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“Color Revolution” in Hong Kong and U.S. “Hybrid War” against China

Aug 19 , 2019
  • Su Jingxiang

    Fellow, China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations

What is happening in Hong Kong is a textbook case of a “color revolution,” behind which the United States government has provided support through organizational and planning assistance — all of which is self-evident.

The US has a wealth of experience in conducting political attacks against other countries. In May 2010, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis published an academic thesis by New York University economist Daniel Berger and Harvard University economist Nathan Nunn, among others, titled “Commercial Imperialism? Political Influence and Trade During the Cold War.” According to the article, during the Cold War (1947-1989), at least 50 countries in the world had suffered political intervention by the CIA — the successful coups in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954) and Chile (1973) that are often discussed were just the best known ones. The techniques of CIA political intervention operations were extremely extensive, including: selecting, training, supporting, and changing leaders of foreign countries; providing pro-US regimes with secret support; providing funds and special expertise for domestic political movements in other countries; and financing various secret organizations and student groups, the purpose of which was to seek strategic advantage and commercial interests.

In 1989, near the end of the Cold War, the US Marine Corps Gazette published a signed article by William Lind, which assumed the next generation of wars — or “fourth-generation wars” — will be “more fluid, decentralized, and asymmetrical.” Tactics such as psychological operations using the mainstream media to conduct information intervention will become important means of war, and “television news may become a more powerful operational weapon than armored divisions.” The spread of large-scale anti-government movements will result in the blurring of the line between “civilians” and “troops.” Facts have shown that this article had extreme foresight.

In the nearly three decades since the end of the Cold War, US foreign strategies have undergone multiple significant revisions, and were adjusted and improved to organically and seamlessly blend non-traditional warfare (stealth use of armed forces) and non-military means (“color revolution”) with traditional open military intervention — known as the theory of “hybrid war” in US strategic circles. Drawing on such ancient teachings as “subdue the enemy without fighting” and “the shortest route is to take the long road,” the theory’s main idea is that the US leads and directs proxy forces from behind the scenes in order to create chaos through launching indirect attacks. In doing so, this allows the US “to defeat their adversary without directly engaging them, thereby saving themselves the resources that would have to be expended in a direct confrontation.”

Recent US interventions in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, and Iran all used the “hybrid war” theory. It was through these new facts that scholars in other countries have come to better understand the US theory of “hybrid war,” including “color revolution” strategies.

The essential theory of “color revolution” originated from US author Edwards Bernays’ 1928 book “Propaganda,” which for the first time put forward the idea of “social psychology control.” The US business community is very familiar with the book, as it is also a classical theoretical work for modern marketing techniques. “Color revolution” is peculiar in that, with the intervention of state apparatus, it may give social psychology control the power to be used as an instrument.

There are various weaknesses as well as potential conflicts in the US’s strategy, weaknesses caused by factors such as ethnic, religious, or historical differences, administrative boundaries, socio-economic gaps and natural geography. With strong media and network technologies as well as a large number of advanced think tanks and well-trained strategists, the US is capable of broadly collecting and analyzing social and demographic data, expertly setting political jargons, utilizing sophisticated mass psychology control technologies, infecting the masses with anti-government thinking, and creating a “hive mind” via social media networks. Such a “hive mind” may make its members assemble orderly in an apparently chaotic manner, openly confront and attack the government, paralyze it, and finally take over political power and control society.

Summing up the experiences and lessons from all past “color revolutions,” US strategists have come to two important conclusions: 1) “color Revolutions do not have to reach the majority of the population in the country or the capital to be successful” and, 2) the other is the goal of “color revolution” may not necessarily be overthrowing a government: as long as it is able to create chaos, divide society, and trigger large-scale turbulence, success can be achieved.

The US is the only country in the present-day world that has carried out “hybrid wars” and is capable of creating “color revolutions.” For many years, the US has been openly waging a “hybrid war” against Russia. The most important point in the National Security Strategy published by the Trump administration at the end of 2017 is designating both China as well as Russia as “revisionist power[s]” that “challenge US power, influences and interests.” We still need to wait and see how the curtain will drop on the “color revolution” in Hong Kong. But the movement once again confirms an undeniable reality: the US is already engaging in a “hybrid war” against China.

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