Winning Without Fighting: Chinese Public Opinion Warfare

Winning Without Fighting: Chinese Public Opinion Warfare and the Need for a Robust American Response
By Dean Cheng
November 26, 2012

Abstract : Over the past decade, the People’s Republic of China has exhibited a growing interest in waging asymmetrical warfare. The purpose of this interest is chilling: to enable the PRC to win a war against the U.S. without firing a shot. To this end, the PRC is expanding potential areas of conflict from the purely military (i.e., involving the direct or indirect use of military forces) to the more political. Such expansion will be fueled by manipulation of public opinion, legal systems, and enemy leadership. It is essential that the United States counter the PRC’s new soft-power surge not only by rebutting political attacks, but also by taking the offensive and promoting America’s positions to a global audience.

    Over the past decade, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has exhibited a growing interest in waging asymmetrical warfare. To this end, the PRC released an initial set of regulations regarding political warfare in December 2003, before updating them in 2010. These “political work regulations” for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) address the importance of waging “the three warfares”: public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare.

    The “three warfares” represent the PRC’s commitment to expanding potential areas of conflict from the purely military (i.e., involving the direct or indirect use of military forces) to the more political. Such expansion will be fueled by manipulation of public opinion, legal systems, and enemy leadership. But unlike more traditional military conflict, the foundation for political warfare must be established during peacetime so as to create beneficial conditions and context for the military conflict and, in turn, precipitate an early end to a conflict on terms favorable to the PRC. Indeed, if waged successfully, political warfare allows one side to win without fighting.

    In hopes of being able to alter the strategic context of any future U.S.-PRC confrontation, the PRC is improving its ability to influence both global and Chinese public opinion. If the United States does not counter Chinese political warfare efforts, it may well find that its access to the Western Pacific is endangered by a lack of regional support—long before American forces even begin moving toward the area. In order to avoid being outmaneuvered by a PRC intent on winning without firing a shot, the U.S. must strengthen its strategic communications, public diplomacy, and media outreach capabilities.

Comprehensive Power and Cultural Security

    When the Chinese write about their conception of security, it is often couched in terms of “comprehensive national power [zonghe guojia liliang].” This concept argues that a nation should be judged not simply by its military, economic, or diplomatic power, but by a combination of all of three, as well as its scientific and technological base and its cultural influence.

    Consequently, the PRC considers many seemingly unrelated activities essential to Chinese security. China’s space capabilities, for example, contribute to Chinese comprehensive national power, not only by placing Chinese satellites and astronauts into space to obvious military and political effect, but also by fostering scientific and technical expertise and enhancing China’s economy. Space capabilities also serve as evidence of China’s growing technological prowess and scientific, industrial, and military capability and are therefore considered an important element of public diplomacy.

    At the same time, however, China’s growing interaction with the rest of the world has given rise to concerns about the PRC’s “cultural security.” In late 2011, Chinese leader Hu Jintao gave a speech in which he noted that on the international scene, one characteristic of the competition in comprehensive national power is the growing prominence of culture: “Many major nations have sought to expand their range of cultural soft-power as a means of increasing core national competitiveness.&#8221[1] As the speech goes on to note, this has meant that “international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of Westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration.&#8221[2] The cultural competition is seen not simply as the proliferation of Western videos and entertainment, but as an aspect of ideological struggle.

    This question of “cultural security” is fueled by two elements. The first issue is the residue of what the Chinese term “the Century of Humiliation,” during which China was bullied and exploited by foreign powers. There is a concern that, despite its economic rise and growing military prowess, China remains subject to foreign influences that will undermine its culture. As one Chinese observer has noted, “as an importer of cultural products, ideas, and technologies since the 19th Century, China has every reason to worry about its cultural identity.&#8221[3] China has long demonstrated less confidence in its cultural security and identity than, for example, its Japanese neighbors.

    The second issue driving these concerns about “cultural security” is the PRC’s belief that Chinese cultural products are not given a “fair shake.” For example, Chinese articles lamented that Zhang Yimou’s “Flowers of War,” starring Christian Bale and believed to be the most expensive movie yet made in China, was not even nominated for the Oscar for best foreign film[4] Some believe that this was because of pressure to deny China its due recognition. Conversely, awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is seen as using the award to criticize China.

The Three Warfares: Winning Without Firing a Shot

    There is a military aspect to the PRC’s focus on public opinion, embodied in the concept of “the three warfares.” Chinese military writings emphasize the importance of influencing global public opinion so as to coerce opponents into compliance without having to go to war and to influence an enemy’s leadership, domestic population, and military in the event of conflict, as well as to garner international support.

    Chinese writings suggest that Beijing has accorded ever greater importance to public opinion since the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, when NATO’s aerial bombardment and public diplomacy combined to undermine Slobodan Milosevic—a combination that was equally as effective during the 2003 Iraq war. Indeed, the ability of coalition forces to undermine popular support for the Milosevic and Saddam Hussein regimes, influence global views, and preserve domestic support are seen by the PRC as key factors in the outcome of each conflict.

    Such an ability to influence popular will and shape perceptions, according to PLA writings, constitutes political combat styles under informationalized conditions (xinxi tiaojian xia de zhengzhi xing zuozhan yangshi). These styles are codified for the PLA in the “People’s Liberation Army Political Work Regulations” as the “three warfares”: public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare[5] They employ the range of national resources, including military, civilian, and hard and soft power, guided by the overall military strategy, to secure the political initiative and psychological advantage over an opponent, debilitating one’s opponent while strengthening one’s own will and securing support from third parties[6]

The “Three Warfares”

