China: A cyberwarring state

,  The Washington Times

China’s strategy of large-scale cyberattacks is motivated mainly by the goal of keeping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in power, in addition to gaining economic secrets and planning cyberattacks in a conflict, according to a new report by the Center for a New American Security.

“The primary driver for China’s network security strategy formulation remains the maintenance of CCP governing power,” the 38-page report by the centrist think tank concludes.

The report, “Warring State: China’s Cybersecurity Strategy,” is the first public assessment of China’s strategy for cyberwarfare and cyberspying, a problem that has grown in intensity in recent years as U.S. government and private networks have been victimized by large-scale data theft attributed to Chinese civilian and military hackers.

The report title refers to the roughly 260-year period in Chinese history called the Warring States Era that ended around 221 BC. The period produced military strategists whom Chinese military theorists still revere today. For example, the period produced the concept of “assassin’s mace” weaponry that allows a weaker power to destroy a stronger one. Chinese military theorist regard cyberwarfare as an assassin’s mace weapon.

U.S. policymakers must understand this strategy when adopting policies aimed at mitigating the threat of cyberattacks and cyberespionage, states the report written by Amy Chang and based on a Chinese government and military writings.

Ms. Chang, a CNAS research analyst, said she thinks the prime mover for aggressive Chinese cyberattacks is the need to preserve the Party’s monopoly on power, along with other economic, military and foreign policy goals.

“In revealing China’s cybermotives and explaining its behavior in this lens, U.S. policymakers have a solid foundation from which they can tailor their solutions, impose costs, or engage in negotiations with China,” she said.

China cut off talks with the U.S. on cyber issues after the May 1 U.S. indictment of five Chinese military hackers. China also has sought to exploit disclosures in top-secret documents obtained by renegade National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealing U.S. cyberoperations against China.

Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, told Congress last week that China and two other states are capable of knocking out critical U.S. infrastructure with cyberattacks.

The CNAS report suggests that the Obama administration’s policy of seeking to counter widespread and damaging Chinese cyberattacks through promoting adherence to international norms and rules for behavior in cyberspace likely will be difficult.

“China has been actively promoting a counter-narrative: Justifying stringent Internet controls through propaganda, denying involvement or accountability in cyber espionage, and accusing the United States of committing similar actions against China,” Harvard Professor Joseph S. Nye, stated in a foreword to the report.

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