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China is Harvesting Western Military Expertise

China wants what American troops have earned.

The "Five Eyes" alliance – U.S., British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand intelligence – is increasingly united against the growing threat posed by Xi’s CCP to Western society.

Xi poses the most significant threat to the Western world today across economic, military, and geopolitical dimensions. While many warnings focus on traditional deterrence, a recent intelligence bulletin[1] highlights a crucial but often overlooked threat from Beijing.

Specifically, the Five Eyes warned its former troops, specifically fighter pilots, about a coordinated campaign to leverage Western expertise directly and indirectly to benefit Chinese military forces.

China’s (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to target current and former military personnel from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations and other Western countries to help bolster the PLA’s capabilities. The PLA is using private companies in South Africa and China to hire former fighter pilots from Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, and other Western nations to train PLA Air Force and Navy aviators. The PLA wants the skills and expertise of these individuals to make its own military air operations more capable while gaining insight into Western air tactics, techniques, and procedures. The insight the PLA gains from Western military talent threatens the safety of the targeted recruits, their fellow service members, and U.S. and allied security.

This threat continues to evolve in response to Western government warnings to their military personnel and public, so this notice seeks to continue highlighting this persistent, adaptive threat. The U.S. and its Western partners have also taken other actions to counter this threat, including commercial restrictions on the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA), Beijing China Aviation Technology Co. (BCAT), Stratos, and other PLA providers exploiting Western and NATO personnel; and legal and regulatory changes to prohibit former military members from engaging in post-service employment with China.

Why is this warning so important? In a word, experience. The U.S. and its allies have been at war for over 20 years, honing their skills in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, sub-Saharan Africa, and beyond. These troops have mastered complex systems that, in Marine Corps language, integrate systems of "ground, air, logistics, and cyberspace assets under a central command that is built to conduct a full range of operations."

While the U.S. has earned its expertise in 21st-century warfare[2], the Chinese military has not been in a sustained conflict since the 1970s. This should be a significant concern for Xi. There is no substitute for experience. Despite superior numbers and comparable technology, the military's lack of battlefield experience could be China’s Achilles’ heel.

  1. Public bulletins are basically just PDF files, like this one, hosted on government sites – not the most easily accessible messaging format or way of disseminating information. ↩︎

  2. U.S. expertise in warfighting sharply contrasts with the dysfunctional mess called American politics. ↩︎