Last Updated on 6 months by Piyush Jain
Book Review – The Hundred Years Marathon
China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower
By – Michael Pillsbury
The hundred Years Marathon book is an exciting read of the Chinese strategy’s story to achieve the superpower status. Michael Pillsbury carries more than 40 years of research experience in China before writing this book, stating the change in relations between the US and China over the years. The book’s importance increases as the FBI and CIA have screened the book before releasing so that it does not divulge any US state secret.
The book is fact-filled with ample references of the ancient books, events, and political dialogues between statesmen. The author tilts towards the American policy (obviously) and considers that only China is doing what is wrong, while most of the power-seeking countries have followed the opportunist policy in some form or the other.
The book is a must-read for policymakers and politicians to learn how to take a nation forward.
The author starts this chapter with the elaboration of an event conducted at the Smithsonian Museum. A Chinese artist demonstrates his work of art and warns the country as he decimates the Christmas tree in stages and at the cost of the taxpayers’ money. A Christmas tree is a symbol of Christianity and the west. It was a tacit warning that only an artist could give.
China portrayed themselves as atrocities victims from Japan and the west. They demonstrated low ambitions. There was a use of deception techniques in all their interactions with the world to achieve their objectives.
They spread various notions of their moves and motives in the form of
- Engagement brings complete cooperation.
- China is on the road to democracy
- China is a fragile flower
- China wants to be and is just like us.
- China’s hawks are weak.
China cleverly spread this notion so that nobody is aware or doubts it’s intentions. It will continue to do things peacefully and on the level that they lead the world order at some point in time.
Chapter 1: The Hundred Years Marathon – The China Dream
“There cannot be two suns in the sky, nor two emperors on the earth.”
Keep things fuzzy, give indications but not talk about it. Appear weak, but keep working in a silo. Chinese also took Darwin’s theory of evolution as not survival of the fittest, but as a theory of elimination. The weak would be devoured by the strong, and the fools would be ruled over by the wise.
Chairman Mao Zedong identified the book “The General Mirror for the Aid of Government,” written in 4000 B.C. It had various teaching on strategy. Deng Xiaoping read this book again and again till his death in 1976. He also instructed all officials to keep reading this book. There was no translation of this book, so the west never knew about it. This was a strategic miss. This book stated how to use deception, avoid getting encircled by opponents, and induce complacency in the old hegemon until the right moment.
The author states many incidents where China stayed back in the Soviet Union’s shadow and learned from the KGB of various tactics they used for deception. In some instances, they also indicated their global ambitions, which were laughed at then, looking at the scale of the economy they had. Though they were under the shadow of the Soviet Union and were taking all the benefits, they also tacitly indicated their inclination towards the US to keep the Soviets in control.
One of the jokes in the diplomatic circles goes on like this.
“The KGB tells me you have a new supercomputer that can predict events in the year 2000,” Brezhnev says.
“Yes,” Nixon replies. “We have such a computer.”
“Well, Mr. President, could you tell me what the names of our Politburo members will be then?”
There is a long silence on Nixon’s end of the line.
“Ha ha!” Brezhnev exclaims to Nixon. “Your computer is not so sophisticated after all.”
“No, Mr. General Secretary,” Nixon replies, “it answers your questions, but I can’t read it.”
“Why not?” Brezhnev demands. “Because it is in Chinese.”
One another book, “The China Dream” by Col. Liu Mingfu, was used in China’s National Defense University for teaching future Generals of the PLA, states the first instance of “The Hundred Years Marathon” to the world (not China). The book communicates the strategies that China will use to become a superpower. It does not consider that only military power can be used to become a superpower. It will use its economic and ethical ability to achieve the position. Chinese values, language, and culture will be used all over the world and so that they fit under heaven.
How will China implement this? As per Zhao Tingyang, there is a system of tianxia, where after winning the economic marathon by two times, i.e., becoming an economic superpower twice than that of the 2nd position. If a country refuses to accept the Chinese system, then the military force that is four times greater than any military power will be implemented.
The US did the same until the 1940s to achieve the same.
Chapter 2: The Hundred Years Marathon – Warring States
This chapter narrates about multiple strategies stated in ancient Chinese literature that the kings used to defeat stronger adversaries. They used deceit to create chaos, confuse them, and manipulate them to lure them into doing what they wanted them to do. SHI is the primary deception technique. This has various forms and various interpretations and took seven books to state the details.
The book states nine tactics to win a war. I will give indications of some of them to induce interest in you to read the book.
- Keep extreme patience for years as that itself can give you prolonged victory.
- Never divulge your true intentions so that any of your enemies know that you can be a rival. Never verbally try to assess the strength of the opponent as that itself is an intent.
