Inside China and Russia’s shadow war against America

Washington Examiner
Date: May 05, 2019
By: Tom Rogan  

In his new book “The Shadow War,” CNN’s Chief National Security correspondent Jim Sciutto explores China and Russia’s secret war against the U.S.-led international order. Though readable and well-sourced, the book isn’t comfortable reading.

Because it makes clear that America’s top adversaries are winning silent but very significant victories.

“The pace and power of the Shadow War can be frightening,” Sciutto writes.

Sciutto’s first point is that we still haven’t sufficiently recognized the nature of the threat. He charts the delusion by which successive U.S. administrations have viewed China and Russia as states interested in compromising under the U.S.-led order. Sciutto shows how this delusion has allowed these top adversaries to fight us while telling us what we want to hear.

The shadow war, then, is one fought in the political margins between peace and war, and tactical arena between covert action and overt force. Charting a course around the world, “The Shadow War” takes us inside the war’s various theaters.

We see how Estonia responded to a dramatic Russian cyberattack with a societal mobilization to do better next time. “Cyber-hygiene, cyber-hygiene , and cyber-hygiene,” President Kaljulaid tells Sciutto, “We teach our people, it’s essential.”

We see how China engages in an industrial-level theft of U.S. intellectual and military secrets. Seeing the scale of what China is doing, the courageous FBI effort to counter these threats seems like a losing battle. But this book is also informed by Sciutto’s former service as chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 2011-2013. The author explains how this service was instructive. He learned, for example, that, “U.S. firms — though aware of the theft — often refused to ask for [U.S.] government help, or to identify cyber-breaches, for fear of alienating their Chinese partners or losing access to the Chinese market altogether.” Sciutto points out that “China’s strategy relies on — and cultivates — that fear.”

Yet, while he served during the Obama administration, Sciutto isn’t biased. The CNN anchor offers particular criticism of the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine, and its handling of Chinese militarization efforts in the South China Sea. Sciutto also rightly criticizes President Obama’s reliance on personal pledges made by President Xi Jinping.