As noted in a previous Heritage Foundation Backgrounder on legal warfare, public opinion warfare is one of the “three warfares” (san zhan), the third being psychological warfare[7] Chinese analyses almost always link these three types of combat together, as they are seen as interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Specifically, the “three warfares” seek to influence the public’s understanding of a conflict by retaining support from one’s own population, degrading it in an opponent, and influencing third parties. Public opinion/media warfare is the struggle to gain dominance over the venue for implementing psychological and legal warfare. It is seen as a form of warfare independent of armed confrontation or actual hostilities. Indeed, it is perhaps understood most accurately as a constant, ongoing activity aimed at long-term influence of perceptions and attitudes. One of the main tools of public opinion/media warfare is the news media, including both domestic and foreign entities. The focus of public opinion/media warfare is not limited to the press, however; it involves all of the instruments that inform and influence public opinion (e.g., movies, television programs, books). Psychological warfare seeks to disrupt an opponent’s decision-making capacity by creating doubts, fomenting anti-leadership sentiments, and generally sapping an opponent’s will. Legal warfare seeks to justify a nation’s own actions legally while portraying an opponent’s activities as illegal, thereby creating doubts, both among adversary and neutral military and civilian authorities and in the broader population, about the wisdom and justification of an opponent’s actions. In essence, both psychological warfare and legal warfare require the use of public opinion warfare in order to have greatest effect. Public opinion warfare and legal warfare require psychological warfare guidance so that their targets and methods can be refined. Public opinion warfare and psychological warfare require legal warfare information in order to be their most effective[8]

Public Opinion Warfare: Chinese Definitions

    Public opinion warfare (yulun zhan) refers to the use of various mass information channels, including the Internet, television, radio, newspapers, movies, and other forms of media, in accordance with an overall plan and defined objectives to transmit selected news and other materials to the intended audience. It is directed primarily at an opponent’s military forces and is intended to complement national political, diplomatic, and military operations.

    The purpose of public opinion warfare is to shift the overall balance of strength between a nation and that nation’s opponents[9] Such an impact demands more than just securing exposure for a particular point of view or a set of facts. Rather, the goals are to preserve friendly morale, generate public support at home and abroad, weaken the enemy’s will to fight, and alter the enemy’s situational assessment. Public opinion warfare is both a national and a local responsibility, and it will be undertaken not only by the PLA, but also by the People’s Armed Police.

Pillars of Public Opinion Warfare

Chinese writings on public opinion highlight certain themes that provide a conceptual starting point and framework that govern all related military operations. These themes include:

  • Follow top-down guidance. Public opinion warfare must support national political, diplomatic, and military objectives. Its actions must be consistent with the larger national strategy as laid out by the top levels of leadership (i.e., the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and the Central Military Commission). Consequently, public opinion warfare measures must follow higher-level guidance on content and timing.
  • Emphasize preemption. In undertaking public opinion warfare, the side that plants its message first enjoys a significant advantage. Chinese analyses of public opinion warfare emphasize that the “the first to sound grabs people, the first to enter establishes dominance (xian sheng duoren, xianru weizhu).” Essentially, the objective is to establish the terms of the debate and define the parameters of coverage. By presenting its message first, the PLA expects to underscore the justice and necessity of its operations, accentuate national strength, and exhibit the superiority of its forces—all in an effort to undermine an opponent’s will to resist[10]
  • Be flexible and responsive to changing conditions. Under the unified leadership structure and consistent with the requirements of unified, joint operations, commanders should implement public opinion warfare in a flexible manner, taking into account shifts in the political and military situation. At the same time, these commanders should also tailor their methods with respect to specific operations rather than pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach. Thus, when engaging in public opinion warfare against what the PRC considers “secessionist elements,” for example, it is important to use different propaganda activities, depending on the audience. “One must make distinctions between the more stubborn elements and the general populace.&#8221[11]
  • Exploit all available resources. Chinese military writings regularly invoke the ideals of combining peacetime and wartime operations, civil-military integration, and military and local unity (pingzhan jiehe, junmin jiehe, jundi yiti). This emphasis is especially pronounced in public opinion warfare, as civilian resources for public opinion warfare vastly outweigh military ones. Civilian and commercial assets—news organizations, broadcasting facilities, Internet users, etc.—are seen as an invaluable resource in getting China’s message before both domestic and global audiences. Moreover, the use of civilian assets could uncover better techniques and information than might be available through purely military channels[12]

    Within this construct, Chinese writings suggest that, like any other military operation, there are both offensive and defensive components of public opinion warfare. For instance, offensive public opinion warfare seeks to undermine the enemy’s will and weaken any external support while garnering friends and allies. In the first Gulf War, the U.S. used its considerable advantage in information dissemination to bombard the Iraqi military and civilian population with various messages that undermined both Iraq’s will to fight and the people’s faith in Saddam Hussein. In the U.S. war with Afghanistan, Washington employed public opinion warfare mechanisms to create an anti-terrorism coalition, gain support from other major nations, and allay concerns in Arab and Muslim nations[13]

    On the other hand, defensive public opinion warfare is waged to counter enemy public opinion warfare. It entails strong education and news management efforts designed to ensure that the domestic population is not exposed to enemy messages and that, even if they are, those messages will not take root. Defensive public opinion warfare requires prompt, credible responses to enemy criticisms and charges.

    This latter aspect can be achieved only through careful preparation of the public opinion battleground in peacetime. That is, there must be extensive research into tactics and methods for undertaking public opinion warfare, understanding potential opponents’ psychology and national moods, and the nurturing of public opinion warfare specialists. For this reason, PLA writings consistently invoke the saying, “Before the troops and horses move, public opinion is already underway (bingma weidong, yulun xianxing),” emphasizing that the preparation for public opinion warfare must begin far in advance of the actual outbreak of hostilities[14]

Public Opinion Warfare in the Second Gulf War

    For PLA analysts, the second Gulf War provided a demonstration of public opinion warfare under informationized conditions[15]

    According to Chinese analyses, Coalition public opinion warfare efforts began long before the outbreak of overt hostilities in March 2003. Indeed, one Chinese analysis suggests that the United States was waging public opinion warfare against Iraq at least from the time of 9/11, if not the end of the first Gulf War, constantly demonizing Saddam Hussein and Iraq[16] Such a protracted period of public opinion preparation acclimatized both the American and global audience to the idea that Iraq posed a threat to the world. Consequently, when President George W. Bush labeled Iraq part of the “Axis of Evil,” the ground had been prepared for that characterization to take hold.

