Both China and the United States are nuclear armed nations. Very dangerous escalation of warfare is occurring now. In fact, the U.S. is already at war against China in multiple ways (multi-domain, hybrid warfare).

The U.S. War on China: Panda Huggers and Panda Sluggers

 By   WAMM Newsletter  Vol 39, No. 1 Winter 2021

Part 2 of a 2-part series following Part I: “Total Information Warfare: Sinophobia” Vol. 38 No.6, Winter 2020

Note: In this article, China refers to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Warfare just below the threshold of direct military engagement is being waged on the ground through:

The Hybrid War on China

  • Economic Warfare: trade sanctions and a tariff war

  • Technological Warfare: attempted seizure of Chinese companies (TikTok), attacks on China’s international 5G contracts; sanctions on the primary and secondary supply chains of key sectors of Chinese technology – e.g., Huawei’s semiconductor supply chain; attacks on Jack Ma and Ant Finance’s IPO (Initial Public Offering of stocks)[1]

  •  Legal Warfare (“lawfare”): includes over 380 anti-China bills in Congress, and 14 individual and state lawsuits[2] against China for over $30 trillion in “Covid damages”; the long-arm “legal” kidnapping of Huawei’s executive, Meng Wanzhou, by extending U.S. jurisdiction to Canada.[3]

  • Diplomatic Warfare: includes consulate shutdowns, harassment of diplomats, breaching of diplomatic pouches (containers for official documents) and compounds, and calls for regime change and quasi-official recognition of Taiwan.[4]

  • Military Brinkmanship: and posturing in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait; complete encirclement of China with strategic weapons, surveillance, and 400 offensive bases (“The Pacific Pivot” – known under Obama as “Rebalancing”), the use of airbases in Taiwan for military surveillance, and (proposed) stationing of intermediate range nuclear missiles all along China’s periphery.[5]

  • Civil Subversion and Color Revolution:  color revolution,[6] urban terror, destabilization and de-legitimation operations in Hong Kong[7] (and other places where China has interests), including millions of dollars funneled for organization and training, and encrypted communications infrastructure built to coordinate anti-government activities, support of Uighur separatists, and the delisting of the UN-designated Uighur terrorist movement ETIM (East Turkestan Independence Movement) from U.S. official terror list.

  • Academic Warfare: through the FBI’s China Initiative, every 10 hours a case is opened against a Chinese student or researcher in the U.S. (last summer: 2,700 cases) and all Chinese students are considered potential “non-traditional,” “collectors,” “spies” involved in a “thousand grains of sand” collection strategy.[8]

  • Information Warfare: last but not least, we are seeing total information warfare
    stories about so-called “massive human rights abuses,” “Chinese concentration camps,” “Chinese-made-and-released Covid,” “China has harmed us economically,” “China has stolen its way to the top,” “China is oppressing independent Hong Kong” are part of this information warfare.[9] This information warfare against China has damaged us by creating a blind spot regarding Covid. First, it prevented us from taking the virus seriously (“this is a uniquely Chinese virus caused by their own political system, a Chinese Chernobyl,” “China is the sick man of Asia”), then in taking useful measures (“quarantines are authoritarian abuse”), and receiving Chinese assistance with testing and treatment.[10]

Unless we do something about it, President Biden’s doctrine toward China will likely be a continuation of the noxious U.S. arc of history, ideology, and planning. The think tank advising Biden on foreign policy, the Center for New American Security (CNAS), a rhyming clone to the neocon plan, Project for the New American Center (PNAC), has assumed most of the prior anti-China doctrine and mapped out a highly destructive and dangerous strategy of confrontation.

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The architect of the “Pivot to Asia” and the co-founder of CNAS, Kurt Campbell will have a key position in the administration handling U.S. relations with China. The key difference is that CNAS will attempt  to “unite” countries more skillfully against China, reduce some of Trump’s protectionist policies, and likely restart the Trans Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation economic bloc against China.

The U.S . is mocked for an exaggerated fear of China while it pokes the bear. Cartoon: Craig Stephens/ South China Morning PostThe U.S. is mocked for an exaggerated fear of China while it pokes the bear. Cartoon: Craig Stephens/South China Morning Post

Levers of Power: Panda Huggers and Panda Sluggers

To understand future possibilities, it’s a good idea to see how we as a nation arrived at this point.

