China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the government had goodwill toward Taiwan's people but will never tolerate Taiwan's disregard for the safety of Chinese fishermen.

"The mainland reserves the right to take further measures, and Taiwan shall bear all the consequences," it added, without elaborating.

Kinmen was the site of frequent fighting during the height of the Cold War but is today a popular tourist destination, though many of the islets that are part of the island group are heavily fortified by Taiwan's military and off limits to civilians.

Taiwan, whose government rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims, says China has been using so-called grey-zone warfare, which entails using irregular tactics to exhaust a foe without actually resorting to open combat, including sending civilian ships into or close by Taiwanese waters.


Is there any other country that used grey-zone warfare in the 21st century? There's this article on VOA that describes the use of grey-zone warfare by China against Taiwan. Grey-zone warfare is the use of irregular tactics to exhaust a foe without actually resorting to open combat, including sending civilian ships into or close to a country's territorial waters. I was wondering if any other country than China did this in the current century.

3 Answers 3


Unlike the (quickly accepted answer) based on the SOCOM paper that only defines gray zone as kinetic actions by unclear/deniable actors, other publications define it more broadly as :

US adversaries are increasingly pursuing their national objectives in a little-understood arena: the so-called “gray zone” between peace and open conflict. Seemingly a relic of the Cold War-era international order, conventional military campaigns have given way to hybrid warfare involving cyberattacks, information campaigns, and an array of other non-violent pressure. What’s more: The United States and its partners are losing the battle to the world’s far more audacious autocracies.

I suspect that the China-Taiwan claim is in this broader sense.

The US and/or Israel have been accused of having done cyberwarfare against Iran, for instance. So the list in that sense is surely broader.

And even for some kinetic actions like the January killing of a high-level Hamas official in Lebanon, Israel doesn't take official responsibility. That would more neatly fit even the SOCOM definition. And like the [suspected] Israeli killings abroad, some Ukrainian attacks deep into Russia have also been officially unclaimed. Likewise Iran isn't mentioned in the 2015 SOCOM paper, probably because all the limpet mine etc. incidents hadn't happened yet. Iran has also been accused of killing (or at least plotting to kill) opposition figures in the West, some of which it claims responsible for terror attacks. And so has India been accused of killing or attempting to kill Sikh separatists abroad, which it labels as terrorists.

BTW, I would not have included this since IMHO deaths by melee in fights between uniformed troops don't seem to neatly fit the above definitions (one might call it medieval/retro warfare), but India has explicitly accused China of "grey zone warfare" on their common border. Apparently their definition is that grey zone warfare is anything short of "unrestricted warfare".

Some other US authors even appear to include economic sanctions as:

the goal should be to establish sanctions as the United States' most potent deterrent in the gray zone between war and peace [...]

I'm not going to list who's put economic sanctions on whom.

Wikipedia also notes (citing an Australian 2020 paper) that there have been critics of the "gray zone" term:

Use of the term grey-zone is widespread in national security circles, but there is no universal agreement on the definition of grey-zone, or even whether it is a useful term, with views about the term ranging from "faddish" or "vague", to "useful" or "brilliant".


The 2015 USSOC Gray Zone White Paper specifically mentions Russia, China, and ISIS/Daesh.

  • To be fair though, the concept discussed there is more kinetic (i.e. actually blowing shit up) than what China has been doing thus far around Taiwan. The only example that seems to apply to China that is given there is just the mention of the Korean war as grey-zone war in the figure/timeline. (Which is correct because the Chinese forces didn't participate under PRC's flag but as a separate "volunteer" army.) Commented Feb 18 at 15:23
  • And they also mention the US itself as participating in such, e.g. in the (rather forgotten) Dominican Republic affair of 1965-66. It even adds somewhat ambiguously "For every traditional war the US military fights, it engages in multiple gray zone operations." The paper doesn't seem to make much of a distinction between insurgency and counter-insurgency, it's all a "gray zone". Commented Feb 18 at 15:26
  • And that's probably because on p. 8 the paper advocates US doing more insurgencies. E.g. it proposes that rather than directly taking on China in the South China Sea, the US should essentially finance insurgencies by "surrogates" threatening Chinese interests in Africa. Commented Feb 18 at 15:34

The Chinese Internet is full of concerted voices, but these accounts have no history of interaction on these platforms. These "people" are called "digital lives". These "digital lives" can be seen everywhere in the comment areas related to the Russian-Ukrainian issue, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, major disasters, government failure and other issues. They induce regional or inter-sectoral discrimination by fomenting antagonism. These "attacks" are generally believed to come from Taiwan, and the sponsors behind them are mainly from the United States.

There are also a group of "colonized people" on China's Tik Tok. They achieve the purpose of brainwashing the Chinese people and reducing their sense of national identity by touting free medical care in the United States, happy education in the United States, and low prices in the United States without any restrictions. This act is called "reading the draft". They have specialized organizations and they have people who write special speeches for them. All they need to do is to read out these speeches in their own videos or in the live broadcast room. Then they can get some pitiful money, at least for Internet laymen without a huge number of followers.

This series of online warfare methods that have lasted for more than ten years are quite effective. However, in recent years, a group of authors who specialize in countering online public opinion wars have appeared on Chinese video platforms. They continue to arm the minds of Chinese netizens, expose the true nature of the public opinion war through face-to-face confrontation, and effectively curb the spread of the public opinion war among young and middle-aged people.

  • 1
    You think "China fans" may be derogatory, but alluding to Taiwanese etc. as "colonized people" is not? And of course China has a free internet, so the voices of "colonized people" disappearing is not at all related to the activity of PRC censors. /s Commented Feb 19 at 10:08
  • @Fizz If you don't know what "colonized people" means, you can let me explain it to you instead of maliciously speculating on its meaning.
    – yamakaze
    Commented Feb 20 at 1:21
  • Next time I stop in Beijing I'll make sure to drop by your lectures. Or you can upload them to YouTube for everyone's illumination. Commented Feb 20 at 1:22
  • @Fizz Colonized people: They have an unrealistic spiritual yearning for Western countries, but they have no knowledge of these countries, mainly the United States. Because they listened to the rumors of illegal immigration agents, they believed that medical care in the United States was completely free, that happy education in the United States could cultivate elites, and that prices in the United States were low. This concept is just a possible judgment based on a person's words and deeds, not regional discrimination like you said.
    – yamakaze
    Commented Feb 20 at 1:27
  • @Fizz "大头鹰" on Tik Tok is a good example of someone who is anti-"colonized people".
    – yamakaze
    Commented Feb 20 at 1:29

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