What the DOD's report on China specifically says about cyber

Pentagon says China is engaging in cyberattacks against U.S. government, military and industry

The Defense Department’s annual report to congress on China’s military capabilities specifically lays the blame for cyber attacks against the U.S. defense industrial base clearly at the feet of the Chinese military.

“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” states the report, entitled: “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013.”

“These intrusions were focused on exfiltrating information. China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs. The information targeted could potentially be used to benefit China’s defense industry, high-technology industries, policymaker interest in U.S. leadership thinking on key China issues, and military planners building a picture of U.S. network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”

The following are exact excerpts from the Pentagon report released this week, as they relate to specific sections on Chinese cyber, electronic warfare, ISR and space activities.


Chinese writings have outlined the five key features at an operational level of a maturing Chinese information operations (IO) strategy. First, Chinese authors emphasize defense as the top priority and indicate that Computer Network Defense (CND) must be the highest priority in peacetime; Chinese doctrine suggests that “tactical counteroffensives” would only be considered if an adversary’s operations could not be countered.

Second, IO is viewed as an unconventional warfare weapon, which must be established in the opening phase of the conflict and continue during all phases of war. Third, IO is characterized as a preemption weapon to be used under the rubric of achieving information dominance and controlling the electromagnetic spectrum. Fourth, IO is seen as a tool to permit China to fight and win an information campaign, precluding the need for conventional military action. Fifth, potential Chinese adversaries, in particular the United States, are seen as “information dependent.”

An IO campaign includes actions taken to seize and maintain campaign information superiority, unify command campaign information operational forces, carry out information warfare-related reconnaissance, and offensive and defensive information warfare methods.

According to a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military manual, there are many types of supporting IO to campaigns, including an island-landing campaign IO, blockade campaign IO, fire power attack campaign IO, border counterattack campaign IO, counter-landing campaign IO and counter-airstrike campaign IO.

These IO campaigns can be subdivided into joint campaign IO and combined arms campaign IO. Depending on the military services involved in the campaign, IO can be further divided into army campaign, navy, air force, and strategic missile force campaign IO. Their primary tasks are to protect the PLA’s campaign information systems, collect intelligence from enemy information systems, destroy enemy information systems, and weaken the enemy’s ability to acquire, transmit, process, and use information during war.

The PLA continues to conduct frequent military exercises demonstrating advances in information technology and information integration of its military forces. China has performed integrated joint combat operations exercises showcasing intelligence acquisition, joint command, joint strike and support operations, increasingly incorporated information technology and information integration into its annual training requirement.

A number of annual exercise series, including the Vanguard, Lianhe, and Joint Education series have increased required integration and full reliance on information technology for command of complex operations. In 2012, according to PLA newspapers, many military exercises banned paper maps and orders altogether. Also in 2012, there was an increasing emphasis on PLA command academies participating in joint exercises using command information technologies, which indicates proficiency on such platforms is now a requirement for graduation to higher command positions.


As part of its planning for military contingencies, China continues to develop measures to deter or counter third-party intervention, particularly by the United States. PLA authors often cite the need in modern warfare to control information, sometimes termed “information blockade” or “information dominance,” and to seize the initiative and gain an information advantage in the early phases of a campaign to achieve air and sea superiority.

China is improving information and operational security to protect its own information structures, and is also developing electronic and information warfare capabilities, including denial and deception, to defeat those of its adversaries. China’s “information blockade” likely envisions employment of military and non-military instruments of state power across the battlespace, including in cyberspace and outer space.


New technologies allow the PLA to share intelligence, battlefield information, logistics information, weather reports, etc., instantaneously (over robust and redundant communications networks), resulting in improved situational awareness for commanders. In particular, by enabling the sharing of near-real-time ISR data with commanders in the field, decision-making processes are facilitated, shortening command timelines and making operations more efficient. These improvements have greatly enhanced the PLA’s flexibility and responsiveness.

“Informatized” operations no longer require meetings for command decision-making or labor-intensive processes for execution. Commanders can now issue orders to multiple units at the same time while on the move, and units can rapidly adjust their actions through the use of digital databases and command automation tools. This is critical for joint operations needed to execute A2/AD. However, to fully implement “informatized” command and control, the PLA will need to overcome a shortage of trained personnel and its culture of centralized, micro-managed command.


Cyberwarfare capabilities could serve Chinese military operations in three key areas. First and foremost, they allow data collection for intelligence and computer network attack purposes. Second, they can be employed to constrain an adversary’s actions or slow response time by targeting network-based logistics, communications, and commercial activities. Third, they can serve as a force multiplier when coupled with kinetic attacks during times of crisis or conflict.

Developing cyber capabilities for warfare is consistent with authoritative PLA military writings. Two military doctrinal writings, Science of Strategy, and Science of Campaigns identify information warfare as integral to achieving information superiority and an effective means for countering a stronger foe. Although neither document identifies the specific criteria for employing computer network attack against an adversary, both advocate developing capabilities to compete in this medium.


An integral component of warfare, the PLA identifies EW as a way to reduce or eliminate U.S. technological advantages. Chinese EW doctrine emphasizes using electromagnetic spectrum weapons to suppress or deceive enemy electronic equipment. PLA EW strategy focuses on radio, radar, optical, infrared, and microwave frequencies, in addition to adversarial computer and information systems.

Chinese EW strategy stresses that it is a vital fourth dimension to combat and should be considered equally with traditional ground, sea, and air forces. Effective EW is seen as a decisive aid during military operations and consequently the key to determining the outcome of war. The Chinese see EW as an important force multiplier and would likely employ it in support of all combat arms and services during a conflict.

PLA EW units have conducted jamming and anti-jamming operations testing the military’s understanding of EW weapons, equipment, and performance, which helped improve their confidence in conducting force-on-force, real-equipment confrontation operations in simulated electronic warfare environments. The advances in research and deployment of electronic warfare weapons are being tested in these exercises and have proven effective. These EW weapons include jamming equipment against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems. EW systems are also being deployed with other sea and air-based platforms intended for both offensive and defensive operations.


In 2012, China conducted 18 space launches. China also expanded its space-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, meteorological, and communications satellite constellations. In parallel, China is developing a multi-dimensional program to improve its capabilities to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by adversaries during times of crisis or conflict.

During 2012, China launched six Beidou navigation satellites. These six satellites completed the regional network as well as the in-orbit validation phase for the global network, expected to be completed by 2020. China launched 11 new remote sensing satellites in 2012, which can perform both civil and military applications. China also launched three communications satellites, five experimental small satellites, one meteorological satellite, one relay satellite, and a manned space mission.


China has developed a large constellation of imaging and remote sensing satellites under a variety of mission families. These satellites can support military objectives by providing situational awareness of foreign military force deployments, critical infrastructure, and targets of political significance.

Since 2006, China has conducted 16 Yaogan remote sensing satellite launches. The Yaogan satellites conduct scientific experiments and carry out surveys on land resources, estimate crop yield, and support natural disaster reduction and prevention. Additionally, China has launched two Tianhui satellites designed to conduct scientific experiments and support land resource surveys and territory mapping with a stereoscopic imaging payload. China has three Huanjing disaster monitoring satellites currently on orbit (the third of which was launched in November 2012). The Ziyuan series of satellites are used for earth resources, cartography, surveying, and monitoring. China also operates the Haiyang ocean monitoring constellation and Fengyun weather satellites in low Earth and geosynchronous orbits.

China will continue to increase its on-orbit constellation with the planned launch of 100 satellites through 2015. These launches include imaging, remote sensing, navigation, communication, and scientific satellites, as well as manned spacecraft.

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