Those hard-liners agitating for war against China referred to themselves as “Panda Sluggers.”  But the U.S. government also facilitated the U.S. business class, “Panda Huggers,” who wanted engagement with China. These two threads of U.S.-China policy have developed in the last several decades, sometimes at odds with one another and sometimes complimenting one another.

To see how U.S. relations arrived where they are with China today, we have to trace the threads back to the decade of the 1970s, when splitting the communist bloc by engagement with China was seen as a way to diminish the USSR, which was perceived as a competing superpower.

In 1989, the Cold War began to thaw and the Berlin Wall fell; American political theorist Francis Fukuyama would postulate that it was “the end of history” and a new era was born, as “an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.” This triumphalism was reinforced by the fall of the Soviet Union. The ruling class believed that neoliberalism was destined to dominate – meaning that the nations of the world would eventually become capitalist and incorporate into a U.S.-led global system with free markets, limited regulation, and the privatization of public sectors – or else they would collapse like the USSR. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher claimed that “there is no alternative” in a phrase that became so much a part of the vernacular, that it was known by the acronym, TINA.

With changes occurring in the world, powerful people in the West believed that they knew what had to take place inside China, and generally fell into these sometimes overlapping groups:

  • Collapsists believed that China was a Potemkin state, a deck of cards, that would collapse as a state from its internal contradictions:  corruption, economic inefficiencies in planning, and demographic factors.

  • Assimilationists/integrationists hubristically believed that engagement with China would result in China’s liberalization and total transformation – the inevitable result of engaging with a “superior” Western political ideology and economic system. Its people would become enthralled with economic freedom, “one of democracy’s most cherished values,” as President Bill Clinton saw it while recommending that China be admitted into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the year 2000.[11] “Liberty will spread by cell phone and phone modem,” Clinton proclaimed, and resisting the liberalizing power of the internet would be, he said, “like nailing jello to the wall.”[12]

  • Opportunists/exploiters in the U.S. business class saw China as a high-profit global workshop and factory floor for their companies – a source of cheap labor and outsourced production.

 In spite of these laissez-faire predictions about China internally, U.S. engagement of any kind was up against aggressive plans that had been percolating for years within the U.S.  These would take concrete shape when it became clear, in the 2007 financial crash that China was not likely to collapse or assimilate anytime soon.  In fact, it was clear that it was the U.S.-led capitalist order that was in danger of collapsing, whereas China was powerful and resilient.

The Pentagon’s Oracle of China Policy and the Graduates of St. Andrew’s Prep School

If there is one person most responsible for the hawkish strategy in U.S.-China relations for the past several decades, it’s Andrew Marshall, who died at the age of 97 in 2019. Often referred to as “Yoda,” he was the Pentagon’s oracle, directing its secretive internal think tank, the Office of Net Assessment, for 42 years, and was top advisor to twelve Secretaries of Defense.  Marshall was originally part of an elite group (Herman “Dr. Strangelove” Kahn, James Schlesinger, Daniel Ellsberg, and Albert Wohlstetter) at the powerful think tank RAND, who worked on military gaming theory and modeling, including the unthinkable and the insane: how to win at nuclear Armageddon.

Throughout his long tenure at the inner sanctum, Andrew Marshall had two key obsessions: U.S. military supremacy, first over the Soviet Union; then, after the fall of the USSR, over China, which meant preventing China’s rise as a power in the world.

Pulp fiction character Flash Gordon, a polo player and Yale graduate, who became a “freedom fighter” against antagonist Ming, the Merciless, imperial ruler of an alien planet.Pulp fiction character Flash Gordon, a polo player and Yale graduate, who became a “freedom fighter” against antagonist Ming, the Merciless, imperial ruler of an alien planet.

Marshall mentored many into his world view and strategies who would become neocon heavyweights. Graduates of what was known as “St. Andrew’s Prep School” were: Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliot Cohen, Andrew Krepinevich, Michael Pillsbury, Herman Kahn, Richard Perle, Richard Armitage, Michael O’Hanlon, as well as countless others.

