Sep 15, 2007

People's Information War

As a follow-up to yesterday's China Info War post, we bring you the gist of a pretty decent piece by a Hong Kong-based defense analyst.

A careful look at articles and seminars on the topic of "information warfare" from within the People's Liberation Army reveals that the PLA is now placing high priority on this type of computer warfare. A top-level information warfare command has been established under the Fourth Department of the PLA General Staff Headquarters.

At previous conferences and seminars on this subject, Chinese military experts have put forward the concept that information warfare should include a peacetime "information struggle" in the political, diplomatic, financial, cultural and economic areas. At one such conference, the Fourth Department of the PLA raised the idea of establishing the information warfare leadership group at the top level of the Chinese military.

The PLA is also carefully researching U.S. military strategies in this field. Most textbooks on computer warfare used by the U.S. military have been translated into the Chinese language, including "FM 100-6 Information Operations" and "JP 3-13 Joint Doctrine for Information Operations" compiled by the Pentagon. Meanwhile, the PLA has also published two textbooks on information operations. At the level of research institutes, the PLA has established two centers for information operations.

Experts from the 81178 Unit of the PLA believe that a future information war will require combined offensive and defensive tactics. Their offensive tactics include electronic attacks, network attacks and military deception; defensive tactics include information counterattacks, information protection and recovery. This yields insight into how the Chinese military views the relationship between military deception and network attacks.

As for information warfare in joint landing operations, experts from the Command Headquarters of the Jinan Military Region said in an article that an enemy's C3I system should be a prominent target of attack, and emphasis should be placed on disabling the whole network of the adversary, training and employing "cyber warriors" (hackers) and establishing a "Special Cyber Force."

Experts from the Chinese National Defense University also stressed in a report that cyber attacks would become the greatest threat in future warfare. As a consequence, "cyber warriors, cyber spies, cyber propaganda teams and cyber hacker teams" should be employed to crack the enemy's military intelligence and disrupt its computer network and intelligence systems, the report said.

It also put forward the concept of a "people's information war" for the first time, describing this as a form of national non-symmetric warfare, with the people at the core, computers as the weapons, knowledge as the ammunition and the enemy's information network as the battlefield. These experts believe that ordinary people can be mobilized to provide global information support, spread global propaganda and conduct global psychological warfare. Such attacks could be launched from anywhere in the world at the enemy's military, political and economic information systems. If necessary, the experts suggested, computers currently under the control of Chinese enterprises could be dispersed among the people and connected to volunteer Web portals around the world, which would become a combined strategic cyber attack force. The article concluded by emphasizing that training "hacker warriors" should be a priority within the Chinese military.

The Chinese military has also started applying so-called "human wave" tactics to establish its cyber war network, which is internally referred to as the information network squad. The first such cyber operation unit to be set up was the Shandong Zaozhuang Municipal Militia Information Network Squad, with members comprising staff from the Zaozhuang Municipal Telecommunications Bureau. The 48 members of the squad all hold professional titles in computer technology.

The hacker attacks upon overseas Web sites were quite likely launched by similar military cyber operation squads. The establishment of this "information militia" warfare network means that the concept of a "people's war" has been officially introduced in the realm of information warfare.

The Chinese military has paid high attention to computer warfare over the years, and its capability to engage in information operations is now taken as an important benchmark in the improvement of the overall "soft combat power" of the Chinese armed forces. As a result, the PLA has introduced such slogans as "control information" and "information is combat strength."

After the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was mistakenly bombarded by NATO aircraft in 1999 during the Kosovo conflict, Chinese hackers launched waves of attacks upon U.S. networks. Most of these attacks were from the "information militia" -- who claim to have set a record of successfully invading 10 U.S. government Web sites each hour.

In a strategy aimed at attacking the enemy from the rear, China is already launching an information World War, a new type of People's Information War.

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