Day Three: CIOR Seminar Dives Deep

Day three of the CIOR Seminar continued the trend of taking a deeper dive into specific areas of interest in China, with Cyber Strategy, Taiwan and the South China Sea studied further by John Lee, Dr Sarah Kirchberger and Dr Bill Hayton.

By: Lt Sarah George, UK Army and 2nd Lt Catalin Florea, Romanian Air Force, both with background from CIOR’s Young Reserve Officer program.

While the public agenda is dominated by cyber espionage, China’s real ambition in the Information and communications technology (ICT) environment is “to achieve a situation of mutual vulnerability”, believes Mr. John Lee, from the Mercator Institute for China Studies.

As the world sees Chinese digital presence increasing, especially through Huawei and Tik-Tok, the underlying reality remains that the country relies on Western companies, its strategic adversaries, for upstream technologies. It is believed to be ten-fifteen years behind the most advanced Western nations in the manufacturing of semiconductors, and currently imports almost all of the microchips it requires.

It is also dependent on the American university system for the training of its cyber experts and entrepreneurs.

                                                                 “There is no doubt about China’s intention

                                                                           to become a “cyber superpower”

However, there is no doubt about China’s intention to become a “cyber superpower” – a goal stated by president Xi Jinping himself. To this end, China has benefited from acting as a manufacturing hub for Western technology companies. It has also developed strong domestic control of the internet, turning it into a contained network where search queries are resolved locally and at least two million human censors are engaged in content monitoring and filtering.

As it pursues absolute transparency of online actions at home, the Communist Party of China (CPC) also supports stronger Chinese presence in engineering commissions setting new standards and internationally, in the developing markets which will provide the next waves of internet users, believes Mr. Lee.

– Increasingly aggressive posture towards Taiwan

The Taiwanese “are basically incapable of becoming citizens of the PRC”, stated Dr. Sarah Kirchberger, Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK), towards the end of a compelling presentation about the China-Taiwan relationship, in the context of an increasingly aggressive Chinese posture.

Dr. Kirchberger pointed out that Taiwan is perceived as a current threat by China on several levels – politically, geostrategically and, more specifically, as a de facto ally of the US. Indeed, holding Taiwan is regarded as the key to China’s development into a seapower, as it provides access to deep waters and a way out of the US friendly islands off the East and South East coast of China.

Therefore, “retaking Taiwan is the PLA’s [People’s Liberation Army, China’s armed forces] primary mission”, believes Dr. Kirchberger. To this end, she commented on the Chinese interest towards the Russian hybrid war in Crimea, frequent military actions and exercises around Taiwan, as well as regular cyber and information attacks on media and public institutions.

As a harbinger of an even more aggressive approach, president Xi Jinping stated that “the Taiwan question” should be solved by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

– Appeasement has rarely worked

For the US, “this is a massive challenge in every sense”, said Dr. Kirchberger, confronting NATO’s focus on Europe and Russia to the interest of the US in preserving the current status of Taiwan. The speaker advocated for a policy of deterrence towards China, rather than appeasement, as “looking at the track record of rising powers wanting to change the status quo, appeasement has rarely worked”.

Dr. Bill Hayton’s subsequent lecture on the South China Sea and Chinese interest in the area was the perfect follow-on from Dr. Kirchberger’s talk on Taiwan.

The strategic Importance of deep sea

The key for both of the talks was the strategic importance of deep sea to create access and then an impregnable bastion for Chinese ballistic missile submarines to manoeuvre within. Looking at an aerial photograph of China, one is immediately struck by the fact that the whole coast has extended continental shelf, which isn’t deep enough for the submarines to operate in. Thus China’s strategy for retaking Taiwan has been complemented with a strategy to reclaim the South China Sea.

Man-made islands

Dr. Hayton explained how the historical claim that China has presented to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is actually based on a series of historical cock-ups by geographers with dotted lines being coloured in to create island claims where there were no islands and mistranslations.

Despite The Philippines having won the PCA award [Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration], China has refused to accept it, despite the fact it is legally binding. Dr. Hayton nevertheless concluded that there are yet grounds for optimism, as the PRC still feels the need to justify its actions in rules based language.

Screenshot from Dr. Bill Hayton’s lecture on the South China Sea

Photo gallery by Lt Col Bill Grieve (R), US Army/ CIOR Public Affairs:

China expert at CIOR Seminar: – Should keep our minds open

The annual CIOR Seminar – titled “China, Threat or Opportunity” – opened on Saturday (22. Feb.) with introductions by former Swiss Ambassador Philippe Welti and Dr. Andreas Wolfrum* on Chinese strategic interests, culture and economy, setting the scene for the rest of the week where the lectures were scheduled to take a deeper dive into more specific questions.