As the Soviet Union dissolved, the U.S. hawks began to lay out their plans. In 1992, a group of Marshall’s top protégés (Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis Libby, Paul Wolfowitz) drew up the Defense Planning Guidance document, an ambitious and aggressive plan for U.S. unipolar hegemony, positioning the U.S., alone, as the dominant global power, unrestricted by any sense of proportion, rationality, or morality.  The plan asserted the right to wage pre-emptive, aggressive war using U.S. power without regard to international law.

This plan was leaked, and an embarrassed Pentagon disavowed and redacted the document, but it was reworked into the “Project for a New American Century (PNAC): Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” [13] This document became the foundation for the Bush Doctrine and its aggressive, illegal wars in the Middle East. It also laid out specific plans “to cope with the rise of China to great-power status.”

Among Marshall’s protégés, some will most be remembered for their roles in PNAC, the doctrine of preemptive war, and post-9/11 attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, but some of them also had a strong influence on U.S.-China policy.

Andrew Krepinevich was the brain behind the current China war doctrine, “AirSea Battle,” a strategy for taking war to the Chinese: decapitating strikes deep into Chinese territory, invoking Marshall’s “revolution in military affairs,” while strangling it by choking off its trade routes. AirLand Battle was the war doctrine against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In line with the AirSea Battle, in 2011, the Obama administration announced the “Pivot to Asia,” which in practical terms is a comprehensive plan to encircle and contain China with U.S. bases, offensive weapons, and alliances.

Another of Marshall’s mentees, Michael Pillsbury, assisted in the creation of the regime-change NGO known as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the arming of Mujahideen in Afghanistan, the implementation of the genocidal covert subversion program in Latin America (the Reagan Doctrine), but most importantly, he is credited with initiating, in 1973, the “China card,” the idea that the U.S. could use China as a balance of power against the USSR. He eventually became a key hawk in the Trump administration. In 2015, he published a book with the help of Marshall, called The Hundred Year Marathon,[14] foreshadowing the massive threat inflation and anti-Chinese scare-mongering that is common currency now. In 2019, the Trump administration withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). This was widely understood as simply the continuation and implementation of the vision of Marshall.

As the original U.S. reason for allying with Beijing – to counterbalance Moscow – became moot, another group of China-bashers, those who still had old axes to grind, began to crawl out of the cracks. These were red-baiting ideologues with unresolved Cold War paranoia left over from the 1950s. The business class (“Panda Huggers”) wanted to continue engagement with China, but ideologues (“Panda Sluggers”) saw China as a mortal and irreconcilable threat.

Shanghai, China’s financial center. Photo: Wikimedia CommonsShanghai, China’s financial center. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Blue Team Unleashed

During President Bill Clinton’s administration, anti-communist ideologues cross-pollinated with Marshall’s neocon followers – a rogues’ gallery of high-powered political operators: Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol, and Michael Pillsbury, who brought their neocon dreams of global domination into loose coalition, came together and used the influential right-wing and neocon newspapers, The Washington Times and The Weekly Standard, as their platforms. Although the “Blue Team” had no official offices, no official members, no overt policy statements, they included key Congress members/staff of both parties (Tom DeLay, Nancy Pelosi, and Robert Byrd among them), think tankers, journalists, and lobbyists.[15]

Blue Team propagandists, former CIA analyst William C. Triplett with Edward Timperlake, a national security analyst, went on to write a lurid series of conspiracy books alleging quid-pro-quo between the Clinton administration and China: Year of the Rat (published in 1998) and Red Dragon Rising (published in 1999).[16] They alleged Taiwanese lobbyists with Chinese mafia connections were acting as agents for the PRC government and manipulating the White House. They also alleged Chinese theft of military secrets, slave labor, and the proliferation of WMD to Iran and other rogue states, and insinuated that Clinton’s “constructive engagement” was knowingly undermining the U.S. for the benefit of the Chinese.  These allegations became an underlying mythology about a dangerous, corrupt, and belligerent China.

