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Chinese Information Operations Capabilities 2004

'China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is embarked on an ambitious, long-term military modernization effort to develop capabilities to fight and win short-duration, high- intensity conflicts along its periphery. China’s defense modernization is broad reaching, encompassing the transformation of virtually all aspects of the military establishment, to include weapon systems, operational doctrine, institution building, and personnel reforms. China values military power to defend economic interests, secure territorial claims, and build political influence commensurate with its status as a regional power with global aspirations. In recent years, the PLA has accelerated reform and modernization in response to the central leadership’s concerns that developments across the Taiwan Strait could put at risk Beijing’s objectives for Taiwan unification..'


May 2004


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Information Operations

The PLA is developing its information operations (IO) capabilities to target and damage or destroy enemy information systems and weaken the enemy’s command, control, and overall operational capabilities. Even though these capabilities are improving and the PLA is conducting IO training, equipment is dated and does not appear to be readily available to most units. Although current PLA IO systems are older, domestic production, along with foreign technology transfers, probably will give the PLA access to a wider range of modern equipment in the future.

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Information Operations


China is experiencing a rapid buildup of its information technology capabilities. The Chinese government effectively uses market access and regulations to force major foreign information technology companies to transfer technology, share know- how, and, more recently, open research and development labs in China. Many of the Chinese companies in these joint ventures are affiliated with state research institutes under the Ministry of Information Industry or the PLA’s General Staff Department. As a result of these trends, China is acquiring the personnel and technology bases for a credible computer network operations capability. However, highly skilled information technology personnel may seek to avoid government service or cooperation with the government sector, preferring instead the economic incentives of the private sector. In addition, poor information technology management skills and a corporate culture that does not emphasize innovation are hindering development of advanced technology capabilities and programs.

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Information Operations

During a cross-Strait conflict, China most likely would initiate an intensive perception management campaign, with both global and regional audiences, to reduce the desire of Taiwan to resist, justify China’s military campaign, and deter US intervention. China anticipates that this strategy will succeed because of the fragility of the Taiwan population’s psychology. The Chinese perception management campaign most likely would use Chinese, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other regional media to deliver messages to the Taiwan people and leaders.

Unclassified Chinese writings reveal that attacking C4I systems, civilian information technology, and communication infrastructure are critical for gaining information superiority. Prior to an attack, Chinese information operations personnel and special forces or espionage agents most likely would gain and maintain access to such communication nodes for intelligence exploitation and disrupt critical infrastructure, such as the power grid and vulnerable collocated military and civilian telecommunications. Exploiting other portions of the information operations spectrum (through electronic warfare and denial and deception) also could disrupt Taiwan’s defenses, and attacks against unclassified DoD computer networks related to logistics could delay US efforts to intervene.


Source: Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China, 2004


See also:

Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China, 2003

Chinese Information Warfare: A Phantom Menace or Emerging Threat? by Mr. Toshi Yoshihara (November 2001). As a step to clarify the future direction of Chinese information warfare (IW) and to identify new areas for further research, this monograph explores Chinese perspectives of IW through a sampling of the burgeoning open literature circulating in China. The author provides a preliminary assessment of these Chinese writings and analysis, and demonstrates some linkages and parallels to America's current debates on IW, the Soviet-U.S. competition, Clausewitz's classic dictums, and Chinese strategic culture. He concludes with implications of future developments in Chinese IW for American policy.

Like Adding Wings to the Tiger: Chinese Information War Theory and Practice by Mr. Timothy L. Thomas , Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS

Unrestricted Warfare by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui (Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House, February 1999)