    Once the decision to go to war had been made, the United States then sought to maintain this early advantage by exploiting its enormous media strength to shape national and global public opinion. According to Chinese writings, this advantage was heightened because Western media, especially American and British news organizations, were aligned with, if not actively subordinate to, the Anglo-American authorities. In an example of how a nation’s own system shapes its perceptions of others, Chinese writings describe the U.S. government as employing CNN and NBC to influence both American and global public opinion in support of the war with Iraq[17] Other Chinese writings suggest that the American media were complicit in claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, because they were “under the control of the government and the military [meiguo meiti you zai zhengfu he junfang de caokong xia].&#8221[18]

    From the Chinese perspective, the “embed” program for journalists was an especially effective means of influencing the global perception. By allowing reporters onto the front lines, it allowed the U.S. to broadcast its operations directly to a global audience, underscoring the power of American military forces. Moreover, Chinese analyses conclude that by incorporating foreign journalists into the program, including ones drawn from China and other nations skeptical of the U.S., American public opinion warriors were able to project an image of objectivity and transparency. If American journalists could be dismissed as being naturally pro-U.S., it would be harder to make the same accusation against journalists from non-Coalition countries[19]

    Meanwhile, to further support its public opinion warfare campaign, in August 2002, with the help of Iraqi dissident groups and exiles, the U.S. created a satellite television station[20] Coupled with a military decision to leave Iraqi communications and broadcasting infrastructure intact (unlike in the Balkan conflicts), the U.S.—as perceived by the PRC—was able to transmit a range of false messages and inaccurate information to undermine Iraqi resistance, using both Iraqi and other frequencies.

American Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy Policy

    The PRC’s interpretation of basic press coverage reflects a fundamentally different view of the relationship between the media and the government. That the PRC would see the major news networks as adjuncts, never mind agents, of American policy suggests that an underlying Chinese assumption is that the press exists to influence rather than inform the audience. This is obviously a fundamental misreading of the role of the Fourth Estate.

    Yet it is ironic that the PRC should express such concern about American public diplomacy, strategic communications, and media policy, given the restrictions and limitations imposed on the ability of the U.S. government to inform as well as influence global opinion.

    First, the American strategic communications effort is declining amid a global information explosion. Despite the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) 2012-2016 Strategic Plan, which called for such programs as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia to be part of the “world’s leading international news agency” by 2016, the BBG’s offerings are shrinking. Efforts to reach audiences in Pashto and Dari (key languages in Pakistan), Tibet, and Bangladesh, among others, are being scaled back even as Chinese investment, broadcasts, and overall presence increases in each region.

    This decrease in America’s strategic communication channels, coupled with the spike in PRC broadcasts, has sparked bipartisan concerns. For example, Representative Zoe Lofgren’s (R-CA) recent letter to the BBG questions the decision to consolidate Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, echoing concerns expressed by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)[21]

    Second, even these limited efforts are hampered by outdated restrictions, such as the Smith-Mundt Act. The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act, first enacted in 1948, was intended to counter Communist propaganda. Specifically, it codified how the United States could engage in public diplomacy, authorizing international broadcasting efforts such as the Voice of America and promoting cultural and educational exchanges with the rest of the world through the State Department.

    Concerned about the potential for governmental misuse of this set of powers, Smith-Mundt prohibited the domestic dissemination of any materials intended for foreign audiences; in short, U.S. public diplomacy was not to be employed where it might feed back to an American audience. While this was viable in an age of radio and TV broadcasts, the rise of the Internet and a global information system effectively stymies most forms of strategic communications and public diplomacy, at least in the context of Smith-Mundt.

    Meanwhile, military psychological operations, or what is now termed military information support operations (MISO), are also facing possible budget cuts. In May of this year, for instance, Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) tabled an amendment to reduce MISO-related funding by nearly one-third[22] In the face of Chinese public opinion warfare efforts, such massive reductions cripple the U.S.’s ability to influence others.

Chinese Lessons and Possible Approaches

    As a result of their observations of the second Gulf War, as well as their own views of the principles of public opinion warfare, PLA analysts now advocate that such warfare must be considered within the larger context of the overall goals of a conflict.

    An essential lesson that the PLA seems to have derived from the second Gulf War is that to truly rival the U.S., it must attempt to counter the American advantage in global access and coverage. As one Chinese article puts it, propaganda guidelines should seek to establish news dominance (xinwen quan) and information dominance (xinxi quan) on the path to obtaining psychological dominance (xinli quan)[23] In this regard, the Chinese seem to be committed to developing a much more efficient strategic communications infrastructure. Starting in September 2011, for example, the Chinese Foreign Ministry began to offer daily press briefings instead of the twice-weekly ones that were begun in 1995. Earlier that year, the Defense Ministry began holding monthly press conferences for the first time[24]

    In this context, China’s expansion of its global news coverage should be seen as part of the peacetime preparation for public opinion warfare. These developments include the creation of a 24-hour English-language global news service under the aegis of the government news agency Xinhua, as well as the expansion of state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) to a more global presence[25] Given the concern about shaping public opinion and the belief that such news organizations as CNN and Fox News are in the service of the U.S. government, it may well be that these new news entities are intended to counter Western news coverage by providing a Chinese view of global developments.

    Similarly, although at a more subtle level, the expansion of the Confucius Institutes around the world may be seen as an attempt to alter the world’s image of China[26] These institutes are often embedded within universities or secondary schools and are funded by the hosting institution and the Office of Chinese Language International, which is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education. The Confucius Institutes promote Chinese language training but focus on “providing information about China’s education, culture, economy, and society, as well as facilitating research on China.”[27]

Countering the PRC Soft-Power Surge

    Chinese security planners are concerned that they are vulnerable to strategic communications and public diplomacy aimed at the general populace. Consequently, Chinese leaders warn about “cultural security” and are intent on building Chinese “soft power,” both as a peacetime response to foreign pressure and as a potential tool in wartime.

