The Stealth War: How China Took over While America’s Elite Slept by Robert Spalding. New York: Penguin Random House, 2019, pp. 256.

di Marzio Di Feo

Robert Spalding, a retired Air Force Brigadier General, worked for the Defense and State Departments and, as Senior Director for Strategy to the President, he was the chief architect for the national competition framework in the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS).

The Stealth War is an “executive summary” of the challenges that Western democracies face in the interconnected and globalized world. In this perspective, the enemy faced by the West, according the author, is the growing “weaponry” system developed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCP). As the author states: “China is closing on achieving its goal of influencing the politicians and corporations of the United States” (xiii).

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In doing this, China seeks to portray itself as law-abiding and just, manipulating how observers comprehend past, present, and future and accelerating influencing operations “by attempting to become the world’s technology leader, corner the telecommunications market, and export totalitarian social controls to the leaders in developing nations” (xv).

It is worth nothing that the book is not a typical warning essay, providing dystopian future. It is rather a realistic perspective somewhat sensationalistic on when and how this new balance of power could affect and reshape global order as totalitarian regime monitoring lives, thoughts, or racking action against the West. From a national security perspective, the bipolar order during the Cold War was not just based on the development of nuclear weapons.

The West spends its money on “butter” (recalling the “guns versus butter model” between a nation’s investment in defense and civilian goods), i.e. infrastructures, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, research and development. In other words, national security means not focusing on military as a deterrent but on the development of a strong industrial base, investing for the protection against the challenges posed by globalization.

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