How China Uses Diplomatic Deception to Hide Its Real Intentions

China has launched a diplomatic offensive in order to deceive other countries of its true intentions. This article was published on June 7, 2006, and provides a good example of how China uses deception to hide its real intentions. This information will come in handy examining China’s intentions concerning the South China Sea and East China Sea. China talks a good game of diplomacy while becoming more and more aggressive militarily.

“All warfare is based on deception,” Sun Tzu declared. Historically, China has faithfully adopted this maxim by launching a diplomatic offensive prior to military action either to deceive other countries of its true intentions or to justify its actions. Chinese Defense Minister and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Command (CMC) General Cao Gangchun’s visit to five Asian states this past April is a case in point. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is going on a peace offensive in order to disguise its subtle change from a defensive force to one that is overtly offensive.

Organizational Changes to Units Deployed on China’s Borders

Training for Conflict

Realistic and Joint Training Emphasized

Trials of New Structures and Command and Control for Joint Operations

Mobilization Issues


In retrospect, the underlying purpose of General Cao’s trip to ensure that “everything is well and we are no threat” was to misdirect China-watchers. While observers were fixated upon Cao’s every word, the PLA quietly restructured its organization and improved upon its C2 and joint training. These changes may not indicate that Beijing is preparing for war, though they certainly do allow the PLA to operate as a far more lethal fighting force.

The Jamestown Foundation: The PLA’s New Calculus for Force Posture

China loudly proclaims that it wants a diplomatic solution to the South China Sea problem, except China refuses to work toward a multilateral solution. The South China Sea dispute involves territorial claims by China, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan. In effect, it is a multilateral problem. China has secretly undermined efforts at a multilateral solution and will only negotiate bilateral solutions for each and every country.

China has put up for bid exploration rights to waters claimed by Vietnam. It plans to blanket the South China Sea with 23,000 fishing boats to help assert its claim over this sea. China has established a military garrison in the Paracel Islands. China has gone head to head with the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal.

China said U.S. criticism of its attempt to bolster claims to gas- and oil-rich islands in the South China Sea sent“a seriously wrong signal” to nations embroiled in territorial disputes in the region.

Tensions have been rising in the region as China has sought to establish a city and military garrison in the Paracel Islands and to physically block foreign access to a disputed reef off the coast of the Philippines, according to the U.S. State Department. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei also claim rights to islands in the sea.

“What we’re seeing is a significant ratcheting up of Chinese pressure on the region to basically acquiesce that the South China Sea is Chinese territory,” Dean Cheng, a researcher on Chinese political and security issues at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said in a telephone interview.

China Says U.S. Sending ‘Wrong Signal’ on South China Sea – Businessweek

The East China Sea is heating up as well.

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90.1% of respondents in mainland China said they supported military action [over the Senkaku Islands/Diaoyutai Islands]. About 80% of mainland Chinese also showed a great deal of interest/concern in their territorial dispute with Japan. Over half (51.2%) believed that it could lead to an armed conflict between Japan and China.

Poll: 90% of Chinese Support Military Action Over Senkaku Islands | Japan Probe

What this shows is that China’s diplomatic efforts are merely a deception. China seeks to aggressively claim the South China Sea area, through force if necessary. It is likely that this process will ultimately result in war with the US. Even if everybody acquiesces to China’s claims, there will still be war.


Once China establishes full claim over the South China Sea, it will restrict passage through the area. US military and intelligence vessels will be severely restricted in their activity. Freedom of navigation will be a thing of the past. And this will lead to war. But we will probably never even get that far before war breaks out. China is already bristling over the US containment policy. Plus China blames the US for the resistance shown by Vietnam and Philippines.

Some in China and the West are already predicting war.

A Chinese general recently offered an alarming assessment that a future conflict with the United States is coming as a result of U.S. “containment” policies.

The release last week of a transcribed speech by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Maj. Gen. Peng Guangqian revealed the harsh words toward the United States and those in China he regards as muddle-headed peacenik intellectuals.

Inside China: PLA says war with U.S. imminent – Washington Times

Warnings as China’s rise spooks the West – The West Australian

In Washington, defence analyst Dana Dillon, author of The China Challenge, wrote earlier this year that China’s assertiveness in its claim to sovereignty over the South China Sea, “could well be the first rounds in an escalating shoving match between China and the US”. He concluded that China “posed a substantial military threat”.

International relations scholar Aaron Friedberg agrees. With regard to the possibility of war at sea he notes, “the stakes are about as high as they can get, and the potential for conflict particularly fraught”.

Similarly, University of Queensland academic Daryl Morini recently wrote that, “The Australian strategic debate about the rise of China is heating up…(and) the possibility of a future Sino-American war is no longer considered outrageous or alarmist.

Henry Kissinger, the ultimate foreign policy realist, in his recent book On China, argues the stakes are such that the US should yield to China’s geo-strategic ambitions in Asia in order to avoid all out conflict.

Warnings as China’s rise spooks the West – The West Australian

Henry kissinger says the US should yield to China in order to avoid all out conflict. However, I have argued that it doesn’t matter. The problem goes beyond geo-political amibitions. China’s behavior will cross the line that the West cannot accept.