- Try to take control of maximum resources around yourself, as that itself will give you power in times of need. This is what the colonial powers did in the 18th century, and now China aims to do when they eye on lands of various countries and the South China Sea.
- Give false indications to your rival so that he spends more to gather strength and thus bleed himself out. This is what the west did to the Soviet Union during the cold war.
- Do not hesitate to steal technology & knowledge and develop further to gain strength.
- Be effective in every penny spent. Chinese developed a few million-dollar missiles to sink a 4 B dollar aircraft carrier. They maintained a balance in developing nuclear arsenal as well as conventional power.
- They developed economic power as well as a military power. Military power never exceeded a specific limit to attract attention from superpowers.
- Trick your opponent to do what you want him to do. An example is when Tom Sawyer coaxes his friends to paint the fence, which he did not want to do. He suggested that this is the task that only he could do, and doing this was a great thing.
- Encircle your enemy. Assist him also, as well as facilitate the effort where he gets encircled himself. This is similar to the “Go” game, where the one which encompasses the enemy wins. One should open up new positions and take further actions so that the enemy is always confused about the intentions.
Further, the author narrates a famous Chinese novel, “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” The tale states how the weaker king turned a threat to an opportunity. He was quick enough to understand the deception and instead mislead the spy. He thus weakened the more massive army and defeated them without increasing their power.
Chapter 3: The Hundred Years Marathon – Only China Could Go To Nixon
This chapter contains eye-opener facts. Though being communist, how did China manage to keep the Soviets in control? They lured the US to keep the Soviets in control; in fact, they finish the Soviets’ hegemony without getting their hands dirty and getting multiple benefits from the US.
At the start of the 1970s, Deng Xiaoping started luring the US, saying that it looks forward to the US’s support to protect it from the Soviets. The US also complied. They helped China with intelligence information, but China never gave them any in return. It even offered to open the CIA office in China.
Good examples of keeping out of all the problems were in the 1971 India Pakistan war. The US gave all information to China about Indian positions and Army movement. The US wanted China to pressure India through India’s eastern borders so that India be stopped from dismembering Pakistan, but China did not even blink. It kept itself out of this. The US let is go assuming that China is a defensive nation. China earned a soft corner with the US politicians, as they kept India at bay and removed the naval surveillance from the Taiwan strait (thus double benefit).
Further, China made multiple deals in various sectors for technology collaborations. Chinese students flooded the US universities. Sino-US relations were at the peak when the US gave missile and other defense equipment technologies to China. They even got access to the most prestigious DARPA program for cyber warfare technology.
Who do you think defeated the Soviets in the Afganistan war? Do you think it is the Taliban? NO. China benefitted here too. The US gave the Chinese $2 Billion and supplied weapons to Afghans. This served many purposes. Finish Soviet domination in the world, get technology benefits from the US, and the financial benefits from the deals. Not only this, all other skirmishes in Asia were a source of earning for China. The US would fund the program, and China would supply the weapons in the conflict areas with a good profit margin.
Did all this help from the US make China a trusted ally? Since the Soviets were down, now it was the US’s turn to be the target for China.
Chapter 4: The Hundred Years Marathon – Mr. White and Ms.Green
This is another piece of great work by the author, where he states how the situations changed a very short time. The Tiananmen Square protest in 1989 was a turning point when the US had to reevaluate its relations with China. Nothing was clear, and the US officials had no clue what to do. In this time, many people escaped from China and landed in the US for their safety. As the author labels him, Mr. White tells the FBI that the situation is not acceptable, and the possibility of trusting the Chinese government is not a good idea. On the contrary, another person, Ms. Green, said that everything is good, and China remains a trustworthy partner of the US.
China’s assurance of going towards democracy was, in fact, a reverse policy. They had tightened up control over the media and their citizens further.
President Bush remained bullish on China and continued to support the Chinese Government, while President Clinton was not in favor of China. In 1993, he invited Dalai Lama and other pro-democratic leaders, which was not taken well with the Chinese. The Chinese called it the “Clinton Coup.” Further, the relations deteriorated with the incident of the Chinese embassy bombing in Belgrade in 1993.
CCP also got unconfirmed reports that the US had ignited the 1989 protest, which profoundly impacted the two countries’ relationship.
Finally, the FBI gets documents which prove that China had an anti-US policy. Ms. Green was arrested as she had misguided the US policymakers and must-have transferred secrets from the US to China.
Chapter 5: The Hundred Years Marathon – America, the Great Satan
The author narrates that after 1989, China reversed its policy towards the US. They simply went ahead and demonized it. China rewrote its educational literature to portray the US and western powers wanting to subdue China, rule on it, kill its people, exploit it, and make sure that it remains that way. It carried out this propaganda using media, making films (Like Silent Contest and The Pentagon in Action), setting up museums. China made sure that the classified literature is not translated to keep things in the darkness.
