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Chinese Cyberwar Overview
Organisation, Intent

Most developed countries certainly engage in internet attacks - electronic spying on other countries. They are also preparing for cyber warfare - both offensive and defensive. In the early 1990’s, as a key step in its strategic objective of becoming a military, industrial and financial superpower and transform from a near mediaeval society, China instigated a series of programs, the results of which are becoming obvious today.


In the Chinese worldwide intelligence infrastructure organisation, the foundation of the military and economic/political intelligence gathering is the so-called ‘deep water fishes’. The term goes back to the early 1980’s, and relates to the ten thousand or so intelligence operatives that the country has in place in nearly two hundred cities around the world. China’s internet intelligence gathering and cyberwar preparations are even more insidious and widespread.

Mission Scope

Jiang Zemin (then President fo China), directed that an army of so-called cyberwarriors be set up by General Dai Qingmin to engage in cyberwar. These information systems graduates design Trojan horses, malware, viruses and new intrusion technologies to penetrate and paralyse enemy military, civilian infrastructure and commerce in a war situation. They also control the internet in China (and ultimately forced Google to pull out), and run the so-called ‘Golden Shield’ program which monitors e-mails, chat and mobile phone SMS within its borders.

Current Activity

Recently, there have been massive and well-coordinated cyberattackscyberassualts on commercial websites worldwide. Many commentators believe that China is behind some of these attacks, though those in the Western intelligence organisations (such as the DIA in the US) who know the truth are keeping their own counsel. Undoubtedly, there are some in commercial computer security companies who also know the truth, but they avoid publicising their knowledge.

Obviously, any country which is preparing for warfare of any kind has to test its weapons, and the Chinese are not the only culprits here. Cyberwarfare is underway right now, from basic intelligence gathering by hacking military, political and commercial databases, right through to assault software used for destructive purposes, including by Western governments.

Non-Chinese Example

One such example is the use of malevolent software is - ‘malware’. Insidious, dangerous and highly effective, and illustrated very clearly by the Stuxnet worm. This is thought by some to have been developed jointly by Israel and the USA. The worm circulated freely around the internet and apparently had multiple authors on several continents - the trail was well disguised and hard to follow, but clearly false. finally, in 2010, Stuxnet found its ultimate home in the Siemens control programs for the gas centrifuges used in the Iranian uranium enrichment program. Many centrifuges spun uncontrolled and about twenty percent were wrecked. This critical assault is said to have set back the Iranian quest for a nuclear bomb by several years.

Infowar is Not New

Wherever there was conflict in the 20th century, there was infowar (Churchill said that ‘truth is the first casualty of war’), from misleading and plain false news broadcasts to propaganda leaflets dropped from planes. Now in the 21st century, wherever there is conflict there is cyberwar, and arguably, the Chinese army of cyberwarriors is the largest and most active force of its kind in the world.

James Marinero
August 8, 2011

James Marinero writes topical techno thrillers with marine science, espionage and and action themes in an international superpower context. His latest, Gate of Tears, is available now in paperback, and on Kindle.



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