    America’s response to this surge of Chinese “soft power,” therefore, must take into account both peacetime and possible wartime applications. American efforts to shape and influence public opinion must be prepared not only to defend the United States by rebutting attacks, but also to take the offensive and promote America’s positions to a global audience. Public diplomacy efforts will be essential in both cases[28]

    Like the PRC, then, the United States needs to influence foreign leaders and populations on a daily basis. This cannot be accomplished through momentary, ad hoc efforts; rather, the U.S. must present itself as a reliable source of information, available on a regular basis. The PRC, like other regimes, seeks to limit discussion and avoid the dissemination of information; the American interest is best served by the free flow of information, both in times of peace and in times of war.

    In the event of a conflict, though, the U.S. needs to have available additional methods by which it can project American messages to an adversary’s population and decision makers and rebut efforts to influence American allies and friends, as well as neutral states. In order to meet this requirement, current public diplomacy efforts should be overhauled and expanded. This reform should be a priority for the next Administration.

    In the meantime, there are steps that can and should be taken in the near term to show China and the world that the U.S. is serious about competing in the global marketplace of ideas. Specifically, the U.S. should:

  • Demand visa parity for U.S. journalists and public access for U.S. broadcasters. The PRC has several hundred journalists operating in the United States, most of whom work for state-owned media outlets. Yet Beijing is unwilling to grant reciprocal access to foreign journalists, including Americans. It should be American policy to demand comparable access for American journalists or else to reduce the size of the Chinese presence in the U.S.
  • Fill public diplomacy leadership positions promptly. The U.S. government needs officials who are accountable for carrying out a new public diplomacy strategy. The Broadcasting Board of Governors, for example, is currently operating with most of its members still serving on expired terms.
  • Improve strategic communications and public diplomacy training for military public affairs officers. The Chinese see public opinion as playing a key role in shaping the global and operational environment, and during any military conflict, they likely will strive to influence such sentiment. American military public affairs officers (PAOs) need to be cognizant of this and be suitably trained and prepared both to respond and, when possible, to seize the initiative.
  • Sustain funding for MISO operations. A review of Chinese assessments of American psychological warfare/MISO operations in recent conflicts indicates that the PLA and Chinese decision-makers in general are very concerned with the West’s ability to propagate its message to both senior leaders and the broader populace in wartime as well as peacetime. For the United States to reduce spending in this area unilaterally, especially when total MISO-related spending is about $250 million (equivalent to the cost of two F-35 fighters), would seem to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.


    The information era provides unparalleled access to both a nation’s leaders and its population. The PRC has made clear that, in the event of a conflict, it will exploit that access to try to influence an adversary in hopes of winning a war without firing a shot. Even today, during a time of peace, the PRC is laying the groundwork for such soft-power operations. It is therefore essential that the United States counter that influence now while preparing to use its own arsenal of political warfare weapons should a conflict ever arise.

—Dean Cheng is Research Fellow in Chinese Political and Security Affairs in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

[1] Hu Jintao, “Holding Unswervingly to a Socialist Cultural Development Path with Chinese Characteristics, Strive to Build a Nation Strong in Socialist Culture,” Qiushi, January 4, 2012, (accessed October 15, 2012).

[2] Edward Wong, “China’s President Lashes Out at Western Culture,” The New York Times, January 3, 2012,

[3] Xinhuanet, “China’s Cultural Security Lies in Openness and Exchanges,” October 27, 2011, (accessed October 15, 2012).

[4] “Golden Statuette Can Help Elevate Cultural Appeal,” Global Times, February 27, 2012, (accessed October 15, 2012).

[5] A new edition of the PLA Political Work Regulations was released in September 2010. Xinhuanet, “Newly Established ‘Political Work Regulations of the PLA’ Are Promulgated,” September 13, 2010, (accessed October 15, 2012).

[6] Academy of Military Sciences, Operations Theory and Regulations Research Department and Informationalized Operations Theory Research Office, Informationalized Operations Theory Study Guide (Beijing, PRC: AMS Press, November 2005), p. 403.

[7] Dean Cheng, “Winning Without Fighting: Chinese Legal Warfare,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2692, May 21, 2012, /research/reports/2012/05/winning-without-fighting-chinese-legal-warfare.

[8] Liu Kexin, Study Volume on Legal Warfare (Beijing, PRC: National Defense University Press, 2006), pp. 18, 34–37.

[9] Academy of Military Sciences Operations, Informationalized Operations Theory Study Guide, p. 405; Liu Gaoping, Study Volume on Public Opinion Warfare (Beijing, PRC: NDU Press, 2005), pp. 16–17.

[10] Yao Fei, “Some Thoughts Regarding Our Military’s Anti-Secessionist Public Opinion and Propaganda Policies,” Military Correspondent (PRC), No. 5 (2009), (accessed October 15, 2012); Ji Chenjie and Liu Wei, “A Brief Discussion of Public Opinion Warfare on the Web,” Military Correspondent (PRC), No. 1 (2009), (accessed October 15, 2012).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Wang Zijun, Chen Tao, and Mo Jinshan, “Explaining People’s Armed Police Public Opinion Warfare Thought,” Hebei Legal Newspaper, April 6, 2010, (accessed October 15, 2012).

[13] Sheng Peilin, Wang Lin, and Liu Ya, eds., 100 Examples of Public Opinion Warfare (Beijing, PRC: PLA Publishing House, 2006), pp. 162–163, 208–209.

[14] Nanjing Political Academy, Military News Department Study Group, “Study of the Journalistic Media Warfare in the Iraq War,” China Military Science, No. 4 (2003), p. 28.

