Much has been made about China’s first public acknowledgement of cyber warriors within the People’s Liberation Army and their alleged capability to conduct offensive military operations in cyberspace.
“This is the first time we’ve seen an explicit acknowledgement of the existence of China’s secretive cyber-warfare forces from the Chinese side,” one expert asserted.
However, these revelations are not groundbreaking (e.g., see the revelations on China’s Blue Army a while back), nor do they constitute a formal strategic doctrine for cyber or military applications of information technology in the event of war. It has been declared Chinese doctrine since 2003 to develop capabilities for information war.
Some experts note that the announcement could be a sign of a potential power struggle between military and civilian authorities in China, yet this is mere speculation at this stage.
The document in question is the 2013 edition of The Science of Military Strategy, a paper usually only published once a generation. The text is authored by high-ranking members of the Academy of Military Sciences, the highest-level research institute of the People’s Liberation Army, with close ties to the Central Military Commission and People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department.
This document, back in December 2013, for the first time dedicated an entire chapter to cyber war, outlining different types of military operations in cyberspace – network reconnaissance, network defense, network attack and network deterrence. In fact, the inaugural inclusion of a chapter on this subject in this latest edition of The Science of Military Strategy is evidence of how slowly the cyber war mission has penetrated such “teaching materials.”