China and Cyber: Attitude, Strategies, and Organization

This thought-provoking NATO CCD COE report “China and Cyber: Attitudes, Strategies, and Organization” by Mikk Rand gives an overview China’s approach to cyberspace and its use to its benefit and to fulfil its mandates, tasks and competencies for its political and strategic doctrine regarding cyberspace.

China is developing greater depth and sophistication in cyberspace its cyber and hybrid warfare techniques and strategies have led to some truly beneficial operations. To date, China’s efforts in cyberspace are primary towards national security, assuring its regime survival, defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and establishing China as both a regional and international power.

Principally, China engages in cyber operations to extract information from diplomatic, economic and defence industrial base sectors to support its defence, economic, and technological programs. In this context, one can view China’s cyber operations as being more about trying to strengthen China’s core and less about diminishing others’ power.

Consequently, in the past few years, China’s strategies are to target industries across the world that will shorten reaching its set goals in space, technology, infrastructure, energy (especially clean energy), nuclear power, biotechnology, and healthcare. Also China reinforces its cyber activities with form of hybrid warfare that include Psychological Warfare,[i] and Legal Warfare (Lawfare),[ii] and Public Opinion/Media Warfare.[iii]

Currently, China’s cyber operations are more about attaining a more significant status in the world and one day ascends to the Number One Economy throne, effectively dislodging the US; all without engaging in military conflicts that require bullets, tanks, missiles, warships, and jet fighters.

Raud, Mikk. China and Cyber: Attitude, Strategies, Organization. Tallin: NATO CCD COE, 2016.

[i] To undermine an enemy’s ability to conduct combat operations through operations aimed at deterring, shocking, and demoralizing the enemy military personnel and supporting civilian populations.

[ii] Uses international and domestic law to claim the legal high ground or assert Chinese interests. It can be employed to hamstring an adversary’s operational freedom and shape the operational space. Legal warfare is also intended to build international support and manage possible political repercussions of China’s military actions.

[iii] Influences domestic and international public opinion to build support for China’s military actions and dissuade an adversary from pursuing actions contrary to China’s interests.