[15] “Informationized conditions” refers to the application of information technologies to all aspects of warfare, including command and control, logistics, weapons, intelligence, etc. In the Chinese view, it is the military aspect of the Information Era, in which technology developments have facilitated the collection, storage, management, analysis, and exploitation of information. Future wars are described by the PLA as “Local Wars Under Informationized Conditions.” Xie Zheng, On Informationized Operations (Beijing, PRC: Academy of Military Sciences Publishing House, 2006), p. 5.

[16] Nanjing Political Academy, “Study of the Journalistic Media Warfare in the Iraq War,” p. 28.

[17] Fan Gaoming, “Public Opinion Warfare, Psychological Warfare, and Legal Warfare, the Three Major Combat Methods to Rapidly Achieving Victory in War,” Global Times, March 8, 2005.

[18] Liu, Study Volume on Public Opinion Warfare, p. 27.

[19] Nanjing Political Academy, “Study of the Journalistic Media Warfare in the Iraq War,” p. 32.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Representative Zoe Lofgren, letter to Michael Lynton, Interim Presiding Governor, Broadcasting Board of Governors, June 7, 2012, (accessed October 17, 2012).

[22] Tom Vandenbrook, “House Panel Calls for Serious Cuts to Propaganda Spending,” USA Today, May 17, 2012, October 15, 2012).

[23] Nanjing Political Academy, “Study of the Journalistic Media Warfare in the Iraq War,” p. 30.

[24] Yan Weijue, “Ministry to Hold Daily News Conferences,” China Daily, September 1, 2011, (accessed October 15, 2012); Xinhuanet, “China’s Military Diplomacy Boosts Relations with Foreign Forces in 2011: Defense Ministry,” January 17, 2012, (accessed October 15, 2012).

[25] Xinhua, “Xinhua Launches CNC World English Channel,” July 1, 2010, (accessed October 15, 2012); Tania Branigan, “Chinese State TV Unveils Global Expansion Plan,” The Guardian (UK), December 8, 2011, (accessed October 15, 2012).

[26] Helle Dale, “The State Department’s Confusion over Confucius Institutes,” The Heritage Foundation, The Foundry, June 13, 2012,

[27] Guo Xiaolin, Repackaging Confucius: PRC Public Diplomacy and the Rise of Soft Power (Stockholm, Sweden: Institute for Security and Development Policy, January 2008), p. 32.

[28] For an extensive discussion of public diplomacy, see Helle C. Dale, Ariel Cohen, and Janice A. Smith, “How Other Countries Are Using Public Diplomacy to Oppose the U.S.,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2698, June 21, 2012, /research/reports/2012/06/challenging-america-how-russia-china-and-other-countries-use-public-diplomacy-to-compete-with-the-us.

Six Entitlement Reforms to Solve the Real Fiscal Crisis


Six Bipartisan Entitlement Reforms to Solve the Real Fiscal Crisis: Only Presidential Leadership Is Needed

By J.D. Foster, Ph.D. and Alison Acosta Fraser
November 30, 2012

Abstract: The United States faces a real fiscal crisis, and the impending fiscal cliff of massive tax hikes and spending cuts in January is only the first act. In early 2013, the federal government will exhaust its ability to issue debt legally. Yet as large and as major a concern as federal budget deficits are today, they are of secondary consequence compared with the fiscal quagmire of unaffordable entitlement spending in the next decade. Fortunately, the entitlement problem can be resolved by six simple reforms to improve the fiscal future for Social Security and Medicare. But to implement these reforms, President Barack Obama must lead.

A high-stakes fiscal policy debate of unique size and import has just begun. Absent congressional action to the contrary, a massive slate of tax hikes and spending cuts will take effect on January 1, and that is only the first act. The second act will occur early in 2013 when the federal government will exhaust its ability to issue debt legally. Both acts need prompt solutions.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–OH) made the first move. After congratulating President Barack Obama upon his reelection, Boehner promised a willingness to work with him, giving Obama the additional revenues he desired through pro-growth tax reform accompanied by reforms in entitlement programs.[1] President Obama’s counter, while unsurprising, was unhelpful because he focused exclusively on fiscally meaningless and economically harmful tax hikes on upper-income taxpayers. The President repeatedly has argued for a balanced approach, but he has yet to offer a single meaningful proposal on spending reductions.

While the President prepares to start his second term, he should set about negotiating in good faith with Republicans, especially in the House where Republicans were returned to office in the majority with expectations of cutting spending without increasing taxes. The voters, we are told, expect it. This means the President cannot sit back and just harp on revenues. He needs to address spending and in particular entitlements.

Fortunately, the President has occasion and opportunity to lead by proposing some simple yet transformational reforms in two of the prime sources of the nation’s fiscal problems: Social Security and Medicare. Better yet, many such reforms have already been thoroughly considered and enjoy broad bipartisan support, lacking only the moment and the leadership to become a reality. These proposals will not resolve either program’s key structural flaws—they constitute a start of the reform journey, not the conclusion—but they would be a powerful start that would markedly alter the nation’s fiscal trajectory.

At the start of a President’s second term, the political stars are in the best possible alignment for solving big problems. All the President needs to do is seize the moment. This is the moment; President Obama must lead.

Fiscal Cliff: By Design, Not by Chance

Many events arrive by chance, but the present fiscal spectacle is not one of them. The fiscal cliff results from explicit actions by Congress and the President to push difficult fiscal policy issues past the recent election. In this, they succeeded, although it took a series of legislative acts to accomplish it. With regard to taxes:

  • The payroll tax cut, extended in the spring of 2012, will expire on December 31, 2012.
  • The extension of the Bush tax cuts, signed into law in December 2010, will expire at the end of the year.
  • This same law also established a new structure for the death tax with a 35 percent rate and a $5 million exemption per spouse, which will expire at the end of the year.
  • Various Obamacare tax hikes begin at the start of 2013.[2]

The same pattern holds for the spending cuts. For example, the sequester slated to gouge defense spending while making modest cuts—such as a 2 percent across-the-board cut to Medicare providers—reflects the final leavings of the earlier Budget Control Act, which created the failed “supercommittee.” Early in 2012, Congress also prevented deep and disastrous reductions in Medicare provider payments, but this “doc fix” remedy expires at the end of the year.

