5 September 2015

Cyberwarfare key component of China's military modernization, new wide-ranging CSIS report says

September 2, 2015

Cyberwarfare is emerging as a key element of the Chinese military's modernization efforts and a major concern for the nation's most senior leaders, a new report from Center for Strategic and International Studies said.

In early 2014, when Chinese President Xi Jingping took charge of the Central Internet Security and Informatization Leading Group, the state-run news agency said the president viewed Internet security as "a major strategic issue concerning a country's security and development as well as people's life and work," according to the Washington, D.C.-based think tank's report (pdf), which was published Sept. 1.

The news agency said the president also added that "efforts should be made to build our country into a cyber power," the CSIS report said. The president later that year issued official guidelines directing the People's Liberation Army to develop cyber defensive capabilities.

In a recent survey on Federal IT Reform, Senior government IT executives laid out their vision for the coming year, detailing challenges and identifying priorities. To read more about these timely results click here to download the summary today.

Sign up for our FREE newsletter for more news like this sent to your inbox!Written by Anthony Cordesman, a long-time defense and security expert at CSIS, and Steven Colley, a former researcher there, the more than 600-page report focuses on key trends in China's military modernization efforts – including cyberwarfare – as well as its strategy and forces and, in turn, how that influences U.S. strategy and regional powers. The report draws heavily from the Defense Department's reports to Congress as well as Chinese white papers and those published by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

The authors wrote that a Chinese white paper published this year described cyberspace as a "critical security domain" and the nation is facing "grave security threats to its cyber infrastructure."

"As cyberspace weighs more in military security, China will expedite the development of a cyber force, and enhance its capabilities of cyberspace situation awareness, cyber defense, support for the country's endeavors in cyberspace and participation in international cyber cooperation, so as to stem major cyber crises, ensure national network and information security, and maintain national security and social stability," according to the white paper, cited in the CSIS report.

China, the report pointed out, has appeared to move toward a new "information confrontation" concept that integrates non-electronic and electronic information warfare under one command. And the army sees it as a national exercise during both during war and peace "as information sovereignty is an an important aspect of national power."

The report's authors also said that cyberwarfare is viewed as a tool for psychological operations – such as public diplomacy, propaganda, or interference with local media, among other activities – against populations of other countries.

"Such operations target 'the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and behavior of a specific, targeted audience' and essentially attempt to degrade American will to sustain a conflict," according to the CSIS report. "This would appear to be one way to take advantage of what the Chinese perceived to be an extreme aversion to casualties by Americans."

The report also delves into U.S. views of Chinese cyber activities, citing numerous reports from cybersecurity firms about breaches allegedly conducted by state-sponsored Chinese hackers and reactions by the U.S. government such as last year's U.S. Justice Department indictment of five Chinese military officers.

"These developments in Chinese cyber activities have had a major impact on U.S. and Chinese military relations," according to the CSIS report. "U.S. Government officials have noted that cyber issues will be a key aspect of the US-[People's Republic of China] relationship."

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