Info War Is The Key To Dealing With The Axis Of Paranoia – China, Pakistan And North Korea

by R Jagannathan - Jul 7, 2020 02:55 PM +05:30 IST
Info War Is The Key To Dealing With The Axis Of Paranoia – China, Pakistan And North KoreaPakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
  • All those threatened by China need to prepare to defend themselves, but it won’t be enough.

    The only real alternative is to find ways to end the information asymmetry where the peoples of these three countries are denied information by their own governments.

Andy Grove, the iconic late CEO of chip-maker Intel, wrote a book called Only The Paranoid Survive.

The fundamental thesis of Grove’s book is that the competitive strength of a company can be eroded quite suddenly unless it is watchful of the “strategic inflection points” in its lifecycle that may change the nature of competition due to the growing strength of its rivals, the emergence of new business models and technologies, shifts in current customer demands and the creation of new kinds of customers, and changes in how suppliers see their own future.

Given the shortening lifespans of most companies in the S&P 500 – the average longevity has fallen from 60 years in the 1950s to less than 20 now – most companies will not cross the threshold of human adulthood ever. The only companies that will cross that threshold are those that remain paranoid about the future.

Grove’s key insight is that unless companies create the conditions in which they constantly reinvent themselves by being open internally to new ideas and change, they will ultimately fail.

However, it is easier to handle the fallout of companies that fail as new companies can step into the vacuum. But what if countries fail?

Paranoia may be good for companies to remain in business, but is it equally right for countries that want to stay relevant and alive? Paranoia is an unreasonable distrust of others or about entertaining imaginary fears of persecution. When it exists in individuals in reasonable levels, it is useful for survival. Human and other species would not have survived without some degree of paranoia, where survival depends on figuring out whether a stranger is friend or foe.

But when paranoia exceeds certain limits, psychologists would consider it to be some form of mental illness that needs treatment. It is dangerous not only for humans but entire nations and communities too. It is dangerous for both the paranoid person himself, and those around him.

This, unfortunately, is the new reality of the world where China is the world’s second superpower and also the world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). The problem is not China or the Chinese people, but its paranoid leadership in the Communist Party of China (CPC).

As a people, the Chinese are no different from other people in terms of xenophobia and paranoia. But the party that rules them is paranoid to the extreme, and this is obvious from the fact that in just over the last few months, after behaving irresponsibly in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, it has picked a fight with almost all its neighbours, including India.

One should, in fact, point out that paranoid China is at the apex of a trio of paranoid states, which include Pakistan and North Korea. The Pakistani people are no different from us, but its military leadership fears for its own future in case the country makes peace with India on reasonable terms.

North Korea is even more paranoid; its people are no different from their cousins to the south, but the openness and prosperity of South Korea is a threat to the communist regime that rules the North.

It’s the same with China, where despite doing a fantastic job of raising millions out of poverty and making itself a powerful middle income country and superpower, the CPC is afraid of openness and candour with its own people.

It fears that openness will bring its power monopoly to a drastic end, and now literally runs a top-down censorship programme in the twenty-first century, where the Internet has demolished physical borders.

Its people are being sold the pup of economic progress without democracy, or the right to information from all over the world. Communist Russia failed in a pre-Internet world despite having a better ability to block news from reaching its people. But China seems to be doing so successfully even in the Internet age.

If China were merely a tinpot dictatorship, one could merely shake one’s head and move on. But it is a superpower with nuclear bombs. And so are its two vassal states, Pakistan and North Korea. A paranoid trio of three nuclear-armed states whose leaderships are afraid of their own people is the most dangerous thing the world has to contend with.

In the twentieth century, we witnessed bloody world wars when the forces of paranoia – Germany and Japan in the case of the Second World War – inflicted sufferings on millions of people all around the world.

The German obsession with “lebensraum” and the Japanese obsession with its own supply lines in case of a future conflict with America led to Hitler’s ill-fated attack on the Soviet Union and Japan’s on Pearl Harbor, which hastened the US’ formal entry into the war on the side of the allies.

The paranoid Soviet Communist Party was brought down after 1989 when information about the West’s prosperity could no longer be hidden and Mikhail Gorbachev decided to be more open with his own people. The lesson China learnt from the collapse of the Soviet Union is that you must never trust your own people with the free flow of information.

The parallels with Nazi Germany and Stalinist are too chilling to ignore: China is the twenty-first century’s Goebbelsian peddler of falsehood; it disregards any international law that is inconvenient to it; it uses a past history of subjugation by outside powers to keep its people focused on the “external enemy” instead of asking inconvenient questions of the leadership; and, it sends its own ethnic minorities (Tibetans, Uighurs) to Gulags and re-education camps.

It is ethnically cleansing its non-Han minorities without actually using primitive gas chambers. It is using re-education and indoctrination camps to literally wipe clean the minds of its minorities.

The question now for the world is: how do you force three paranoid nuclear powers to learn to live in peace with themselves and their neighbours by acknowledging their own paranoia?

Unlike Nazi Germany, the world cannot afford war with China, Pakistan or North Korea. All those threatened by China need to prepare to defend themselves, but it won’t be enough.

The only real alternative is to find ways to end the information asymmetry where the peoples of these three countries are denied information by their own governments.

The axis of paranoia headed by China can only be undermined from within by sending intimations of reality to their people through an information war. This is what the concert of democracies confronting China must focus on.

If China can hack into other nations’ Internet and other systems, surely the world can hack into China to tell its people the truth about China and the world.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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