Economic Warfare?


Economic Warfare is not a particularly new concept. Economic warfare, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary as involving "an economic strategy based on the use of measures (e.g. blockade) of which the primary effect is to weaken the economy of another state".

According to Wikipedia "In military operations, economic warfare may reflect economic policy followed as a part of open or covert operations, cyber operations, information operations during or preceding wartime. Economic warfare aims to capture or otherwise control the supply of critical economic resources so that the military and intelligence agencies can operate at full efficiency or deprive enemy forces of those resources so that they cannot function properly.

The concept of economic warfare is most applicable to conflict between nation states, especially in times of total war - which involves not only the armed forces of an enemy nation, but a mobilized war economy. In such a situation, damage to the enemy's economy is damage to the enemy's ability to fight the war.

Policies and measures in economic warfare may include blockade, blacklisting, preclusive purchasing, rewards and the capturing or control of enemy assets or supply lines, tariff discrimination, sanctions, the suspension of aid, the freezing of capital assets, the prohibition of investment and other capital flows, and expropriation. Scorched earth policies have often been applied to prevent an advancing enemy from gaining resources."

Today we will be focusing on the trade and cyber aspects of economic warfare, as well as how that might not just only apply to nations.

From Blockade to Sanctions

Economic warfare has been the go to method of escalating tension, since the cold war. It is a non-violent but still very aggressive use of force and strongarm someone into complying with your interests. Unfortunately in the global scheme of politics, this may often lead to countries being caught in the crossfire. The China-US trade war, whose brief summary can be found here by the BBC is a more complex issue than I originally thought. In this book by Shu Guang Zhang published by Stanford University press we see that this is not the first time US and China clashed in an economic theater.

Photo by Burak K from Pexels

Although an economic blockade is not something we have seen from the western countries since the partial blockade of Cuba in 1962 by the USA, trade embargoes and tariffs are not something new. Since 2018, USA under the leadership of Donald Trump has begun a back and forth with China, with tariffs, trade restrictions and embargoes continuing even today.

But there are plenty of articles covering up every detail of this ongoing issue, however I want to discuss how an Economic War, though countless times better than an actual war, still affects people in the crossfire. For example, Taiwan being constantly under pressure by both the US and China was faced with some very difficult choices. Whether or not an economic war is as pointless as any form of war is, is without a debate, though for now, we can see the impact it has which is -very- real. Already as cnbc reports, Huawei, the Chinese megacorporation already has seen its plans altered multiple times due to certain policies.

Photo by Irvan Smith on Unsplash


A subject which usually refers to the use of networks and satellites to cause remote and often unseen mayhem to an enemy during war by taking down his electronics or "spamming" his communications with junk data, to think that those methods are not used in modern days as tools in economic warfare would be folly. The strength a cyber attack may have to a corporation or a nation, even in times of peace is extraordinary, and the market for it is very lucrative and absolutely VERY much illegal.

Corporations are known to enter some shady shenanigans to gain the upper hand of the competition, and although we do not condone the actions done, we can understand the reasons behind them. In this article by Tech Crunch we see exactly the kind of impact a cyber attack might have on a corporation, as Honda had to take measures to deal with the attack.

With corporate espionage being a documented thing, as proven by this article by Interesting Engineering. From cryptocurrency farmers, to people holding data for hostage, we have seen how corporate espionage mixes well with cybercrime and how those two combined can lead to massive disruption in the economy.

Final Thoughts

Going into writing this article, I never thought that Economic Warfare was not a recent thing, and that its ripples affect people and places far beyond the immediate people involved. From companies engaging in corporate espionage to nations using trade tariffs, from cybercrime to a blockade, all of those things, though varying in amount of tension cause ripples in the economy and make for a less stable future.

Share this