China is wielding strategies that envelop opponents with an all-effects all-domain approach to national power. These effects are neither precise nor pre-ordained because they occur in an uncertain information environment that encompasses behavior by all sensors – living, or artificial. Drawing from a rich tradition of hybrid stratagems and holistic information, China's leaders use a variety of asymmetric approaches that exploit weaknesses in opponents' strategies.
In contrast, US strategy is fixated on lethal capabilities for armed conflict with information considerations perhaps sprinkled on top. We make great progress at precision destruction, but too often fail to convert battlefield victories into strategic success. It should not come as a surprise then, that US military doctrine still defines “asymmetric” in terms of dissimilar capabilities and methods, rather than with respect to effects. Our doctrine does not recognize hybrid warfare by unarmed actors either, even as they proliferate impactful information effects.
The essence of Chinese strategy consists of waging complex wars that exploit opponents' expectations of warfare. Operations create preventative and causative effects that blend confrontation with cooperation, imposing dilemmas on opponents. Such asymmetric effects win wars by producing information that changes opponents' behavior. Let's see how this concept works.