In the current situation, even the incidents before 1949 were also attributed to the US. They demonized even President Lincoln and other presidents in the 1800s for the current state of China. The US wanted China and Japan to keep fighting so that when they both are weak, the US can dominate them. They intended to kill two birds with one stone. 1st they would control their citizens, and 2nd was to inspire people to end the US dominance.
Still, China wanted to keep this defamation program under low light so that the US does not issue it.
Chapter 6: The Hundred Years Marathon – China’s Message Police
The chapter details how the Chinese plan their communication strategy. The author narrates an ancient china story of 2 kingdoms of Fuchai and Goujian. Fuchai, as a hegemon, wanted to overpower Goujian. Goujian initially meekly complied with Fuchai and pledged loyalty with Fuchai. The king even went ahead and became Fuchai’s king servant. Slowly it started poisoning the land, making it weak. It misguided Fuchai’s officials to make the country vulnerable. This act led to overpowering Fuchai.
There was a book published “Unrestricted Warfare” from PLA Army press, which claimed that what are various ways the country aims to defeat the hegemon, using unconventional methods. Later PLA Army disowned saying that these are not its views.
When China wanted to enter WTO, it sent its communication in a structured manner to invite and not join. They would slowly push the communication to spread the sentiment. China also promoted the local pro-China people in the US to speak pro-China and spread nice words for it purposely. Starting the well funded Confucius Institute was again a significant step to spread the Chinese influence. They portrayed it as a media to spread multiculturalism and understanding of the Mandarin language. It would be just a cultural awareness and no ideological propaganda. That was quite far away from the truth. One could not discuss Tiananmen Square, Tibet, or Dalai Lama there. The institute would fund give grants to the university also and develop goodwill with the intellectuals.
The author himself, who was earlier quite pro-China, was later seen as anti-China. He was denied a visa later when differences came in. This act was similar to many ground reporters who reported on various things that Beijing did not like.
The key theme is simple: China is not a threat. America should help China to emerge as a global power peacefully.
Chapter 7: The Hundred Years Marathon – The Assassin’s Mace
The chapter details the Chinese strategy of defeating a more significant power than it is. The author is the part of the Pentagon War simulation group and says that China can never win in a conventional war. While if they use assassin’s mace strategy, they win all the time.
What is the assassin’s mace? Assassin’s mace is a strategy to build a power based on the enemy’s weakness or uses unconventional techniques to defeat the enemy, like an ambush, cutting off supply lines, etc.
There are various initiatives which the Chinese military is taking to develop this arsenal.
- Do not enter the rat race of ICBM missiles. Instead, develop laser or electromagnetic weapons to destroy the ICBMs much before touching the target.
- The US is highly dependent on its information system network. Put in sleeping zombies, or virus, that can be activated whenever required. They sit in the machines/setups even before installation and without any knowledge of the users. (Though the US used the same technique to destroy the Iranian nuclear program using Stuxnet.) This can completely disrupt the airports, railways, electrical systems, and any of the IT-dependent operations.
- Hack into the critical IT system and steal information on the advanced weaponry operations to effectively use it when required.
- Attack the satellite system, which facilitates say remote communication. This can be done by either destroying, hijacking, or bugging them. China focuses on the development of anti-satellite systems.
- Rocket-propelled sea mines – These mines just keep afloat, and when the enemy armada is nearby, they would get triggered and destroy the ships. China focuses on Carrier killer missiles. A million-dollar missile will sink a billon dollar carrier.
- Build an electromagnetic pulse weapon, which is equivalent to an electronic nuclear bomb. It would knock off all electronics and electrical systems within a radius.
Further, the author finds out that China fears that the US can block its sea-route, plunder the natural resources at sea (which China considers it’s own), and dismember the country by fueling terrorism, unrest, and riots. Chinese also fear the US Aircraft Carrier strike force a lot, so you can see many Chinese Aircraft Carriers coming up at a rapid pace.
China aims to reserve $1 Trillion by 2030 for the weapons development program to strengthen it’s assassin’s mace.
Chapter 8: The Hundred Years Marathon – The Capitalist Charade
“Take the opportunity to pilfer the goat” – The Thirty-Six Stratagems.
China was committed since the 1970s, that it will raise its overall stature. The world bank suggests to China that if they keep the growth rate of 5.5 percent per annum, they can be at par with developed nations in 2050.
They prepared a plan and kept learning from the west. Their PLA military officers who were to become the generals undertook courses on the best strategies to raise the best companies. They took various models, procedures, and practices to implement in their ecosystem. They understood how to build a healthy ecosystem to invite investments, keep them safe from financial troubles.
Furthermore, the World Bank made six private recommendations, not revealing them to the outside world. The bank had made a politically sensitive decision to endorse China’s socialist approach and made no genuine effort to advocate for a real market economy.
