Note: This is part of a series examining the 1999 PLA white paper “Unrestricted Warfare.” Parts one and two can be read here.

Picking up where we left off, Qiao and Wang introduce the idea of “Weapons of New Concepts and New Concepts of Weapons.” They open by arguing that most of what we term “new weapons” are, in fact, not really that new. They may be some kind of improvement on an existing weapons system or a composite of several discrete weapons, but they are still essentially the same sorts of things: guns, missiles, bombs, etc.

They serve as a means for soldiers to kill other soldiers or, in the case of what has been termed “ultra-lethal weapons” (i.e. weapons of mass destruction), entire populations. These are not really new concepts, but refinements on ageless ones. Qiao and Wang proceed to argue that even some of the most out-there ideas, such as man-made earthquakes, tsunamis, and weather engineering, are in fact still old-concept weapons just meant to kill more people.

A pitfall in this idea of improved traditional weapons, they point out, ties in with the previously mentioned fetishization of anything “new,” particularly in the realm of technology. They point to this being a pronounced American weakness, thinking that technology holds all the answers.

This attempt to constantly produce newer, more technologically sophisticated versions of what really boil down to the same traditional weapons and weapons systems leads to arms races that become increasingly more expensive for the participants. Their prime example is the Cold War arms race bankrupting the Soviet Union. To illustrate that it hasn’t stopped, they cite the prices of current (in 1999) high-tech American defense projects, such as the F-22 and B-2, showing how the price tag on each generation has gone steadily up.

FILE PHOTO -- The F-22 is an air-superiority fighter with improved capability over current Air Force aircraft. From the inception of the battle, the F-22's primary objective will be to establish air superiority through the conduct of counter air operations. The F-22 also has an inherent air-to-surface capability. A combination of improved sensor capability, improved situational awareness, and improved weapons provides first-kill opportunity against the threat. (U.S. Air Force photo)
F-22 air-superiority fighter

They then venture into the subject of actual new concepts of weapons. By “new concepts,” they are not referring to some wild science-fiction doomsday device (in fact, they later go into how nuclear weapons resulted from simply having to find new ways to wage war that didn’t involve the mass destruction of cities), but refer to stock market crashes, hacks, rumors, and scandals that affect the solvency and stability of a target nation. “Everything that can benefit mankind can harm him.”

In effect, what they are pointing out is that anything can be a weapon.  This is not a new concept to Chinese strategic thought by any stretch of the imagination. The “Six Secret Teachings,” which are believed to date from the 11th century B.C., include several points on undermining a target nation (in this case believed to be the Shang dynasty) through the corruption of its officials and leaders. It is referred to in the “Six Secret Teachings” as the “Civil Offensive.”

Bribery, corruption, scandal, and the seduction and either blackmail or exposure of such compromised officials are all mentioned. When Sun Tzu wrote, “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill,” he wasn’t being a pacifist. He was referring to bringing the enemy down before the armies had even reached the field.