Chronology of Possible Chinese Gray Area and Hybrid Warfare Operations
July 2, 2020
Anthony H. Cordesman with the assistance of Grace Hwang
This chronology is a working document that explores the range of Chinese competition with the United States, and focuses on China’s “gray area,” hybrid warfare, and multi-domain operations. It is a working document and will be updated over time. It takes a different approach to defining such operations from those used in a number of official sources and other reports, and its coverage is being steadily expanded in a number of areas.
It is also a working document that can only cover a limited number of events. As is discussed later in this chronology, the official and other open source reporting now available has serious limits. Many Chinese low-level operations, territorial and maritime claims, as well as political acts are only reported as serving commercial interests, reflecting local claims or interests, or supporting China’s broader security needs rather than as acts directed towards competition with the United States.
As a result, this chronology is designed to illustrate key patterns in such Chinese activity that competes directly and indirectly with the United States, and it is a starting point for a more comprehensive analysis. It does, however, highlight the need to look beyond the military and war fighting aspects of U.S. and Chinese competition, and the boundaries of some current definitions of “gray area,” hybrid warfare, and multi-domain operations.
It will be revised expanded overtime, and the authors will be grateful for any suggested revisions and additions. Please send these to Anthony H. Cordesman, Burke Chair in Strategy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Uncertain Contents of this Chronology
This chronology is a rough working attempt to illustrate the full range and depth of Chinese competitive activities. Many of the entries are uncertain or ambiguous, while many more have almost certainly been omitted or have never been reported. A full analysis would involve a wide range of country experts and military experts. It also would require substantial intelligence analysis at classified levels to be truly comprehensive.
It still, however, illustrates the broader patterns of Chinese activity in competing with the United States and serves as a starting point for a far more comprehensive analysis. An additional analysis of how U.S. competition with China interacts with U.S. strategic competition with Russia is provided in a separate Burke Chair analysis, entitled U.S. Competition with China and Russia: The Crisis-Driven Need to Change U.S. Strategy. This report is available on the CSIS website here.
This report entitled, Chronology of Possible Chinese Gray Area and Hybrid Warfare Operations, is available for download here.
Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He has served as a consultant on Afghanistan to the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of State.