PLA protagonists’ powerful ploy

China People’s Liberation Army finally admitted using cyber-technology as an offensive weapon, affirming their position on their cyberspace prowess in the age where all walks of everyday life is dependent on communication and connectivity.

China (Finally) Admits to Hacking

An updated military document for the first time admits that the Chinese government sponsors offensive cyber units.

shannon-tiezzi
By Shannon Tiezzi
March 18, 2015

China’s military has finally pulled back the curtain on its cyber strategy, admitting for the first time that it (like countries around the world) has cyber units set up not only for defense, but for attack.

Officially, China’s line has always been that its government does not sponsor any form of hacking. Those denials rang hollow to foreign experts, however, who pointed both to evidence of Chinese cyberattacks and to the sheer folly of a country of China’s size and global importance not including cyberespionage in its intelligence-gathering arsenal.

Now Beijing may finally be ready to drop the charade. The updated edition of The Science of Military Strategy, an authoritative analysis of China’s military thinking, includes references to China’s cyber-warfare units. “This is the first time we’ve seen an explicit acknowledgement of the existence of China’s secretive cyber-warfare forces from the Chinese side,” Joe McReynolds of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis told The Daily Beast. “[T]hey’ve come out and said, ‘Yes, we do in fact have network attack forces, and we have teams on both the military and civilian-government sides.’”

The Science of Military Strategy, published in Chinese in 2001 (and translated into English in 2007) is a staple reference not only for Western scholars but for senior PLA strategists and decision makers, explains Andrew Erickson, an expert on Chinese military affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. The updated edition was published in Chinese in December 2013 but only recently became available to foreign analysts. China is well aware that the book is widely studied by foreign experts as well as Chinese military thinkers, meaning the reference to cyber-attack forces was likely a carefully considered decision.

McReynolds said China has dedicated cyber units operating in both the military and the civilian sphere. Within the PLA, China has “specialized military network warfare forces” for carrying out both offensive and defense cyber operations. China also has cyber specialists within civilian organizations, including the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Public Security, “authorized by the military to carry out network warfare operations.”

China has previously acknowledged that its military employs cyber experts – for example, a story about a 30-person “Blue Army” of PLA cyber-specialists made headlines in 2011. However, China continued to insist that its cyber capabilities were 100 percent focused on defending Chinese networks, rather than probing foreign systems for information or weaknesses. “The Blue Army’s main target is self-defense. We won’t initiate an attack on anyone,” a senior PLA official insisted when news of the unit’s existence broke.

Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry spokespeople have likewise consistently and categorically denied that the Chinese government sponsors hacking activities of any kind. Now that The Science of Military Strategy has stated otherwise, “[t]hey can’t make that claim anymore,” McReynolds said.

The news that China does, in fact, have units of cyber spies won’t be “earth-shattering” to foreign experts, James Lewis, an expert on China’s cyber strategies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Daily Beast (see here for more from Lewis on China’s cyber activities). However, the new openness on the part of the PLA could have long-lasting implications if it does turn out to be part of a policy shift.

The U.S. government has been seeking to entice more PLA transparency on cyber issues by openly explaining its own cyber-strategy. Those overtures hadn’t paid off – China continued to block any real discussion by denying it partakes in any cyber-espionage activities. The acknowledgement of offensive cyber units in The Science of Military Strategy may mean that Beijing is increasing cyber transparency, which could pave the way for discussions on the issue.

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This very much attest the theory of China’s invasionary and dominance attitude.

Published in: on April 13, 2015 at 18:30  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sir, I have been commenting for many years that our beloved Kuala Lumpur is now a centre for espionage replacing Bangkok and Singapore in the Cold War.
    Recently, I have suggested that in this Multi-Polar World post the Cold War which ended in 1989. our beloved Malaysia should not be dragged into anyone’s conflict vis-a-vis a Uni-Polar World of Super-Power versus Super-Power like the declared U.S. Policy to contain China. The Singapore inspired and promoted poisoned chalice TPPA springs to mind.
    We should be NEUTRAL as regards our strategic geo-political location, our human and bountiful natural resources like Switzerland. We should not be part of the quarrels of other nations. But we must support the anti-terrorist activities of nations for our own good. If we take sides, we as a small country which is the proud and historical home of the Malays and the non-Malays may suffer consequences in a land now at peace and harmony. These we see on TV.every night.

    • I wonder how do we stay neutral if China threatens our national interest in the South China Seas. They seem to think so many of the islands there that other countries have claimed belong to them.

  2. I support what ED says above. But, if true, what caused Kuala Lumpur now being a centre for espionage?

    To say it’s because of its geographical location is a moot point. Is it because of the 23% Chinese among the population? And the DAP-minded pendatang don’t have much respect for the Constitution, don’t seem to know about loyalty and patriotism since the time they started slogging the now-dead Lee Kuan Yew’s so-called Malaysian Malaysia slogan wanting equality and questioning the Special Position of the Malays and the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak, being ungrateful to the Malays having agreed to their citizenship right at Merdeka.

