Here is a very illuminating article on the 'cyber warfare' element of the article above:
The Art of (Cyber) War
Brian M. Mazanec
he People’s Republic of China (PRC) is increasingly developing and fielding advanced capabilities in cyberspace. These capabilities are focused not only on collecting sensitive information, but also on achieving military effects capable of causing economic harm, damaging critical infrastructure, and influencing the outcome of conventional armed conflicts.
China, in other words, is interested in cyberwarfare as a tool of national power, and is greatly improving its capabilities to conduct military operations in cyberspace. In its most recent report to Congress on China’s military power, the Pentagon noted that “China’s strategic strike capabilities… are expanding from the land, air, and sea dimensions of the traditional battlefield into the… cyber-space domains.” Understanding China’s cyberwarfare strategy will provide valuable insight into its future ambitions, principally in light of the U.S.’s heavy reliance on the cyberspace domain from both a military and economic standpoint.
The roots of Chinese cyberwarfare
In many ways, China’s contemporary focus on cyberwarfare is an extension of traditional Chinese stratagems, namely Sun Tzu’s “overcoming the superior with the inferior” (i.e., asymmetric warfare) and Chairman Mao Zedong’s concept of “People’s War.” It is intimately connected to the country’s broader geopolitical strategic interests: regime survival; dominance in the Asia/Pacific region; growing influence on a global level; and prevention of Taiwan’s independence, coupled with its ultimate assimilation into the PRC.
Cyberwarfare has been a pillar of Chinese military strategy since the early 1990s, when the Gulf War provided China’s leaders with a painfully clear example of the importance of technological superiority and the advantage “informationalized” forces possess over their less advanced opponents. PRC strategists quickly came to embrace the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and believed the future of warfare would increasingly rely on denying or degrading an enemy’s information flow, rather than simple kinetic firepower. This is particularly true when one considers a theoretical Sino-U.S. conflict, in which U.S. military power would be difficult if not impossible to defeat head-on. Thus, in their infamous 1999 manifesto, Unrestricted Warfare, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui proposed a form of warfare that “transcends all boundaries and limits,” and exploits the central role that cyberspace plays in future conflict.
A decade on, the results are striking. In recent years, the PRC has steadily leveraged its rapidly growing economy to advance its capabilities to act in cyberspace. As Richard Lawless, then Deputy Undersecretary for Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, noted back in 2007: “Chinese capabilities in this area have evolved from defending networks from attack to offensive operations against adversary networks… [They are] leveraging information technology expertise available in China’s booming economy to make significant strides in cyber-warfare.”
Beijing’s notorious lack of transparency regarding its armed forces has made the scope of China’s cyberwarfare capabilities difficult to determine. What is clear, however, is that the PRC is heavily investing in cyberwarfare relative to other nations. Equally evident is that their investments are paying major dividends. According to a 2008 study by Dartmouth College’s Institute for Security Technology Studies, China alone among other potential U.S. competitors has developed the full spectrum of capabilities and practices for cyberspace dominance and cyberwarfare.
China’s leaders did not develop this capability overnight. Their interest in cyberwarfare led to a sustained investment in asymmetric disruptive capabilities. As early as 2003, the PLA had already organized its first cyberwarfare units. Since then, these cadres have leveraged China’s economy to force IT companies, most significantly Microsoft, to reveal sensitive and proprietary information regarding their software and applications. This information allows the PLA to utilize “zero-day” security flaws in Microsoft Office applications that exploit unknown or un-patched software vulnerabilities before the vendor patch is available. It also greatly enhances the PRC’s ability to plant malicious software designed to collect sensitive information or potentially damage networks and infrastructure.
Perhaps the best example of China’s burgeoning cyberwarfare capabilities is known as Titan Rain. The Titan Rain cyber attacks occurred from 2003 to 2005, and involved systematic intrusions into hundreds of U.S. government computers and the computer networks of America’s Western European allies. The U.S. media reported that the intrusions originated from three routers in the PRC’s Guangdong province, and unofficial statements from senior U.S. officials leave little doubt that this was a highly sophisticated state-sanctioned Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) attack from the PRC intended to exfiltrate huge amounts of sensitive data. While these CNE attacks are damaging and pose serious risks for U.S. national security, they are less troubling when compared to the looming threat of Chinese Computer Network Attacks (CNA), which seek to move beyond cyber-espionage in order to achieve real-world military effects in a true cyberwar.
Why China wages cyberwar
China’s interest in achieving military effects via cyberwarfare begins with deterrence. The goal is not to deter other nations from conducting cyberwarfare against the PRC; rather, it is to use the threat of cyberwarfare to deter an actor from behaving in a manner that is in opposition to Chinese strategic interests.
In the near term, the PRC’s primary focus is the question of an independent Taiwan. Chinese planners seek to use cyberwarfare to deter U.S. military involvement in a hostile reunification scenario with Taiwan. One advantage of threatening strategic cyberwarfare for a deterrence impact is that it is a more realistic threat when compared to the threat of other strategic weapons such as nuclear weapons. It is highly implausible that the PRC would use its limited force de frappe to keep the U.S. out of the Formosa Strait, especially in light of its no-first-use policy. But a strategic cyberwarfare attack, with less international stigma and a likely more restrained retaliatory response, is more credible. Furthermore, the challenge of attribution in cyberspace provides China with plausible deniability and makes cyberwarfare all the more attractive. “Independent” patriotic hackers, cultivated and loosely controlled as a 21st-century version of Mao’s “People’s War,” provide the perfect mechanism to give the PRC cyber threat credibility.
