VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
For National Independence and Socialism •


“Grey-Zone” intelligence assessments and real-war scenarios

The US diplomatic response to credible competition from China in the Western Pacific and wider Indo-Pacific region has taken the form of an intensification of Cold War hostilities using grey zone-type intelligence assessments. They rest upon their desperate attempt to reassert traditional hegemonic positions, although remain fraught with dangers of real war scenarios for the US and their allies upon which they are increasingly dependent.

The recent high-level diplomatic visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the Philippines was accompanied with a brief media release high-lighting the perceived threat of China's 'grey-zone strategy' which had been assessed as a threat to 'US interests'; it included reference to 'a constant ratcheting up' of China's diplomatic brinkmanship. (1)

Grey-zone conflict in military jargon has been usually associated with subversion and has included: destablisation, weakening or undermining traditional structures, in order to systematically weaken an adversary. It has become the face of the new Cold War which exists in the murky area in-between 'between peace and conflict'. (2)

It is, however, accompanied by grey-zone conflict in political circles which has far-reaching implications for civil society and contemporary Australia. It has taken Australian society into the darkest depths of Cold War positions whereby anything linked to China is regarded as suspicious in classic 'reds under the beds' scenarios. (3)

A typical example of the crude conspiracy theories entering into mainstream Australia has been the claim by the so-called US Centre for Strategic and International Studies that China's Qinling base on Antarctica 'was perfectly located … to spy on Australia and New Zealand particularly the satellite launch location in the Northern Territory'. (4) More sensible commentary, however, has noted 'many South-east Asian and Pacific countries are closer, and some would be more hospitable hosts. The growing number of Chinese satellites going over Australia could also do the job'. (5)

It is important to note the US Centre for Strategic and International Studies is a Washington-based 'think tank' with tentacles reaching deeply into Australian academia through seemingly harmless associates; to the contrary, it is an arm of the massive military-industrial complex designed specifically to serve 'US interests'. War, and preparation for war, is big business.

The US-led diplomatic position and controversy about the Qinling base has rested on  two significant points: the decision by the Pentagon to transform their Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) early in the last decade to provide as many as 1,600 newly recruited intelligence-gathers 'into a spy service focused on emerging threats'; a highly controversial study conducted in Washington which found 'the US is no longer the dominant power in the Western Pacific and would struggle to win a conflict against China'. (6)

The former has included extensive use of open-source intelligence (OSINT) with intelligence assessments based on information already in the public domain, raising problems that anything even remotely linked to China or Chinese endeavour can be spied upon and subject to surveillance as being regarded as suspicious. Intelligence-gatherers now also lurk on-line or in university libraries accessing post-graduate research documents while Defence publications openly flout links between universities as centres of learning with military-based programs. The position actively promotes the worst aspects of the previous Cold War now being played-out in the present one; publications from the past have revealed the extent of contemporary class, state paranoia and hysterical mind-sets. (7)  

Within those hysterical circles of Cold War fanatics, those who pay the piper, invariably call the tune; the Pentagon remains closely linked with the US military-industrial complex which thrives on increased defence budgets and arms sales. The US defence budget for the last year amounted to $816.7 billion. (8) Vast amounts of US defence spending support the corporate sector and research and development programs, often directly linked into universities which have become dependent upon the hand which feeds them. China, by contrast, had defence spending at only $224.79 billion. (9)

The US imperialists, nevertheless, are relentless and seek to increase their defence budgets on the annual basis in order to reassert traditional hegemonic positions. They fear any competition from China, whether it originates from economic considerations and trade, or defence and security concerns.
The increased US defence budgets, however, have not made the world a safer place. In fact, to the contrary, we live in a world of seemingly endless US-led sabre-rattling and escalating diplomatic tensions. Australia is clearly drifting toward a US-led confrontation with China, and successive governments in Canberra have done little to stand-up for national interests; Australia, furthermore, is increasingly out-of-step with regional neighbours.

The recent ASEAN Special Summit in Melbourne in early March, for example, saw Australia assume the role of the sub-imperial power, although it failed to achieve the Cold War US-led consensus it sought. It took place at a pivotal time. The ASEAN countries have a total population of about 600 million and have become China's largest export market with $790 billion in trade, pushing the US into second place. ASEAN member countries, furthermore, see little benefit in choosing sides between the US and China; they have little to gain from side-lining China.

Some ASEAN political leaders were also forthright in their chosen diplomatic position: Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, for example, used his visit to Australia to push for countries in the region to remain neutral and non-aligned, with foreign policies decided upon by their sovereign governments, not foisted upon them by Washington and the Pentagon.

In conclusion, the US-led 'grey-zone' assessments of China have taken the region into a dangerous diplomatic position whereby even Washington has acknowledged the strategy is 'on track to create a serious regional crisis and probably armed conflict'. (10)

                                         We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Grey-zone response a way to call China's brinkmanship bluff, Australian, 22 March 2024.
2.     Today's wars are fought in the 'grey zone', Atlantic Council, 23 February 2023.
3.     See: Labor's national security kowtow a win for the CCP., Australian, 26 March 2024.
4.     China's Antarctica moves should be a cause for concern, Australian, 4 April 2024.
5.     Ibid.
6.     Pentagon plays the spy game, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 7 December 2012; and,
        Study: US no longer dominant power in the Pacific, Information Clearing House, 22 August 2019.
7.     See: None dare call it treason, John A. Stormer, (Missouri, 1964), which was distributed across Australia by the far-right Australian League of Rights. The book was first published in 1964 and was subsequently re-printed twenty times in-between February and October of that year.
8.     Website: US Department of Defence, Biden Signs, 23 December 2022.
9.     See: China to increase defence spending, CNN., 7 March 2023; and, China's 2023 defence spending, Jamestown Foundation, 14 April 2023.
10.   Australian, op.cit., 22 March 2024.