he said.
“We, in some ways, are still perpetuating Chinese Communist Party propaganda because we allow them to name things,” he said. “Naming things is very powerful.”
This crisis, he says, also demonstrates the limitations of global trade and the importance of being self-sufficient in the manufacture of crucial supplies.
“We shouldn’t be reliant on a regime that repudiates everything that we stand for, and uses … that supply chain tie to coerce us into abandoning our own principles,” he said.