Deterrence theory has been largely associated with nuclear policy, but its application extends to cyberwarfare. During the Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a credible deterrent that maintained the “uncertainty” inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of Herman Kahn and, later, Thomas Schelling. This arguably prevented a world war through the threat of massive nuclear retaliation—a formula commonly known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Deterrence can be both offensive (such as MAD) or defensive (deterrence by denial) and based on neutralizing or mitigating the adversary’s undesired action/threat so as to credibly remove the perception that benefits would result from the action.
When one assesses PRC cyberwarfare deterrence, the focus is on the offensive side of the spectrum. For deterrence to function, the target of deterrence must be a rational actor, which certainly is the case with the U.S. In fact, the transparency inherent in U.S. society and government decision-making ensure that its calculus in a conflict such as one associated with Taiwan would be relatively easy to discern. This only increases the appeal of using cyberwarfare to achieve successful deterrence. Targets held at risk to achieve deterrence are divided into counterforce and countervalue, the former holding a military target at risk and the latter targeting civilian infrastructure and population or anything else the adversary values. China believes strategic cyberwarfare is capable of targeting both of these segments to achieve significant deterrence effects.
The PRC cyber-threat is not limited to the mere threat of counterforce/countervalue cyberwarfare to deter an adversary such as the U.S., however. For the deterrent effects discussed above to be legitimate and credible, China must actually be prepared to follow through with the threatened punishment or action even if deterrence fails. It is likely to do so in response to one of three principal conflict scenarios.
War over Taiwan
The most likely scenario relates to Taiwan. In the event of an outbreak of hostilities with the island nation, the PLA can be expected to seek a quick knockout blow of Taiwan’s defenses while simultaneously delaying U.S. armed forces’ entry into the Formosa Strait and then degrading their ability to fight if/once they have arrived. James Mulvenon, an expert on Chinese cyberwarfare, has outlined the probable situation as follows:
For the PLA, using [information warfare] against U.S. information systems to degrade or even delay a deployment of forces to Taiwan offers an attractive asymmetric strategy. American forces are highly information-dependent and rely heavily on precisely coordinated logistics networks… If PLA information operators... were able to hack or crash these systems, thereby delaying the arrival of a U.S. carrier battle group to the theater, while simultaneously carrying out a coordinated campaign of short-range ballistic missile attacks, “fifth column” and [information warfare] attacks against Taiwanese critical infrastructure, then Taipei might be quickly brought to its knees and forced to capitulate to Beijing.
Limited PRC cyberwarfare would likely target U.S. logistics as the opening salvo of the conflict. The PRC believes both that U.S. logistical processes are the most vulnerable aspect of military activity, and that U.S. operational vulnerabilities are greatest during the early deployment phase of war. This preemptive approach can be described as part of the Chinese strategy of “gaining mastery before the enemy has struck” (xianfa zhiren). In this scenario, Chinese cyberwarfare would seek to slow down the deployment of additional U.S. forces required to engage the PLA with overwhelming force in the defense of Taiwan (via misdirection of U.S. matériel stores or delay of re-supply efforts). And because of the U.S. aversion to casualties and continued belief in the so-called “Powell Doctrine” of only engaging an adversary with overwhelming maximal force required for quick success, the U.S. would not likely engage on a large scale until additional forces were forward deployed and re-supply processes established. This could ultimately buy the PRC an additional week or longer before U.S. military forces were brought to bear, creating a decisive window of opportunity to seize Taiwan and dramatically increase the cost of U.S. involvement.
Assuming such a preemptive scenario is unsuccessful, the PRC could seek to use cyberwarfare more overtly to attack U.S. military technologies directly. Such an attack would be focused on the accuracy, timeliness and reliability of information upon which U.S. forces depend (i.e., C4ISR systems). This approach was described by PRC scholars in their 2000 Science of Campaigns report:
The goal of information warfare is, at the critical time and region related to overall campaign operations, to cut off the enemy’s ability to obtain, control, and use information, to influence, reduce, and even destroy the enemy’s capabilities of observing, decision-making, and commanding and controlling troops, while we maintain our own ability to command and control in order to seize information superiority, and to produce the strategic and campaign superiority, creating conditions for winning the decisive battle.
This tactical application of PRC cyberwarfare is a highly evolved form of Chairman Mao Zedong’s dictum that China must “seal up the enemies’ eyes and ears, and make them become blind and deaf, and we must as far as possible confuse the minds of their commanders and turn them into madmen, using this to achieve our own victory.” It would effectively increase Clausewitz’s “fog of war” for the U.S., while reducing it for the PLA.
Regional conflicts in Asia
PRC cyberwarfare capabilities are not exclusively valuable to a conflict with the U.S. The PRC could find itself in limited wars with a nation other than the U.S., where its current U.S.-focused cyberwarfare capabilities could also prove advantageous.
India is the most likely adversary in such a regional scenario. Relations between China and India have been marked by political tensions ever since the two countries went to war in 1962 over a still disputed region of the Himalayan border in Arunachal Pradesh. The PLA was largely successful in defeating the Indian military in that conflict, but skirmishes continued into the late 1980s and the issue remains unsettled today. In the mid-1990s, the PRC and India signed the Sino-Indian Bilateral Peace and Tranquility Accords promoting stability along the “Line of Actual Control” in the border conflict. Despite this progress, the PLA maintains a growing presence in the region and many anticipate future conflicts between the two economically rising giants.