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China building airborne guerrila cyberwarfare force

August 16, 2011

The Chinese Defense Ministry has confirmed the existence of so-called “blue units,” autonomous formations that conduct cyberwarfare on opponents.  Many of these units operate from long distance bomber aircraft, sniffing out and attacking enemy computing and communications.

From the South China Morning Post:

Strategically, the blue units apply in cyberspace Mao Zedong’s doctrine of guerilla warfare – the concept of avoiding direct confrontation with big and powerful enemies such as the United States. Mao abandoned big cities when taking on the invading Japanese and anti-communist Nationalists. He established strongholds in less-developed rural areas and constantly hit the enemy’s regular armies with small bands of guerillas. He also mobilised large peasant militias to fight powerful but less numerous enemies. It was a strategy that eventually proved successful.

Decades later, that approach to warfare is guiding the PLA’s operations in cyberspace, according to a 2006 paper by Dr Wan Dongsheng , a cyberwar specialist with the PLA’s Electronic Engineering Institute. Wan says that any confrontation between China and the US in cyberspace today would have many similarities with those earlier wars. Again it would be a case of seemingly less-developed technology squaring off against a more advanced one, involving many people against a few. China might lose considerable ground in the early phase of war, but the guerilla strategy would consume the enemy and grind it down at enormous cost.

China’s guerilla attacks would avoid defence strongholds such as military command centres. Instead, it would target civilian sectors such as the power grid, financial system, international trade, transport and even hospitals to cause the greatest damage, given that more than 95 per cent of the US military’s network is connected to the internet.

Wan says a prolonged guerilla war in cyberspace would require the mobilisation of the people, and the military and government should plan for a total cyberwar, giving the country’s hundreds of millions of internet users professional guidance, training and organisation.

As always, read the whole thing.

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