By: Lt Sarah George, UK Army and 2nd Lt Catalin Florea, Romanian Air Force, both with background from CIOR’s Young Reserve Officer program.

Sunday included lectures by Dr. Christopher D. Yung, Dr. Oliver Corff and Dr. Lyle Goldstein.

                                            “We should keep our mind open to the possibility of change 

                                                                                                            in Chinese Foreign Policy.”

                                                                                                                              – Dr. Lyle Goldstein

Dr. Yung opened with a baseline brief on what most China experts agree on: that China has experienced unprecedented economic growth, which has coincided with an increased defence budget: 10% growth for two decades; a constantly modernising military and finally, although it is still a point of debate whether China does indeed pose a threat to US national security, there are definitely contingencies that could involve direct conflict.

Dr. Yung then went on to discuss his own professional take on China and its intent, that it prioritises internal security over defence.

                                              “What keeps Xi Jinping up at night worrying is Xinjiang.”

                                                                                                                                                     – Dr. Yung

What keeps Xi Jinping (Chinese President) up at night worrying is Xinjiang, says Dr. Yung. Xinjiang is an autonomous region in North-Western China. A substantial part of the population are Turkish tribes with Muslim faith. The Uighurs alone constitute 45 per cent of the population in the province, and they have since long felt socially and economically marginalized in China. Human rights activists claim that that Uighurs are subject to religious persecution.

Dr. Lyle Goldstein (left) and Dr. Christopher Yung (right) with Lt Col Hans Garrels (centre), Dutch Army and Chairman of the CIOR Seminar Committee. Photo: Lt (R) Sarah Alexandra George, UK Army.

Stronger, more unified international power

Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has aided him to consolidate power, placing China in a stronger, more unified position to act internationally.

What China really wants is not a subject universally agreed on, but Dr. Yung argued a very strong case for why China would want the period of strategic opportunity to continue: A peaceful and stable environment is key for a nation that has incredibly ambitious economic growth targets. Unlike Western nations, China doesn’t see a trade spat as equating to increased likelihood of conflict.

Wants to return to regional hegemony

Dr. Yung presented evidence for why China would want to reform the international order, however, returning to regional hegemony in a multipolar world.

As these long term objectives are contrary to US national security interests, he argued that this poses a challenge to the US, especially as China does have, and is further developing, the capability to operate ‘out of area’ in protection of overseas economic and political interests.

He argued that while China does not currently pose a global military threat to the International System, and NATO, the US is a core constituent part of NATO.

“Military-civilian fusion”

The concept of a strong China is tightly related to the “mutual dependence between economic and military strength”, said Dr. Oliver Corff during the CIOR Seminar in Bonn.

Dr. Corff spoke about military-civilian fusion as an important principle of Chinese development plans, connecting civilian areas such as manufacturing to national defence.

He pointed out stability as the most important interest of the Communist Party of China (CPC), as this enables its secure and unchallenged rule.

Territorial Integrity

Another core interest is territorial integrity, fuelled by concerns regarding regions such as Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet – and, more recently – Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

Finally, a third core interest would be development in all areas, from military to healthcare, rooted in Leninist historical determinism, said Dr. Corff.

China’s national security framework stands as a manifestation of this approach, as it covers not only military or territorial issues, but also extends to environment, society and culture.

“Asia’s Security Paradox”

Dr. Corff considers that China’s grand strategy is a good match to Asia’s Security Paradox – the fact that strengthening economic ties and interdependencies does not result into commensurate increases in regional security and mutual confidence.

* Dr Andreas Wolfrum works at the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Budeswehr, Department of Education, and is himself a Naval Reserve Officer with the rank of Commander. 

Image gallery by 2nd Lt Catalin Florea, Romanian Air Force.  











“Seminar 2020” launched in Bonn

The CIOR Seminar 2020 opened in Bonn Saturday morning, with over 50 participants from 13 nations.

Among many European countries represented were also Australia, South Africa and the USA. The theme for this year’s Seminar is “China – Threat or Opportunity?”, with a distinguished panel of very high calibre speakers. The audience spans from young reserve officers to CIOR Vice Presidents (heads of national delegations) and military staff specialists.

