If you’ve been looking for the missing puzzle piece, here it is.

Head of the Chinese Communist Party and ruler of China, Xi Jinping. (photo: Prachatai)

If history has told us anything, it is that truths, even fundamental, monumental truths are often self-evident, hiding in plain sight.

When the truth finally dawns- wow, enslaving human beings is  wrong- it seems incredible that anyone could have missed it, let alone generations of people in multiple societies throughout history- and today.

Whatever your political persuasion, it must be admitted that things have felt a bit… in recent years. There has to be a  for it. Something is tearing at the fabric of American society and no one seems quite able to pin it down.

Political polarization, yes; but the U.S. has  had that and how. Donald Trump, sure; but the U.S. has always had Donald Trump, too, and plenty of other politicians besides who openly espouse exactly the same set of values he does on a daily basis.

The culture wars, One Million Moms v. Planned Parenthood, have long been raging in the U.S., often bitterly. Until recently, most of us could and did just ignore it. Generational conflicts, between the young and the old have always been with humanity, as have conflicts between the sexes, racial and cultural tensions. The dueling interests of city and country, the struggle between the forces of conservatism and liberalism have long been present.

Why is everything so much worse all of the sudden?

In a country as large and diverse as this one, we’ve gotten along reasonably well and we still do, by and large, in the modern age. Democracy had been working fairly well, up until recently anyway, for more people than any other comparable system of government has ever worked for any society in all of recorded human history. Ever.

Supply chain issues aside, most of us have it better than we’ve ever had it and better than the vast majority of the rest of humanity. The U.S. isn’t perfect; no society or country or system of government is or ever could be, but there is no wall to keep people in for a simple reason; we don’t need one.

Since the FBI started tracking hate crime statistics in earnest, it must be admitted that- as unacceptable as any hate crime is- the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population lives in peace with their neighbors and community, however diverse those neighborhoods and communities happen to be or become.

The corporate media has certainly come to be dominated by hot-headed click-bait headlines designed to scare, enrage or otherwise entice internet customers with an infinite number of news choices. “Journalists” seem to be in a direct competition to outdo each other in shrillness, doomsaying, and profiteering from political division and disagreements.

They regularly list the opinions of random people on Twitter as news sources, in the name of Walter Cronkite, as if any further proof were needed.

Considering, objectively, U.S. news coverage of COVID-19, the industry really should pay restitution for the media equivalent of price gouging during a natural disaster. It’s unconscionable.

But the media has always been intent on scaring people into watching the nightly news- or at the very least the commercial breaks.

So why has everything suddenly gone off the rails in the U.S. and in so many other places?

A pandemic, sure; but we’ve had other pandemics in recent years. SARS, bird flu, swine flu. We even had a brush with Ebola a few years back and that has to be just about the most terrifying disease there is, with symptoms and a mortality rate almost too horrifying to contemplate.

Where were the panels of experts, the endless series of think-pieces entertaining the worst-case scenario of a 70%-90% mortality rate then?

What are we missing?

With all the same old chemical ingredients always present in the U.S.- vying political forces and corporate factions, capitalism, profiteering, long-standing moral and civil disagreements and divisions, the injustices to which any human society is prey-  seems to be adding some as yet unknown activation agent to create a ticking time-bomb.

People actually want to  when five minutes ago this democratic experiment seemed to be clipping along at a smart pace. Science, tech improving everyone’s quality of life and changing the economy so much, doubling the average human lifespan in a shockingly short time, medicine, mapping the human genome, gains in civil rights; all our successes, our contributions to the world seem to have become unmentionables.

The answer to this question may have been staring us in the face, hiding in plain sight, the whole time. It seems incredible, unbelievable; and yet, when you consider what is common knowledge, empirical fact, and overwhelming consensus, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion.

The Chinese Communist Party practices a strategy against its political opponents called the Three Warfares. It has long used this tactic on Taiwan, for which world authorities have the most evidence, and India- among many others. It is a form of public opinion warfare that uses social and traditional media sources, paid influencers, and a vast content farming operation that makes Russian trolls look like kids playing Oregon Trail.

Using these strategies and tools, the Chinese Communist Party, and by extension the People’s Liberation Army, can push any information- or disinformation- they want, suppress anything they don’t like and influence media and policy within its competitor nations without ever even leaving the mainland or putting the life of one Chinese soldier in harm’s way.

“The concept is based on three mutually reinforcing strategies: (1) the coordinated use of strategic psychological operations; (2) overt and covert media manipulation; and (3) legal warfare designed to manipulate strategies, defense policies, and perceptions of target audiences abroad,” wrote Michael Raska in “China and the ‘Three Warfares,” published in the Diplomat, December 18, 2015.

This type of warfare has been in heavy use by the CCP in Taiwan for nearly two decades now. For twenty years, CCP officials have been perfecting it. Taiwanese officials and foreign policy experts from around the world have documented the effects of these psychological operations against Taiwan.

In the words of Raska, the CCP has used, “activities and operations attempting to exploit political, cultural, and social factions inside Taiwan; undermining trust between different political-social groups, delegitimizing Taiwan’s authorities and, “subverting Taiwan’s public perceptions to ‘reunite’ Taiwan on Beijing’s terms.”

If that doesn’t sound at all familiar, you must be one of those rare souls who eschews news and social media completely.

The purposes of this type of “hybrid warfare” model China began testing first against Taiwan in 2003 are: “Influencing the international and domestic perception of the CCP while advancing its national interest and aiming to compromise its opponents’ ability to respond,” , according to Tasha Wibawa in “China’s national security and the ‘three warfares’ : How Beijing decides who or what to target:

If this is the CCP’s idea of warfare- and it certainly is- the next important question is who the CCP considers itself to be at war . Taiwan is an obvious target. China’s intentions towards Taiwan are simple.

“China is paying people from all classes of Taiwanese society and utilizing the Internet to manufacture disinformation and fake news, which create divisions and demoralization that aid Beijing’s ambitions of annexing Taiwan,” Premier Su Tseng-chang warned in 2019.

Towards the U.S., the intentions of the Chinese Communist Party are a little more obscure. However, there can be no doubt that it would be in China’s best interest to undermine democracy in the U.S., weaken its trade laws, its border; to sow social unrest, crime and disorder. The Chinese Communist Party considers the U.S. its biggest geopolitical threat.

The question isn’t, “Would the CCP use the Three Warfares against the U.S.?”

The question is 

In the U.S., divisions and disagreements- on the same range of topics- have existed since time out of mind. Our society has suddenly gone from green to flashing red. Something isn’t right. Something is missing from the equation. It doesn’t make sense.

What would make sense?

Would it really surprise anyone to learn a foreign government with a long history of using public opinion warfare to weaken its geopolitical opponents is deploying same against the U.S.?

Looking at the evidence, it would be more of a surprise if they weren’t.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)