- For the two decades after 1985, China needed to change the composition of its exports to emphasize manufactured goods, particularly high-tech products increasingly.
- The bank warned Chinese leaders not to slide into excessive borrowing from foreign sources.
- The bank economists warned China to encourage foreign direct investment only for advanced technology and modern management techniques.
- Spread foreign investment and joint ventures out from the special economic zones to a wide range of locales.
- Phase-out its foreign trade companies and let each SOE establish its foreign trade arrangements.
- China should regularly reevaluate the long-term framework for the whole economy to make the right changes.
CCP gave protection to the SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) and promoted the trades that made them few of the world’s Fortune 500 companies. They focused on manufacturing and using advanced technology to make better products. China had no respect for copyright and intellectual property rights to take advantage of the technology. They manufactured counterfeit products to grab the markets.
The good thing was they kept their progress decentralized. They did not restrict export zones or selected zones, but the Chinese could manufacture anywhere.
They got entry to the WTO, giving a ray of hope to the world that they are moving towards democracy (which was never confirmed). It was expected that they would follow fair trade practices, which again is being flouted without issues.
When they did technology advancements, intelligence services also intervened. They had some of the other undisclosed aspects. For this, Huawei faced a lot of resistance in the international market for its sale.
Use any strategy to develop, be it through state powered SOEs or the private companies; they just wanted to keep up the development rate.
Chapter 9: The Hundred Years Marathon- A China World Order in 2049
“The guest becomes the owner” – Thirty-six stratagems.
If the guest comes to your house and influences you to sing his song, eat his burger, and wear his dress, soon your home will be his house. Similarly, China wants to create an alternative where he is the deciding factor and not another country. You will be promoting your values if you have control over it.
Did you know that like NATO, there is SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), which, unlike NATO, cooperates with countries for trade, legal, financial cooperation with China and CIS countries?
China gives more loans (to the magnitude of $2 Trillion) to various countries, which is more significant than World Bank Loans. It influences countries which are not democratic and supports them. China will support countries that do not have good relations with the US. They will also proliferate weapons programs for a cost to nations aspiring for the same as Pakistan, North Korea, Syria, Iran, etc. in the Iraq war; it even supplied $25 decoys for misguiding JDAMs to miss the targets. It will promote the biological weapons program to get an advantage. Covid-19 is one perfect example. Earlier it worked on H1N1 flu and blamed the US for it.
Chapter 10: The Hundred Years Marathon – Warning Shots
The chapter elaborates that the world is seeing China as the next hegemony. Will the US start a cold war with China? This indicates that China has moved forward, while this is also an alert that China is attracting attention before reaching the end of the marathon.
China has asserted his position everywhere against all the countries around it. It has taken a hard stance against Japan as well and many other countries.
China had tried to normalize its relations with the neighbors at one point in time. China inspired Japan to increase its defense budget and prepare an ally against the US, but this did not work. It had a treaty with Taiwan and started doing business together. It tried to put stakes in the media to publish more pro-China stuff, but this did not work out.
China has to keep an eye that they do not miss any 100-year marathon principle to reach the finishing line.
1. Induce complacency to avoid alerting your opponent.
2. Manipulate your opponent’s advisers.
3. Be patient—for decades, or longer—to achieve victory.
4. Steal your opponent’s ideas and technology for strategic purposes.
5. Military might is not the critical factor for winning a long-term competition.
6. Recognize that the hegemon will take extreme, even reckless action to retain its dominant position.
7. Never lose sight of shi.
8. Establish and employ metrics for measuring your status relative to other potential challengers.
9. Always be vigilant to avoid being encircled or deceived by others.
Chapter 11: The Hundred Years Marathon – America as a Warring State
“Steal the firewood from under the cauldron” – Thirty-Six Stratagems.
Knowing the Chinese strategies and motives, what does the US do? Use Chinese tactics and defeat them in their own game. The author states various parameters that say the competitiveness of a country and keep an eye on it.
The further author states the steps the country must take to defend its interest.
- Recognize the problem
- Keep track of your gifts
- Measure competitiveness
- Develop a competitiveness strategy
- Find common ground at home
- Build a vertical coalition of nations
- Protect the political dissidents
- Stand up to anti-American competitive conduct
- Identify and shame polluters
- Expose corruption and censorship
- Support prodemocracy reformers
- Monitor and influence the debates between china’s hawks and reformers
The author also states that the US should not fall in the intellectual trap of the Chinese strategic moves and keep its growth rate high, as that is the only factor that will decide who wins the race. In any case, if China succeeds in maintaining the growth rate, then it will win.
Book review of The Hundred Years Marathon – https://www.huntingfishing.com/index.php/chinese-100-year-marathon/