    But cyber intelligence gathering and espionage does not have to depend on the locals for assistance, does it? But if those operatives attached to the Mainland Chinese Embassy want to make it appear that any attacks are from local sources, sure they have the DAP Red Beans who have caused quite some havoc prior to and during PRU13 campaigning. Even if so, they have operating methods that can show IPs of foreign countries when doing anything locally.

    Next question is: If we want to combat cyber espionage in this country, don’t we have to have a formidable cyber “army” of our own, attached to our Police, Armed Forces and MCMC establishments? If so, do we have such an “army”? Sure, we have those skilled in combating such espionage, but do we have them in sufficient numbers, with enough sophistication in terms of skills, techniques and equipment?

    These are all very interesting questions and sure our defence capabilities are confidential. But if any one can and does give some “indications”, it’d be appreciated in order to enable us to sleep fairly soundly.

    • They may hack our government websites and get secret information on our defence strength etc. Any much harm in that as we are not that strong?

      But if they do racial instigation, be seditious etc, yet our authorities cannot trace them because they have sophisticated methods, that’s dangerous. Can they escape detection if they do that? In their language?

  3. If KL has now become a centre for cyber espionage, is it because we have been trying to be friendly to both the US and China? Will we end up fighting a proxy war for either or both of them in our own small ways? Or we get hemmed in between and become the proverbial harimau dan gajah berlawan, pelandok mati di tengah tengah?

    We have cause for worry because the Mainland Chinese have been menacing in the East and South China Seas. The Philippines have been asking us for some kind of co-operation in the face of Chinese sabre rattling around the islands thay have long claimed as theirs.

    And what’s with China, anyway? Wanting to show that they cannot be bullied any more by foreigners which was done so many times throughout their history? The Mongols, the Manchurians, the Japanese, the Europeans, to the extent that Hong Kong was returned to China by the British only in 1990. If so, the point is taken, they have been acknowledged as the second most powerful economy in the world in the last decade or so. Yes, they are well on their way to being a Super Power. And the Japanese have been spending heavily militarily, too.

    Is there anything we can do to ensure that if a clash occurs, it’d be in the East China Sea? Or is it the usual belief that no matter where a clash occurs, if it escalates to a global military conflict, the entire world might be wiped out by the huge arsenal of nuclear weapons, even before Iran manages to produce any.

    Are such concerns realistic or sounding too simplistic, even paranoid? Obama managed to get a “framework” for new nuclear weapons production control some days ago with the military option against Iran “still on the table”, yet yesterday Russia eases the embargo on arms supplies to Iran, Vladimir Putin appearing to give the message not to mess with his plans on Ukraine. I’d be glad to hear some convincing “no need to worry” facts and arguments in here, folks.

    • Recently Putin made an official visit to the Chinese President in Beijing. Anybody sees anything in that?

  4. Yes, when normal, stay neutral. But when China has “invasionary and dominance attitude”, we have to protect ourselves. As a small country, we cannot protect ourselves. we need to be under some one’s umbrella. I prefer the Americans because, except for George W Bush, Dick Cheney and the like, they can be trusted.

    Can any one tell how many countries in the world have stayed neutral for a very long time apart from Switzerland? And how many in recent history got run over, controlled and dominated? Palestine has been occupied and bullied by the Zionist Jews since 1967. Only some months ago, a part of Ukraine was even occupied and declared as a part of Russia. And is Thailand really neutral?

    I’m interested in this “neutral” concept and hope to hear from the experts.

  5. This “containment of China” and the TPPA – how exactly has it harmed China? And how will it harm China? There is no physical act of harming the would-be Super Power China envisaged under that arrangement, is there?

    Is China prevented from trading with countries that are part of PTTA? And have they not been busy investing in and trading with so many developing nations in Africa and elsewhere unhindered in the past and until now?

    We used to have military pacts with UK, Australia etc in the past. Now the British have been reducing their defence expenditure by alarming proportions that even their generals wonder if they are a Super Power compared to the Russians who brazenly keep snooping in the English Channel, in the sea and in the air, flexing their muscle over the Ukraine affair.

    Already those concerned are making this country the centre for intelligence gathering and espionage. Does that not indicate the possibility of worse things to come? We already lost Singapore by default, or by stupidity, to be more precise. I fear subtle interference that might lead to sections of the populace creating trouble, providing excuses for a foreign power to come in under the guise of providing “protection”.

    • “Subtle interference” like recognizing Chinese schools certificates for entrance to universities in China? The country flooded with China graduates and the Chinese political parties clamour for recognition into the civil service?

      • I am pretty sure that the US has a game plan for Malaysia that’s buried deep somewhere in the bowels of the CIA, NSA and NSC.

        After all, if the US is cultivating relationships with the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Australia – that pretty much leaves Malaysia “boxed in”, don’t you think?

        And it is not as if the OIC and the moribund NAM are going to step into the breach.

        The latest news from the US is that the US Congress may just possibly give Obama “fast track” authority to conclude the TPPA.

        And with the China-led AIIB and Silk Road Initiative, there’s not much “wiggle room” left for Malaysia.

        Let’s see how deftly Wisma Putra steers foreign policy in this environment.


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