Have a look at this presentation video!

For more on the 2020 CIOR Seminar, click here!


Strong Outputs at Mid-Winter Meeting

The CIOR Mid-Winter Meeting was succesfully completed Friday. As tradition dictates, the two and a half days of intense and very fruitful working sessions were wrapped up with a closing session in the auditorium of the NATO Headquarters.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt Col (R) Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs

The Presidents of CIOR and CIOMR both thanked the organising staff and their teams for a productive meeting.

Looking back – and moving forward

The CIOR President, Colonel (R) Chris Argent emphasised that he had sensed a feeling of new Energy and Purpose in all of CIOR’s work during the meeting, with the enabling power of technology now in place to support communications, preparation for, and in-between meetings – and distance learning. He also emphasised the range of tasks in which CIOR is now engaged, and encouraged the Vice Presidents (heads of member delegations) to strengthen their national teams.

Argent also summed up the progress that has been done in the last 12 months from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with NATO’s National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC); productive outcomes within the CYBER joint work program; and development of a Reserve Advisor post at NATO’s operational headquarters, SHAPE. There has been no such post a SHAPE since the previous one was abolished in 2005.

Strong outputs

Argent said there has been strong outputs with regard to the preparations of the Civil-Military Exercise (CIMEX) and the CIOR Language Academy (CLA) – and what Secretary General, Colonel Adrian Walton called “a really promising Digital Journey with a management tool, development of Virtual Learning and, finally, “a greatly enhanced CIOR website”.

There were strong outputs at the CIOR Mid-Winter Meeting, among other areas within CIMIC. Photo: Bill Grieve, Lt Col (R) US Army/ CIOR Public Affairs.

Summer Congress re-confirmed for Liege

The CIOR President then brought the attention to the remaining activities of the UK Presidency, the next meeting of the organisation, IBM4, at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Berkshire, UK; and not least the Summer Congress 2020 in Liege, Belgium this August.

Summer Congress 2021 in Athens

Worth mentioning is also that the Summer Congress of 2021 has been decided located to Athens, Greece.

CIOMR endorsement of intranet portal

Finally, CIOMR (medical officers) has voted to embrace a ‘CIOMR Connect’ intranet portal based on the success that CIOR so far has had with the said Facebook ‘Workplace For Business’ collaboration tool. CISOR (non-commissioned officers) is considering doing the same.

The auditorium of the NATO Headquarters was used for both the opening and closing ceremonies. Photo courtesy Henry Plimack, Capt US Coastguard Reserve (Retd.)/ CIOMR Public Affairs.

CIOR Mid-Winter Meeting opened at NATO HQ

The Mid-Winter Meeting (MWM) of CIOR opened this morning at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

By Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt Col Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs and Major Jean-Francois Lambert, Canadian Armed Forces/ CIOR Public Affairs (Photo).

The two and a half day meeting started with an opening session in the auditorium of the “new” headquarters building at Boulevard Leopold III.

CIOR Secretary General, Colonel Adrian Walton, opened the show before President, Colonel (R) Chris Argent updated the audience on last year’s progress towards the organisation’s goals and objectives.

The annual winter meeting helps shape the second half of the work year prior to the 2020 Summer Congress.

There was also an introductory session in which CIOR and it’s sister organisation CIOMR (for medical reserve officers) presented themselves to each others attendees.

The CIOR Council and the various committees then went to work on their respective programs of work.

CIOR President, Colonel (R) Chris Argent opening the mid-winter meeting in Brussels.
The CIOR President briefing on the progress towards the organisation’s goals and objectives.
CIOMR President, Major (R) Sylvano Ferracani and CIOMR Secretary General, Brigadier General (R) Francois R. Martelet.

CIOR President meets with ACT Chief of Staff

CIOR President Colonel (R) Chris Argent paid an office call on Chief of Staff Allied Command Transformation, Vice Admiral Paul Bennett CB OBE, during the CIOR Presidency’s visit to the NRFC Winter Plenary Meeting in Norfolk Virginia.
Colonel Argent briefed Admiral Bennett on the current developments in CIOR and the refocusing of the Confederation upon defined military outputs in support of NATO.
The Admiral took a keen interest in the range of activities undertaken by CIOR and recognised the important contribution made by Reservists to NATO. It was particularly agreed that the employment of the range of tools now available in Information Technology made it possible to further increase the utility of Reserves, and the President pledged to fully exploit this exciting opportunity.
CIOR President Colonel (R) Chris Argent has met with Chief of Staff Allied Command Transformation, Vice Admiral Paul Bennett.