The most virulent of China sluggers was Frank Gaffney, who was so hawkish he had been forced out of the Defense Department in the Reagan administration. In 2019, he recycled an old paranoid Cold War group into the current “Committee on the Present Danger: China,” contending that “there is no hope of coexistence with China.” Though he built a reputation as an outlier extremist, Gaffney’s ideology and guiding principles[17] approximate official positions on China which guide key U.S. foreign policy toward China today and now control the levers of power in both parties, setting the groundwork for war against China.

The Blue Team built powerful commissions and institutions focused on attacking China, including the Congressional Executive Commission on China,[18] the US-China Security Review Commission.[19] The Taiwan Security Enhancement Act was also written at this time.

[Editor’s Note: The Taiwan Security Enhancement Act was never passed by Congress, but as a parting gift to the Biden administration, on January 9, 2021, Secretary of State Pompeo made its intention official by dropping limitations on U.S involvement with the island, which China considers its own. Also in 2020: “Blue Team” Nancy Pelosi hosted Hong Kong overthrow dissidents and Ted Cruz joined them in Hong Kong riots.] [20]

K.J. Noh is a special correspondent on Asia for KPFA Radio’s Flashpoints, and a political analysis for Loud & Clear, and other news programs. His writing can be seen at Asia Times, Counterpunch, Black Agenda Report, and other publications. A veteran of the ROK Army, he is a member of Veterans for Peace.


[1] Wray, Christopher. DOJ Conference (2020, February 6). Confronting the China Threat. FBI News.
[2] Minski, S., & Anderson, S. (2021, January 22). What’s in the Many Coronavirus-Related Lawsuits Against China? Lawfare.
[3] Reporter, G. S. (2020, October 30). Meng Wanzhou lawyers accuse US of “cherry-picking” evidence for extradition. The Guardian.
[4] U.S. Department of State. (2021, January 19). Determination of the Secretary of State on Atrocities in Xinjiang.
[5] Baldor, L. C. (2019, August 4). Esper U.S. to Soon Put Intermediate Range Missile in Asia. Associated Press/Military Times
[6] Ruggeri, L. (2020, September 30). Agents of Chaos. How the U.S. Seeded a Colour Revolution in Hong Kong. Qiao Collective.
[7] Hong Kong News. (2021, January 29). Washington finally admits it has been interfering in Hong Kong.
[8] Feng, E. (2019, June 28). FBI Urges Universities to Monitor Some Chinese Students and Scholars in the U.S. NPR News All Things Considered.
[9] Nor, K. J. Total Information Warfare: Sinophobia.  Women Against Military Madness Newsletter vol. 38 no. 6 Winter 2020, pp. 6-9,
[10] Capitalism on a Ventilator: The Impact of COVID-19 in China & the U.S., edited by Sara Flounders and Lee Siu Hin 2020, World View Forum
[12] Davis, B. (2018, July 27). When the World Opened the Gates of China. Wall Street Journal.
[12]Reporter. (2000, March 9). Clinton’s Words on China: Trade Is the Smart Thing. New York Times.
[13] Khalilzad, Z. & Grenell, R. (2020, March 5). Project for a New American Century. Militaristic Monitor.
[14] Pillsbury, M. (2017, May 24). The Hundred-Year Marathon.
[15] Rushford, G., (2002, August 8).  In Search of an Enemy.  The Rushford Report.
[16] Triplett, W. C., & Timperlake, E. (1998, 1999).
[17] Committee on Present Danger China. (2021, January 27). Guiding Principles.
[18] Congressional Executive Commission on China.
[19] U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission.
[20] Tiezzi, S. (2021, January 12). US Secretary of State Pompeo Lifts Restrictions on Exchanges With Taiwan.    The Diplomat.; Beaudoin, M. The Nature of the Hong Kong Protests (2019, November 26). Consortium News.


NATO story on by Ann Wright

China, Russia to break US hold on ‘world order’

Washington won’t be excluded in global governance, cooperation needed.

 Yang Sheng and Fan Anqi   Left Review Online  March 28, 2021

Live Discussion: Understanding the US-China Conflict with Sara Flounders

Sara Flounders joined Women Against Military Madness for a live discussion about the U.S.-China conflict amid the coronavirus .

Featured Image of Panda and Eagle: Illustration by Liu Rui/GT


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