Kashmir Central Weekly
ON diplomatic platforms, China is calling for mutual support and an easing of military tensions with India, but covertly it continues to accelerate its use of cognitive warfare against the subcontinent, strategic analysts allege.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi met on the sidelines of ASEAN in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on July 14. Wang called for support instead of suspicion between the two giant neighbours.
“The two sides should support each other and accomplish things together, rather than wear each other down or suspect each other,” Wang said.
However strategic analysts call Wang’s words a bluff and say that since the bloody
Galwan Valley conflict, Beijing has stepped up its cognitive warfare against India.
Meanwhile, India is taking countermeasures. “China’s massive efforts at cognitive warfare supported by AI (artificial intelligence) are being applied around the world, at all inflection points, across all the domains (namely) economic, diplomatic, political and military,” Retd. Col. Vinayak Bhat, a former Indian military intelligence officer, told The Epoch Times in a written message. “This cognitive warfare accelerated against India after Galwan. India has understood the Chinese mind games well and is countering the CCP efforts with countermeasures like pre-stalling, directly countering, indirectly countering, diverting and educating the target audiences.”
The Galwan Valley conflict was a brutal battle between Chinese and Indian forces in June 2020. Fought with sticks and stones, it resulted in dozens of casualties on both sides. The allegations came amidst the release of a report on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) NeuroStrike Program, by US researchers Drs. Ryan Clarke and Sean Lin and L.J. Eads.
Dr Clarke is a senior fellow at the East Asian Institute of the National University ofSingapore; Dr. Lin is a former US Army microbiologist now with Feitan College. A former Air Force intelligence officer, Eads currently specialises in AI for the US intelligence community. Titled ‘Enumerating, Targeting and Collapsing the Chinese Communist Party’s NeuroStrike Program’, the report alleged that the Chinese program can disable the cognitive capabilities of targets and control their brains. “There was a sharp statistical increase in Chinese military activity in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Taiwan Straits, and along the Sino-Indian border during the most acute phases of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 and 2021,” the report noted, suggesting that China used COVID-19 as a strategic opportunity.
China’s cognitive warfare is often discounted as mere military strategy, yet in reality it is actively being used to further China’s aim of world domination, Col. Bhat warned.
- Lies and mind games
The authors of the recent report described NeuroStrike as the “engineered targeting of war-fighter and civilian brains using distinct non-kinetic technology to impair cognition, reduce situational awareness, inflict long-term neurological degradation and fog normal cognitive functions”. In general, non-kinetic warfare is warfare conducted by other means than direct, conventional military action.
That can mean tactics such as information warfare, cyber warfare or psychological operations. However, the report also sounds the alarm about tactics like electromagnetic offensives that use technology to directly target the human brain. The report says the CCP has established itself as a world leader in the development of weaponry platforms that “directly attack, or even control, mammalian brains (including humans) with microwave/directed energy weapons via standalone platforms (i.e., handheld gun) or the broader electromagnetic spectrum”.
However, neuroscience is a wide, ever-evolving subject, and the researchers said that Chinese warfare had gone far beyond the use of classical microwave weapons. One aspect of Chinese cognitive warfare operations includes using human-computer interfaces to control entire populations, as well as employing a range of weapons designed to cause cognitive damage.
- Three warfares
The report’s authors detailed the ‘Three Warfares’ strategic concept, first articulated in 2014 by China’s National Defence University. “Three Warfares is specifically designed to enable China to achieve end goals that have traditionally been accomplished by conventional military force through the effective use of psychological warfare, media warfare, and legal warfare,” they said.
The core functions of these three warfares, according to the researchers, include control of public opinion, blunting an adversary’s determination, transformation of emotion, psychological guidance, collapse of the adversary’s organisation, psychological defence, and restriction through law. Broadly speaking, that involves seizing the “decisive opportunity” to control public opinion, organising psychological offense and defence, engaging in “lawfare” and fighting for popular will and public opinion.
- Targeting the Subcontinent
Indian experts say China has increasingly used cognitive warfare against India since 2020. Col. Bhat said a “lie when told a hundred times becomes a truth”, paraphrasing Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. After Galwan, he said, the Chinese aggressively used propaganda to lower the morale of
Indian troops stationed on the disputed border in the Ladakh region, high in the Himalayas. On the low oxygen, brutally cold front, where temperatures can reach -58° Fahrenheit (-50° Celsius), mind games take on added significance. One instance of this was a rumour that the Chinese were using microwave weapons against Indian soldiers. The story was said to originate from a professor of international relations at
Beijing’s Renmin University, who claimed that Chinese forces had turned two strategic hilltops into a ‘microwave oven’, causing Indian troops to become violently ill and forcing them to retreat. The claim was subsequently reported by British and Australian publications. A November 2020 analysis by The Daily Guardian called it “fake.” Reports denying the Chinese claims appeared widely in the Indian media.