In May 2011, the federal government exhausted its legal authority to finance deficit spending by issuing debt. The U.S. Department of the Treasury exercised its typical but limited authorities for temporarily creating more room under the “debt limit,” allowing policymakers to postpone action until early August. A brutal and economically risky political battle ensued, eventually resulting in legislation that raised the debt limit by $2.1 trillion, sufficient to fund the federal government past the November election.

Projections now suggest that the government will reach the debt limit late in 2012, after which the Treasury will again deploy its limited authorities. This will trigger what could be another difficult negotiation for Congress and President Obama—a negotiation that will be heavily influenced by what happens with the fiscal cliff.

No Time for Distractions

President Obama clearly believes in raising taxes on upper-income taxpayers, and he is willing to weaken the economy, slow job growth, and constrain wage growth to do so. It is difficult to fathom his acceptance of this trade-off of economic security for an ideological doctrine of social justice, especially considering that this long-standing debate likely will rage indefinitely. However, these tax hikes are a distant sideshow in the present context, a political distraction that diverts attention from the central fiscal issue of runaway spending, which gives rise to persistent and economically dangerous deficits.

In his own budget, the President proposed to extend the Bush tax cuts except for those making $250,000 or more, raising $836 billion over the next 10 years. His companion proposal to limit the value of deductions for upper-income taxpayers would raise another $574 billion, for a total of $1.4 trillion. In absolute terms, that is a lot of revenue. However, even allowing for all the other budget gimmicks and tax hikes in Obama’s budget, the federal debt would rise by $7.7 trillion over the next 10 years including these tax hikes and by $9.1 trillion without them.

Obama’s tax hikes would reduce the rise in federal debt over the next 10 years by about 15 percent. The President is silent about the remaining 85 percent. The numbers confirm that President Obama’s tax hike demands are at best tangential to attaining a balanced budget.

Fiscal Cliff Today, Entitlement Crisis Tomorrow

As large and as major a concern as federal budget deficits are today, they are nevertheless secondary in consequence to the fiscal quagmire of unaffordable entitlements. Social Security and Medicare in particular share certain vital characteristics. Both programs are extraordinarily complicated, having been built up in complexity over the years one Congress at a time. Similarly, each program badly needs programmatic reforms. For example, the minimum benefit in Social Security is woefully inadequate to protect low-income seniors from poverty, and Medicare still lacks a catastrophic benefit. These are only some of the many shortcomings that must be addressed in fundamental overhauls of each program.

Of most immediate concern, however, is that Social Security and Medicare are unaffordable in their current forms. When this year’s kindergarteners enter college, just 13 years away, spending on these two programs plus Medicaid and interest on the debt will devour all tax revenue. (See Chart 1.)


Social Security will lack the funds to pay full benefits beginning as early as 2033.[3] Medicare’s unfunded promises in current dollars reach into the many tens of trillions of dollars. These facts are not in dispute. Solutions to our fiscal challenges are needed, urgent, and inevitable.

Carpe Diem, Mr. President

The fiscal cliff and the debt limit have set the stage, but there is also the reality of the rhythms in the American political system. There are certain windows in every four-year or eight-year cycle when bold leaders can achieve bold things. The first few months of a reelected President’s second term is one such window, but it closes fast, and lame-duck status arrives quickly.

Thus, the President must adopt the mantle of leadership, rather than brinksmanship, to steer the nation away from the fiscal cliff and all that is set to follow, and he must start with spending. However, the critical silver lining is that simple, commonsense, and thoroughly vetted solutions such as the four listed below constitute a strong start on the journey to more complete programmatic reforms remedying acknowledged flaws in these programs, and they already enjoy broad support across the political spectrum.

  1. Raise the Social Security eligibility age to match increases in longevity. Originally set at 65, the normal eligibility age is rising two months every year until 2022, when it will reach 67. According to the Social Security actuaries, continuing to increase the eligibility age to 69 by the year 2034 and allowing it to rise more slowly thereafter to reflect gains in longevity could go a long way toward reducing Social Security’s funding shortfall.[4] While this would not reduce today’s budget deficit, it would strengthen Social Security’s finances and dissipate far more important long-term budget pressures.
  2. Correct the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The annual COLA benefit adjustment is determined today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI). However, the CPI, an antiquated measure, generally overstates inflation, meaning that benefits are increased a bit too much each year to offset inflation. The effect on benefits in a given year of switching to a more accurate inflation measure is minute, but Social Security spans generations.[5] Again, according to the Social Security actuaries, using a more modern inflation measure would substantially reduce Social Security’s shortfall over time.
  3. Raise the Medicare eligibility age to agree with Social Security. Medicare has an eligibility age problem, but unlike Social Security, the Medicare eligibility age remains stuck at 65. An obvious solution is to wait five years and then slowly raise the eligibility age to align eventually with the Social Security eligibility age. While the short-term budgetary savings would be negligible, the long-term savings in Medicare would be profound.
  4. Reduce the Medicare subsidy for upper-income beneficiaries. In 2012, the average Medicare beneficiary received a subsidy of about $5,000. The subsidy is the per capita amount of Treasury revenue that is used to fill the financial hole arising each year because Medicare’s premiums are inadequate, in conjunction with its other revenue sources, to cover Medicare’s total costs. Subsidizing Medicare benefits for low-income seniors—and perhaps for some middle-income seniors—makes sense, but upper-income seniors do not need and should not receive a $5,000 subsidy to buy Medicare health insurance. The Medicare subsidy was first cut for the wealthiest seniors in legislation signed by President George W. Bush in 2004 by income-relating premiums so that higher-income beneficiaries pay a higher share of their Medicare cost. It was cut further in Obamacare, and President Obama proposed to pare it back still further in his budget proposals of February 2012 with still-higher premiums for upper-income beneficiaries.

