UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Chinese and American strategists typically use sports metaphors to explain how they intend to conduct business. This allows you to create the image of two boxers fighting in the western part of the Pacific Ocean.
They circle cautiously, but not one of them runs the risk of striking first. A fight is impossible if the rivals restrain each other or do not see the point in the battle.
The People’s Liberation Army of China bases its strategy and operations on “active defense.” This concept was created by the founder of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Mao Zedong. In 2015, the party leaders announced that even now active defense constitutes “the essence of the military-strategic thought of the Chinese Communist Party”.
More than 70 years of the existence of this strategy prove that this concept is durable. Mao compared the Red Army with a less powerful boxer in a battle with a muscular opponent. Such an opponent does not need to despair. If the weak fight smartly, they will win, despite their physical inferiority. The Maoists make up for weakness with flexibility, patience, and tactical opportunism.
“A strategic retreat,” noted Mao, “is a planned strategic move. We all know that when two boxers fight, a smart boxer usually gives in, and a stupid one breaks into a fight right away and from the very beginning uses all his resources. As a result, he is often defeated.”
Having weakened the antagonist, unable to spend wasted power, the boxer steps on and defeats him. The concept of active protection is understandable to anyone who wears a military uniform. And, most importantly, it is effective and efficient. No wonder Beijing is close to this concept.
But how does America perceive all these metaphors with boxing? At the end of 2017, General Joseph Dunford Jr. wrote an article urging the US armed forces to “support the position of a boxer.” He presented the metaphor as a “central idea” that permeates and revitalizes the US military strategy: “The first step in preparing a fighter is to develop a“ boxer position ”. This is the fundamental position from which all offensive and defensive steps follow.”
The correct position, according to Dunford, is to “maintain energy, balance, be ready to deliver quick, powerful strikes … Since we do not know where, when, and under what conditions the next fight will happen, the US military should always be in the boxer position “.
In order to take a proper combat stance, the US military must “develop and maintain a balanced list of capabilities” in the face of fiscal uncertainty and the need to replace old equipment. The Pentagon must “establish the right order” by distributing resources between theaters to cope with those who pose the challenge, giving preference to allies and partners at the forefront.
If we compare the concept of Danford with the concept of Mao, it becomes clear that the position of the boxer is the same strategic position. It is well suited for those who seek to maintain the world status quo. This is a defensive position in perspective. It means waiting for challenges that will allow the status quo to manifest and then manage them wherever they arise. Weight categories mean almost nothing if the list of potential opponents of America includes China, Iran and al-Qaeda.
The idea of active defense of Mao concentrates on overcoming the only enemy in a single military theater with the help of offensive operations and tactics. Danfords view of the boxer’s position requires collaboration with foreign partners to overcome enemies.
It seems that the images of the same sport can give rise to different strategic concepts. But what happens if the Chinese and American forces remain faithful to the concepts of Mao and Danford and clash in battle? Will Beijing be able to adapt the Maoist concept to a future in which China realizes its ambitions far beyond the western Pacific? The People’s Liberation Army can defend China with active defense, but it does not make sense to maintain active defense in a foreign land.
Thus, the Chinese strategists face an intellectual challenge, as their country turns into a world power. Will China’s future military stance parallel Dunford’s stance? Will it become a hybrid of the ideas of Mao and Dunford – an active defense within the country and the position of a boxer outside it? Or will it be reborn into something radically different?
It is worth considering whether boxing is the best sporting metaphor in an era when great-power strategic competition is mixed with campaigns against smaller state opponents and undermines enemies such as al-Qaeda. Boxing is a well-regulated one-on-one battle between equal opponents in a geometrically defined and faceless setting. This is a closed system where gladiators meet.
And the active defense of the Maoists involves fighting in an open area – the vast continental part of China during the time of Mao, its seas and sky in the current naval competition between the United States and China. The Red Army, and then the People’s Liberation Army, could lure the enemy away precisely because there were no barriers to limit the battlefield. The same goes for Dunford’s idea, but to an even greater extent.
There is no ring for her, unless the ring is the entire surface of the globe. Opponents should not be equivalent to the US armed forces. And it is not at all necessary that the rivals face off against each other in fights. America in many ways enjoys the support of allies and friends and can withstand a hostile coalition.
In short, the position of a boxer is good for forming relationships, but it is ineffective in how to behave in the real world.
Fortunately, there are other sports. Wrestling, not boxing, can create the best looks for strategic competition between great powers. Not the gentleman competitions typical of the Olympics, but WWE wrestling. Boxing is strictly regulated, which allows the judges to comply with the rules and even stop the fight. WWE matches are practically unregulated. This is a fight. Referees allow participants almost everything. Found a chair? Excellent. Hit your opponent in the head with it. Is there a partner outside the ring? Call him in the ring, establish a numerical advantage and beat your opponent. The fight goes beyond the ring? All the better. Throw your opponent out of the ring!
Martial art is similar to WWE. No one applies the rules in tactical battles, no one stops the fight for technical knockout. Indeed, US military commanders, including General Dunford, openly say that they do not want American troops to fight in a fair fight. Commanders want them to deal with a superior opponent in every battle. WWE events are not only sports competitions, they are also spectacles. Both in the ring, and in a real battle, which is waged by the armed forces of a country.
They create units, develop concepts for their use and move them around the map to impress the audience. Sometimes they make dirty, insulting statements about rivals, recall past victories, defeats, or humiliations. The main difference is that the military hopes to win by intimidating rather than entering the ring for a real fight. They are trying to restrain the enemy or make him obey. They also seek to strengthen allies and friends — all without a single shot.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
Contact us: [email protected]