CIOR Delegation meets with Canadian Reserve Leaders

The CIOR delegation participating in the NRFC winter meeting in Norfolk, Virginia last week, Saturday met with Canadian two- and one star Reservist leaders in Ottawa.

The CIOR delegation met with Major General Mackenzie OMM CD, Chief of Reserves and Employer Support; and Brigadier General Bindon CD, Deputy Chief Reserves and Employer Support.

Brigadier General Bindon CD, Deputy Chief Reserves and Employer Support; and Major General Mackenzie OMM CD, Chief of Reserves and Employer Support.

– We had a very productive discussion on CIOR and UK/Canadian Reserve opportunities, says CIOR Secretary General, Colonel Adrian Walton.

The CIOR Presidency delegation Saturday met with Major General Mackenzie OMM CD, Chief of Canadian Reserves and Employer Support (centre); Brigadier General Bindon CD, Deputy Chief of Canadian Reserves and Employer Support (far left).

CIOR Presidency Team in Cyber Discussion with NRFC

A team from the CIOR Presidency this week participated in the Winter Plenary Meeting of NATO’s National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC) in Norfolk, Virginia.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt Col (R) Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs

The meeting took place at the headquarters of Allied Command Transformation (ACT), one of NATO’s two strategic commands and the only NATO entity in the United States of America.

Norfolk, VA: CIOR President Col (R) Chris Argent briefing the winter meeting of the National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC) on current state of affairs in the confederation.

On the agenda was among other current topics concerning international peace and security, evolving challenges in the cyber domain. The President in return gave a briefing on the current state of affairs in CIOR.

The CIOR entourage included the President, the Secretary General and the Assistant Secretary General.

An executive summary of the outcome of the NRFC meeting and of other meetings that took place on the occasion of the trip, will be briefed to the CIOR executive body, the Council, during the organisation’s Mid Winter Meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels 19-21 February.

For more on NRFC, click here!

For more on HQ SACT, click here!

From the NRFC meeting in Norfolk, Virginia, where the CIOR President, Secretary General and the Assistant Secretary general were discussing cyber opportunities with NRFC. Photo: Colonel Adrian Walton.


Headquarters, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (HQ SACT) in Norfolk, Virginia. Allied Command Transformation (ACT) is one of NATO’s two strategic commands, and the only NATO entity in the United States of America. Photo: HQ SACT.

CIOR Presidency visiting US ROA en-route to NRFC meeting

The CIOR Presidency team en-route to participate in the Winter Plenary Meeting of NATO National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC) at Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (HQ SACT) in Norfolk, Virginia. On the way, the delegation was visiting the US Reserve Officer Association HQ on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

For more on US ROA, click here!

For more on NRFC, click here!

For more on HQ SACT, click here!

From left: Executive Director of the US Reserve Officer Association (US ROA), Major General (Retd.) Jeff Phillips; CIOR President, Colonel (Retd.) Chris Argent, CIOR Vice President USA, Brigadier General (Retd.) Mike Silva; Colonel Adrian Walton; and Lieutenant Colonel (Retd.) Mark Coburn, in the lobby of the US ROA headquarters in Washington DC.


Key CIOR Events for 2020

This list is an overview in abbreviated form of the key CIOR events for 2020. Please refer to national delegations for questions about attendance and contents. Some of the events will be promoted here on the public website, in addition to the information posted on the ‘CIOR Connect’ intranet portal.

MWM 20 NATO HQ, Brussels 18-21 Feb 2020

CIOR Seminar, Bonn 22-25 Feb 2020

YROS – Brno CZ, 25-28 March 2020

IBM 4 Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, London – 20-23 April (NOTE new date from initial date one week later)

NATO School, Oberammergau (NSO) – NATO Reserve Forces Integration Course (NRFIC) 27 April to 1 May 2020

CLA 2020 – Liege 19-31 July 2020

CIMEX 2020 – Liege 2-7 August 2020

CIOR/CIOMR/CISOR Summer Congress Liege 3-7 August 2020 (Includes YROW – NOTE dates 2-7 August)

CIOR Symposium Liege 5th August 2020

NSO – Senior Reserve Officers Course (SROC) – 7-11 Sept 2020

IBM 1 German Presidency – Nov 2020 Location and Date TBC

The 2020 CIOR/CIOMR/CISOR Summer Congress will take place in Liege, Belgium 3-7 August.