    Medicare has many programmatic problems that demand attention, and the sooner the better, but the immediate fiscal problem is straightforward: It is the subsidy. The total cost of the Medicare subsidy—about $230 billion in 2012—will soar over time as health care costs rise and the baby boomers retire.[6] Paring back the subsidy for well-to-do retirees is an obvious step toward reducing the budget deficit today and shoring up Medicare for the long run.

Bolder Proposals

The four foregoing proposals for Social Security and Medicare meet the test of simplicity, being relatively easy to communicate to the American people, having been thoroughly vetted, and enjoying widespread support. Together, they would dramatically improve America’s fiscal future for the better. Two additional proposals, one each for Social Security and Medicare, meet the tests of simplicity and effectiveness but have not been considered as intensively. Yet they should also garner bipartisan support and consideration.

  1. Phase out Social Security benefits for upper-income retirees. Everyone who has ever paid into Social Security is entitled to the benefits prescribed by law. However, as a nation, we need to ask whether today’s working families should pay payroll taxes so that upper-income retirees can continue to receive their checks. We need to ask why phasing out the Medicare subsidy to upper-income seniors while continuing to send them their full Social Security check would make sense. In short, Social Security should be social insurance against poverty rather than a government-run pension scheme.

    Some might charge that this is redistributionism, but would anyone suggest that millionaires should receive food stamps? Food stamps and other welfare programs are specifically intended to operate as part of the social safety net, yet their existence constitutes a form of redistributionism that most Americans accept. Social Security (and Medicare) should become real insurance against poverty, meaning that only those seniors who need help should receive help. On the other hand, if Social Security remains a universal government-run pension, then it remains a vastly larger program built on an entirely different redistributionist principle: redistribution from workers to retirees, including the wealthy.

  2. Consolidate Medicare’s elements and collect a single higher premium. Medicare is actually three distinct components, referred to generally as Parts A, B, and D, reflecting the fact that Medicare was built up over many years. This antiquated structure is confusing and inefficient. An obvious reform is to consolidate the three distinct parts into a unified Medicare program.

    Medicare Parts B and D each require beneficiaries to pay a premium covering 25 percent of the cost of the programs. As the Medicare Parts are consolidated, the premium should be consolidated as well and then raised to 35 percent of the relevant costs.[7]


The nation’s fiscal problems, today and beyond, derive entirely from excess spending, especially entitlement spending, not a dearth of revenue. While current revenues are exceptionally low as a share of the economy, this is due almost entirely to the weak economy. As analysis by the Administration’s budget office and the Congressional Budget Office affirm, revenues will return to a more normal 18.5 percent of the economy as the economy recovers. Given these facts, President Obama’s insistence on an economically harmful tax hike for what is essentially a fiscally meaningless increase in revenues will not help policymakers navigate successfully around the fiscal cliff.

A hopeful sign, however, is that the political timing is propitious, and important policy reforms in Social Security and Medicare are simple, straightforward, and well known. These proposals, while not correcting more fundamental programmatic flaws, would materially correct the spending excesses in these programs. Better yet, these proposals are not partisan in nature, but have been supported on a bipartisan basis in the past.

All that is lacking to avoid the fiscal cliff, profoundly stabilize the nation’s public finances, and shore up these critical entitlement programs is for the President to take the lead. The nation waits.

—J. D. Foster, Ph.D., is Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow in the Economics of Fiscal Policy in and Alison Acosta Fraser is Director of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

[1] Alison Acosta Fraser, “Boehner’s Olive Branch: More Revenues, but Only Through Growth,” Heritage Foundation, The Foundry, November 9, 2012,

[2] Curtis S. Dubay, “Taxmageddon: Massive Tax Increase Coming in 2013,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 3558, April 4, 2012,

[3] David C. John, “Social Security Finances Significantly Worse, Says 2012 Trustees’ Report,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 3577, April 23, 2012,

[4] Social Security Administration, Office of the Chief Actuary, “Individual Changes Modifying Social Security,” Actuarial Publications, December 21, 2011, (accessed November 27, 2012).

[5] The Social Security actuaries have considered in particular a modern measure of inflation known as “chained CPI” (C-CPI). Price indices of this sort are constructed by looking at a basket of goods and services to proxy all consumer purchases. The traditional CPI rarely changes the basket and thus steadily becomes a less accurate proxy as the pattern of consumer purchases changes. The more modern C-CPI, relying on advances in economic theory, updates this reference basket regularly and thus better proxies consumer purchases.

[6] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2012 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the Federal Health Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds, April 23, 2012, p. 10, Table II.B.1, (accessed November 27, 2012).

[7] See Robert E. Moffit, “The First Stage of Medicare Reform: Fixing the Current Program,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2611, October 17, 2011,

The Attack on America – Stealth, Lies, and Deceit

The Attack on America – Stealth, Lies, and Deceit
November 6, 2012 – A New Day of Infamy
    This Committee for the Constitution has written extensively about the attack on America brought to our shores by “enemies, foreign and domestic”. Embracing ideologies that diametrically oppose the Framers’ intention, those in our midst who seek to destroy all that made this “one Nation under God” great have enlisted the support of a liberal media spewing forth the lies and deceptions that have misguided and misdirected the public. Using the advances of science those seeking to replace truth and “justice for all” have hijacked the political process to achieve their historically proven false, never successful, temporary economic and political goals and agendas.
    The following article by Ernest Istook describes how the intelligence for the war against freedom and justice was garnered leading to the espionage of this past election. It is our purpose to educate all who want to reclaim our heritage as to some of the details about how this evil was carried out. Apart from the lies and deceptions in the media propaganda, our education system has abandoned the standard of truth. Without a foundation of truth according to the Framers’ intention no political system can long endure. Parents must take responsibility for educating their children. Only truth can set us free, and only justice for all can protect that freedom!
    How then did evil, injustice, and untruth steal this election in addition to the false information? First, those Americans who failed to vote ignored their responsibility. Secondly, those who chose to believe the untruths without seeking truth are as much at fault. Truly, we deserve to be where we are. Freedom is never free! Thirdly, satiated by an imposed standard of living or tolerating injustice only feeds the parasites of government and bureaucracy. Fourthly, the enemies of truth and justice mobilized in ways that have never been used before. They literally paid the unemployed to go house to house, person to person in the neighborhoods of the working poor to glean the  support and vote of those who have never voted before. Focusing on what governments provide to the undeserving, they held the threat of the loss of unjust welfare before them. Simply, these new voters were bribed, coerced or extorted!
By Ernest Istook
Friday, 16 Nov 2012 04:20 PM

    Nine million people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 did not vote this year. But by applying new voter science, Obama nudged enough replacements in key states — many who were rare or first-time voters — to give him his margin of victory (leveraged even larger by the Electoral College).

