View Full Version : Interests in common: Should China join the Global SOF Network?

08-14-2014, 11:31 PM
Thanks to a Twitter tip for a RAND podcast 'China:The Reluctant Partner' which advocates that China (PRC) becomes a partner against terrorism and piracy:http://www.rand.org/pubs/presentations/PT123.html

Their precis:
U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has developed and put forth its Global SOF Network vision, which calls for a distributed overseas posture for Special Operations Forces (SOF). There's a high probability that the establishment of a U.S. Global SOF Network will reinforce Beijing's extreme insecurities about Washington's intentions towards China, and heighten Chinese perceptions of enhanced US military encirclement capabilities. However, if China is invited to partner with U.S. SOF, this may alter Chinese thinking on military cooperation. While there is likely to be significant initial reluctance in Beijing, there may be considerable receptiveness to active cooperation in counterterrorism and counterpiracy activities. This video podcast is based on research for USSOCOM that is not available to the general public.Clearly such a partnership is problematic and requires a political / policy decision.

For the Beijing Olympics counter-terrorism assistance was reportedly provided beforehand by Australia and some EU members (France, Germany and the UK come to mind).

China already plays a role in countering piracy in the Indian Ocean, although it retains national control. For a host of reasons the PRC has engaged in the multi-national co-ordination centre (located in the Gulf, in Bahrain or Dubai IIRC).

Now whether the PRC already has a SOF Capability beyond its borders and adjacent seas is a moot point. I know one "lurker" who doubts it.

How would China respond to say a kidnapping of VIPs in Africa, where it has no capability to act, whilst others - not its existing allies and friends - do have?

Aside: RAND has an extensive publications on the SOF theme at:http://www.rand.org/topics/military-special-operations.html

Bill Moore
08-18-2014, 12:19 AM
It would seem logical that China would share many of our security concerns related to terrorism, since they certainly experience their share of terrorism events in their country and against their expats. I would also think a stable Afghanistan would be in China's interest, which could in theory put Pakistan's ISIS in an uncomfortable position.

Military to military engagements with China and the U.S. ebb and flow, but generally seem to be moving in positive direction if you view it over a long time span.

Ultimately this is a policy decision, but I suspect our policy makers would be hesitant to help China gain advanced skills that they could use to against their own people who are terrorists, but rather ordinary citizens protesting for increased liberty, reduced corruption, etc. On the other hand, it may be worth taking baby steps to start developing a relationship that results in a trusted relationship overtime. Who knows, this approach could result in more cooperation on other international concerns.

Maybe I am showing my age, but personally I lean towards caution when it comes to dealing with China. We're pretty transparent in our CT efforts, China not so much. What would be their goals if policy makers in both the U.S. and China supported this proposal?

08-18-2014, 11:05 AM

Perhaps the best way to start - if given political consent - is to look at emergency responses, not partnership with its multitude of issues. Even knowing who to call is a start.

Bill Moore
08-19-2014, 03:10 AM
If the politicians on both sides of the Pacific agree in concept to ultimately develop a SOF to SOF relationship, then I would recommend identifying a specific terrorist problem that is a shared interest where we have mutual objectives, and then explore the potential of first a relationship to discuss it. If that bears fruit, then maybe a limited partnership where we both take action that is mutually supporting.

Identifying the shared problem where we have common objectives will be more difficult than it appears at the surface level.

Bill Moore
09-13-2014, 02:02 PM

U.S . likely to get Beijing's 'quiet' support in bid to destroy ISIS, analysts say

"If these groups have cells in Xinjiang, if it can be confirmed that ISIS members were recruited from China, if we are already becoming a ground for recruitment for these people then China has a stake in keeping ISIS away from its borders," said Xie.

In response to a reporter's question on whether China would join U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, Hua Chunying, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, said that China hoped that "with joint efforts of the international community, the countries involved will soon restore stability and order, achieve reconciliation, peace and development."

"Abiding by the principles of mutual respect and equal cooperation, China is willing to enhance anti-terrorism communication and cooperation with the international community so as to safeguard international security and stability," she added.

We'll see how this plays out, I have little faith in China actually moving beyond words, but then even words supporting the effort is a positive movement.

Bob's World
09-13-2014, 04:28 PM
Before one can reasonably discuss the participation of China in a Global SOF Network that is designed, organized, and ran by the US (so, not really a "Global SOF Network," but more a US SOF Global Network), one has to ask: What exactly is this network, what does it do, and how does it do it?

