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How China Wins the Cognitive Domain

  • Published
  • China Aerospace Studies Institute

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) believes the cognitive domain is imperative to achieve victory in any conflict. While kinetic attacks have a specific physical target, in the cognitive domain the target is the mind. In conflict, great physical damage can be achieved, but if the adversary still has a will to fight, they have not yet been defeated. Unlike a kinetic attack, battle for the cognitive domain happens regardless if it is during peace time or war. Ideally, perceptions and narrative can be controlled in a way to achieve strategic objectives without the need for actual conflict. Like many conceptual ideas the CCP implements, the cognitive domain is not something uniquely Chinese, but rather a concept first developed by the United States Department of Defense in their report to Congress in 2001 titled “Network Centric Warfare”1. Since that time, coverage of the cognitive domain in People’s Liberation Army (PLA) media has been an area of discussion and analysis. Recently, China’s Academy of Military Sciences (AMS)i has published a work titled, "Taking the Pulse of Cognitive Domain Operations" which breaks down how to succeed in the cognitive domain with eight operational characteristics. This work provides insight into the possible strategic mindset of the PLA and particularly how technology, information dominance, and both military and civilian components have a role to play in the battle to seize the commanding heights of the cognitive domain.

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