     Years of stealthy multimillion-dollar efforts paid off for America’s left in the 2008 and 2012 victories by President Barack Obama. Using new voter science to get rare and first-time voters to go to the polls, the races have changed America’s electorate — those who make the country’s decisions by showing up and voting.
    Aided by $5 million minimum from George Soros, plus millions more from others, at least two secretive institutions were created to enable this effort by focused research on behavioral science. Their results are made available only to liberals and their causes.
    Those are findings from writer Sasha Issenberg. In an interview with me on my “Istook Live!” radio program, Issenberg put a special spotlight on the Analyst Institute (AI), which he has called, “a firm quietly founded in 2007 by A.F.L.-C.I.O. officials and liberal allies”.
    The AI has been quietly stacked with behavioral scientists, mostly Ph.D.s or Ph.D. candidates from Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth (with Notre Dame and University of Chicago thrown in for good measure). They coordinate with market researchers for various commercial products. AI materials brag that the Institute supports “a community of 400 data analysts and related professionals in collaborating and sharing their findings through monthly Analyst Group meetings and retreats.”
    Issenberg’s book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns details more history, as do his articles written for
    As Issenberg told Istook, “The big leap in the last five or six years has come from Democrats looking to commercial markets. Campaigns are able to see in the real world what is pushing voters to change their behavior.” He says this has reversed the advantage that Republicans had enjoyed after 2004 when they began using micro-targeting to categorize voters.
    The progressive cause’s analysts look for “sweet spots in the electorate,” gathering as many as 1,000 points of data on each voter, far more than in most surveys.
    Although not made public, the findings are shared with the other special organization that Issenberg explains was created to apply the research. This is Catalist, headed by longtime Democrat operative Harold Ickes, a former Deputy Chief of Staff in the Bill Clinton White House.
    Catalist’s website describes its mission, “To provide progressive organizations with the data and services needed to better identify, understand, and communicate with the people they need to persuade and mobilize.”
    Their website,, identifies 237 clients, including over 50 Members of Congress, Planned Parenthood, Rock the Vote, the Democratic Governors Association, AFL-CIO, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Human Rights Campaign, ACLU, Emily’s List, Sierra Club, Families USA — basically the entire inner circle of the Left.
    Catalist helps its clients to apply the research done by Analyst Institute. For example, one basic finding was that door-to-door contact far exceeds the success from any other form of communicating with voters. That led to the Obama campaign’s intensive focus on that approach. But there was plenty more to apply.
    Issenberg told the radio audience, “The Obama campaign wrote a $22,000 check every month to the Analyst Institute; it looked like a consulting contract the same way they would pay a media consultant to make their ads. The Analyst Institute was consulting with them on how to run experiments and had a full-time staff member stationed in Chicago . . . So it serves all the sort of functions and the intellectual culture of the left of a think tank but has all the secrecy that a consulting firm would . . . They don’t have to actually show who their investors are or any sort of audit.”
    AI also makes available to progressive groups what its documents describe as “memos summarizing hundreds of experiments on topics including GOTV [Get Out the Vote], . . . persuasion, identifying persuadable voters, and preventing long lines on Election Day.”
    In 2008, AI reported it had “partnered with dozens of organizations to execute 44 large-scale field experiments. Topics included which voters are ‘persuadable,’ [and] how behavioral science insights can be translated into voter contact tactics.”
    AI listed its 2009 and 2010 priorities as research that included:
  • What Are The Predictors Of Persuadability?
  • Increase The Use Of Impact‐Based Communications.
  • Which Advocacy Tactics Are Most Effective?
  • How Can We Best Use Social Networking Technology?
  • How Can We Effectively Engage Surge Voters?
  • Can We Experimentally, And Quickly, Test The Impact Of Television Ads?
  • Enhance Skills Of The Progressive Data Community.
    According to Issenberg, the funding to develop this research capability came from liberal donors unhappy with the money they “wasted” in 2004 in efforts to defeat George W. Bush by funneling a fortune through 527 groups.
    Issenberg told the audience that these donors included the deep-pocketed billionaire George Soros, “and they felt — how Crossroads and Restore Our Future donors may be feeling now — that their money was wasted; and they started focusing not on making big contributions to win a single election but to institution-building. And so they’ve spent years of investing; it’s hard to put a price on what it adds up to but now those institutions are basically paying for themselves . . . They want to make Democrats better at winning elections.”
    Those multimillion-dollar investments have provided an edge to the Obama campaign in how to persuade and turn out voters. Since 2008, according to Issenberg, the GOP has marked time rather than catching up, in part because, “The chairmanship of the RNC changed three times in the last four years.”
    While Democrats enjoined four years of unity and a known incumbent candidate, “Mitt Romney had to fight a primary. The best-case scenario is that he would have only six or nine months to, sort of rev up. I’m not convinced that they took great advantage of those six or nine months.”
    As Issenberg writes in “The Victory Lab,” the work of Analyst Institute has “upended much of what the political world thought it knew about how voters’ minds work, and dramatically changed the way that campaigns approach, cajole, and manipulate them.“
    Applying that research is no guarantee of winning, “But experimental insights could decide close races — by nudging turnout up two points here, six points there.”
    Those nudges added up to give Obama his margin of victory.