The previous USSOCOM commander was clear that in his mind, it was to "maintain pressure on violent extremist organizations."

Agree or disagree, that was the purpose that drove the efforts to get where this concept is today. It is not clear yet how the new USSOCOM Commander sees the future purpose of design of this network; but I suspect there will be subtle, but significant changes.

Bill Moore
09-13-2014, 05:20 PM
I never agreed that the network's sole purpose should be on countering extremists. That would be as resource intensive as developing a unit that is only a one trick pony based on a particular adversary, instead of developing a capability that can be leveraged against a number of potential adversaries, and in some cases used during peace to pursue objectives. The concept leveraging a friendly network can be used to accomplish much more than chasing terrorists, as INTERPOL has demonstrated for decades now.

Clearly in many countries the immediate threat and common interest is extremism (excuse the term for now), but that also provides opportunities to develop relationships, understanding, and interoperability across a spectrum of government agencies and non government organizations that can be leveraged in many ways to pursue common interests well beyond CT/CVE. Also agree we need to move away from calling it the SOF network, and just call it the friendly network. We may or may not be the supported node in that network, and it certainly requires more than SOF to be effective. I think the network approach SOCOM took is sound and needs to continue, but it we should be our own worst critics and identify what has worked, what hasn't, how the network should evolve, and develop a strategic logic that underlies the concept that integrates the network's nodes (SOF or not).

10-15-2014, 10:25 AM
Discovered via a "lurker" a short discussion, with reasonable responses, although none of the SME writing are known to me:http://www.chinafile.com/conversation/should-us-cooperate-china-terrorism?

I think it sits here well, although it is not specific to the original title and theme.:wry:

Bob's World
10-15-2014, 12:34 PM
We already overly employ "CT" to help partners keep in check revolutionary movements with few effective legal means to advance their reasonable concerns.

I (like President Washington long before me) am an advocate for the idea that the US needs to be far less quick to judge some party as permanent "friend" or "foe;" better we look for shared and conflicting interests and tailor partnerships and conflicts accordingly. Then we will be better prepared to find opportunities with states such as China and Iran where they exist (and they do exist); and less likely to drag valued allies and partners into situations (Afghanistan, the current dust up with ISIL, etc) where they perhaps no direct interest themselves beyond maintaining relations with the US.

But China has little interest in most the US sees as "terrorists" (a term that truly has no strategic meaning); and similarly I doubt it is much in the interest of the US to employ CT against Chinese revolutionaries.

Probably best that governments everywhere take a step or two back from the mindset behind the CT strategies of the past decade plus, and work to better understand the revolutionary energy behind most of these actors and to focus more on the policy/political evolutions necessary for governments everywhere to stay more in step with the rapidly evolving expectations of the populations they affect (many of which do not live within the borders of the government impacting them.

The world isn't getting simpler, but some simple changes of perspective could yield some very positive gains in how we deal with the complexity of it all. Simple can master complexity, but simplistic tends to just muddy it up.

Bill Moore
11-03-2014, 12:49 AM
A potential opening, but I don't recommend anyone placing bets on combined operations anytime in the near future. Still, any progress could be positive over time.


For Obama and Xi, Fight Against Islamic State a Brief Moment to Agree

Both countries have flagged that President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping will discuss the issue when they meet on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing.

Much more in the article, but this addresses the rub between China and the U.S., who are terrorists? and what is the appropriate response?

"The United States stands by its decision to designate ETIM a terrorist organization by executive order in 2002. Furthermore, we support the U.N. designation of ETIM," Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told Reuters.


Russel, however, noted that Chinese government measures in Xinjiang "stoke discontent" and dismissed the idea that there was a shift to lend Beijing's policies more credence in return for less criticism from China on U.S. operations in Syria in Iraq.

07-13-2019, 06:20 PM
A Tweet by Professor Bruce Hoffman, a CT SME, following a NYT article (behind a pay wall):
Chinese diplomats suggested that China’s experience in tackling terrorism could even be usefully shared with other countries.” Expect this argument to become more prevalent in a world where the values of Western liberal democracy are derided & undermined.

The linked Reuters report lists you signed, all are paragons of virtue:
As well as Saudi Arabia and Russia, the letter was signed by ambassadors from many African countries, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Belarus, Myanmar, the Philippines, Syria, Pakistan, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.