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China’s Cyber Warfare Capabilities

Author: Desmond Ball

Volume 7, Number 2 (Winter 2011), pp. 81-103.


China has the most extensive and most practised cyber-warfare capabilities in Asia. This article describes the development of these capabilities since the mid-1990s, the intelligence and military organisations involved, and the particular capabilities that have been demonstrated in defence exercises and in attacks on computer systems and networks in other countries. It notes that it is often very difficult to determine whether these attacks have originated with official agencies or private ‘Netizens’. It argues that China’s own computer systems and networks are replete with vulnerabilities, of which Chinese officials are well aware. It concludes that this appreciation of China’s deficiencies and vulnerabilities has led to the adoption of a pre-emptive strategy, as practiced in People’s Liberation Army exercises, in which China’s very destructive but relatively unsophisticated cyber-warfare capabilities are unleashed at the very outset of prospective conflicts.

About the Author

Desmond Ball is a Professor in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, Canberra. He was Head of the Centre from 1984 to 1991. desmond.ball@anu.edu.au.


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