The Cyberworld Points at China

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Joel Harding


Please read a thought provoking article, U.S, China bicker over Cyber terrorism, on Vanguard.

The author, Hugo Odiogor, is on to something, but missed some basic fact checking. Pyongyang is not the capital of China for instance, it’s Beijing. Mr. Odiogor, might I suggest a few people you might want to interview before publishing your next article?

Jamie Metzl has published one of the more definitive pieces about Chinese cyber spies, and published it on the Asia Society website here simply titled “China and Cyber-Espionage”.  His sources are all fairly official, not articles written for “splash and cash”, my term for journalism only seeking attention and money.

There are perhaps three experts to whom I look to whenever I want to know more about China and ‘cyber’.  One is Tim Thomas, whom I consider a close and trusted friend.  Tim is really an expert on Russia but he has built up a rich understanding of the Chinese cyber and information warfare programs. 

This quote from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission website is most telling:  “He is the author of several publications on Information Warfare including “Decoding the Virtual Dragon: Critical Evolutions in the Science and Philosophy of China’s Information Operations and Military Strategy” and “Dragon Bytes: Chinese Information-War Theory and Practice.”

The second expert I look to is Dr. James Mulvenon.  James is internationally recognized and I have made it a point to listen to what he says.  Here is a very good CSIS interview where he presents a methodology for cyber cooperation with the Chinese.

I recently heard James speak at the National Press Club in Washington DC and he not only has a firm grasp on recent developments, he also understands the ramifications and implications of what is happening.   I hope to one day consider James a friend, we’ve just never had the opportunity to work together.

My third expert is Charles Hawkins, whom I consider a close and very trusted friend.  Charles has made more trips to China than anyone I know and the pictures he sends me remind me that some people actually have the guts to do what most only dream.  

Charles has introduced me to some amazing people, some of whom I consider close friends now, and if you ever get the opportunity to share a drink with this man, you are truly blessed.  A recent picture he shared with me preceded what could have turned into an international incident, but I dare not expose Chinese naivete or risk Charles’s access to this sensitive area by writing anything more. 

Let’s just say he lives the life that could easily make me jealous!

A point I would like to establish is that China is a very patient nation, their cyber strategy has probably been written but probably won’t be acknowledged.  Some point at “Unrestricted Warfare” as a possible overarching strategy for how to compete and win against technologically superior nations, mostly the US, but since it is not an official PLA publication it might not be entirely accurate. 

Carson Checketts wrote a very good analysis of Unrestricted Warfare in the IO Journal when I was the editor in Harmony and Chaos: The Principles of China’s Unrestricted Warfare.

In December 2010 I traveled to China, to Shanghai, to Xi’an, to Beijing and back to Shanghai, to talk with Chinese leaders, philosophers and academics, about information warfare and cyber warfare.  I had a wonderful host, Dr.  Zhang Zhexin, who enabled the entire trip and set up the talks. 

One senior military leader could not make his appointment, I was honored to even be considered on his calendar!  I spoke at Fudan University, at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and at the Center for American Studies at Tsinghau University. 

For the most part nothing truly revolutionary was discussed, my main point to the Chinese leaders, scholars and practitioners with whom I spoke was simple.  I said “The US is spying on you and China is spying on the US, only we’re not getting caught!”   I can easily say this because all nations gather intelligence and our two great nations are certainly no exceptions. 

The overarching goal of this trip, however, was to establish relationships.  Sadly, my job has since been eliminated but I am seeking a means to continue our relationships in a semi or even an official capacity.  Suggestions?

My point, after meandering all over the place, is that every time I turn around I see another episode of China caught committing espionage against the US, now on a massive scale.  While the rest of the world is seeking to define and quantify cyberwar, cyber espionage and cyber theft and only then find ways to stop it, I believe the Chinese are nimbly spanking our butts in cyberspace – and we don’t have the guts to stop them. 

We have few public discussions about cyber anything where the experts don’t wind up pointing fingers at the Chinese and accusing them – publicly – of waging de facto cyberwar on the US.  Perhaps the Chinese are not bringing our electrical grids down.  Perhaps they are not causing an economic downturn by turning off our financial transaction network, we’re doing it all on our own. 

Perhaps they have not caused massive cyber outages in our military communications or command and control systems.  Perhaps they have not gone down the list of our critical infrastructures and taken them out one by one, but they are doing a heckuva job on the defense industrial base and other supported and related industries. 

No, they do not ravage (deny, degrade or destroy) their information systems, they only copy material produced by hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars of research and development and then they have the latest technology. 

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were electrocuted for sharing atomic bomb technology.  Who do we hold accountable for, de facto, sharing everything else with the Chinese? When will we blame the Chinese?

Update:  An excellent and very much in-depth analysis by Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins: China SignPost™ (洞察中国) #46: “A Smoking Cursor? New Window Opens on China’s Potential Cyberwarfare Development–CCTV 7 program raises new questions about Beijing’s support for hacking” found here.

Cross-posted from To Inform is to Influence

Possibly Related Articles:
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Post Rating I Like this!
K0nsp1racy Excellent post Joel. Between this one and your prior one about the Falun Gong operation, you have piqued my interest. I am only a n00b at IW in relation to the speakers you mention, but I am extremely interested in this topic. Please keep posting what you can.
Joel Harding Gladly!

If you really want an excellent document to give you insight into ongoing Chinese espionage, both industrial and intelligence, read the report published in early 2009! Chinese espionage efforts are massive, they disavow any wrongdoing but after awhile there has been a consistent pattern.
K0nsp1racy I will definitely read it. I am trying to finish DB and DTVD in the next month or so.
Sara Hald I follow which is a very nice blog on Chinese hackers. It doesn't update that often, but when it does, it is often worth a read.
Joel Harding Sara, excellent find, thanks! I've put that in my list of sites to visit and visit often I shall!
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