Col. Bhat also said the claim was false. At an altitude of 14,000 feet, he said, it was technically impossible for microwave weapons to achieve the kind of impact the Chinese claimed.
- Hot pot delivered by drone
In another incident, just a few months after Galwan, the Chinese media reported that drones were supplying warm meals to People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the Indo-China border. A video purportedly showing drones delivering meals was posted by Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin on Twitter. Bhat pointed out that Twitter is officially blocked in China; therefore the video was clearly intended to be seen by foreigners.
The story was repeated by global media like the Eurasian Times. The South China Morning Post, meanwhile, painted a cosy picture of life on the frigid front, under the headline “China troops settle in for the Himalayan winter with hotpot deliveries and oxygen on tap”. Col. Bhat expressed doubt at the story, saying it was planted to play with the morale of Indian troops.
In response, “India started talking about ordering Europe and US-made clothing for high altitude for its soldiers, to counter the Chinese mind game,” Col Bhat said.
- Beyond mind games
The report warns that Chinese cognitive warfare against India will likely go beyond the mind games and propaganda lies. China’s psychological operations against India face limitations because of India’s massive landmass, large population, and substantial conventional and unconventional military capabilities. In addition, given the political climate of the country, China is unlikely to be able to “obtain pro-Beijing partners within India’s leadership that would operate within India to forward Chinese objectives along the disputed border”.
In this context, the authors warned that China could strike New Delhi’s critical information technology systems. “Given the clear limitations on PLASSF (PLA Strategic Support Force) psychological operations against India, it is possible that the PLASSF will focus more heavily on coercive NeuroStrike capabilities and precision targeting of India’s critical information technology systems, including the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS),” they said, adding that IRNSS provides real-time positioning capabilities within India, as well as for a 1,500-kilometre radius outside of India.
- Video games, media attacks
Another Indian analyst, N C Bipindra, the chairman of the New Delhi-based Law and
Society Alliance, gave examples of how the Chinese were using video games and global media for specific propaganda against prominent Indian leaders. “After Galwan, (the) Chinese created a video game that showed a boxing match between Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said Bipindra, the editor of a report titled ‘Mapping Chinese Footprints and Influence Operations in India’. The game’s message is less than subtle: “When the boxing match starts, all South Asian countries: Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, etc., are on Modi’s side, and by the time it finishes everyone is on Xi Jinping’s side”.
Bipindra also cited this year’s attack on Sridhar Vembu, one of India’s richest men.
Vembu was appointed to the country’s National Security Advisory Board in 2021. On March 13, an article in Forbes charged that he had abandoned his estranged wife and their 24-year-old special needs son, and alleged financial wrongdoing by the Indian billionaire. Many Forbes readers may not have known that at the time, the magazine was controlled by the Chinese. In 2014, a Chinese investment firm, Integrated Whale Media, had bought a majority stake in the magazine. Further, in 2021, a Hong Kong based special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) named Magnum Opus had taken over the American publisher of Forbes, in a deal valued at $630 million. Magnum Opus was backed by China’s sovereign wealth fund. Vembu has been at the forefront of a grassroots AI revolution in India through his company, Zoho. Since the article appeared in Forbes, he has launched a new “private browser” in India. He has also unveiled plans to take generative AI technology in-house, adding it to the company’s portfolio of business solutions.
Bipindra speculates that the tech entrepreneur was seen as a threat to China. “At the time of Sridhar Vembu story coming out, Chinese did have [a] majority controlling stake in Forbes,” said Bipindra, alleging that the story was written specifically to malign Vembu’s name in public. Vembu denied his wife’s allegations in a message on Twitter the next day and said: “The matter is in the court in the US, my filings are public”. Today Forbes is owned by an Australian billionaire, Austin Russell. In May, the 28-year-old Russell bought an 82 percent stake in Forbes from Integrated Whale Media, leaving the investment company with just one board seat.
(This article written by Venus Upadhayaya, was originally published in The Epoch Times.)