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Journal of Strategic Security Volume 9

Journal of Strategic Security
Volume 9
Number 2 Summer 2016 Article 4
China’s Three Warfares Strategy Mitigates
Fallout From Cyber Espionage Activities
Emilio Iasiello
Private Sector, [email protected]
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Recommended Citation
Iasiello, Emilio. “China’s Three Warfares Strategy Mitigates Fallout From Cyber Espionage Activities.” Journal of Strategic
Security 9, no. 2 (2016): 45-69.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.9.2.1489
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jss/vol9/iss2/4
China’s Three Warfares Strategy Mitigates Fallout From Cyber Espionage
Activities
Author Biography
Emilio Iasiello has more than 12 years’ experience as a strategic cyber intelligence analyst,
supporting U.S. government civilian and military intelligence organizations, as well as the
private sector. He has delivered cyber threat presentations to domestic and international
audiences and has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals.
Abstract
China is engaged in longstanding cyber espionage against the U.S., as well as other nations, to
collect sensitive public and private information in support of national objectives laid out in its
12th Five Year Plan. Foreign governments citing China’s malfeasance have rebuked these
activities, a claim vehemently denied by Beijing. In response, China is leveraging the “Three
Warfares” an integrated three-prong information warfare strategy to combat these accusations
by leveraging Media, Legal, and Psychological components designed to influence the
international community. While the United States has threatened the imposition of economic
sanctions, Beijing has successfully parried consequential actions by arresting U.S.-identified
hackers, thereby demonstrating its commitment toward preserving a stable and peaceful
cyberspace. These interrelated “Three Warfares” disciplines have targeted the cognitive
processes of the U.S. leadership, as well as the international public’s perception of China as a
global threat, thereby having successfully forestalled the implementation of any effective
punitive or economic deterrence strategy to include the imposition of cyber sanctions.
This article is available in Journal of Strategic Security: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jss/vol9/iss2/4
45
Introduction
China has been allegedly engaged in a longstanding cyber espionage
campaign against the United States, as well as other nations, soliciting
negative reactions citing China’s malfeasance. The negative press received
from these activities is feeding into the perception that China’s global ‘rise’ is
predicated on surreptitious intellectual property theft to project it into great
power status, and perhaps as a way to seek regional and global military
balance with the United States. In order to combat this perception, this
article suggests that China has leveraged its ‘Three Warfares,’ a three-prong
information warfare approach composed of Media, Legal, and Psychological
components designed to influence the international community, and the
United States in particular, in order to forestall the development and
implementation of any effective counter strategy. The result has been largely
successful to date, enabling China to reach specific milestones set forth in its
national development plans while escaping any serious punitive or economic
repercussions from the international community, to include recent
circumvention of U.S.-imposed cyber sanctions. This article will review
Chinese cyber activity, international perceptions of the Chinese cyber threat,
how “Three Warfares” apply to Chinese cyber operations, and then provide
final conclusions.
Chinese Cyber Activity
Former National Security Agency (NSA) Director and Commander of U.S.
Cyber Command General Keith Alexander estimates the losses incurred by
cyber espionage activities at approximately $338 billion, although admittedly
not all the result of Chinese efforts.1
Nevertheless, the intimation of this
assessment is that China, identified as the most persistent cyber espionage
actor,2 is suspected of a good portion of this activity. Indeed, the breadth and
scope of suspected Chinese sponsored and/or directed cyber espionage begs
the question: Despite the tactical success of stealing a diverse spectrum of
sensitive and proprietary information in the face of public protest, what is
Beijing’s strategic game plan?

1 Josh Rogin, “NSA Chief: Cybercrime Constitutes the ‘Greatest Transfer of Wealth in
History’,” Foreign Policy: The Cable, July 9, 2012, available at:
http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/07/09/nsa-chief-cybercrime-constitutes-the-greatesttransfer-of-wealth-in-history/.
2 “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace,” Office of the National
Counterintelligence Executive, October 2011, available at:
http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Reports%20and%20Pubs/20111103_
report_fecie.pdf.
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China has three primary national security objectives: Sustaining regime
survival, defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and
establishing China as both a regional and national power.3 China views the
United States with a cautious mix of skepticism, partnership, and
competition. The Chinese believe that the United States is a revisionist power
seeking to curtail China’s political influence and harm China’s interests.4 One
way to counter U.S. supremacy is for China to engage in cyber operations in
an effort to extract information from “diplomatic, economic and defense
industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs.”5
In this
context, cyber operations can be viewed as being more about trying to
strengthen China’s core and less about diminishing U.S. power. Focusing
solely on the United States, suspected Chinese cyber espionage actors have
targeted the following industries, among others, during the past two years:

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3 Colonel Jayson M. Spade, “Information as Power: China’s Cyber Power and America’s
National Security,” U.S. Army War College, May 2012, available at:
http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB424/docs/Cyber-072.pdf;
“Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014,”
Office of the Secretary of Defense Annual Report to Congress, 2014, available at:
http://www.defense.gov/pubs/2014_DoD_China_Report.pdf.
U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review 2014 (Washington, D.C.: OSD,
2014): V, available at:
http://www.defense.gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review.pdf.
4 Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, “How China Sees America,” Foreign Affairs,
September/October 2012, available at:
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138009/andrew-j-nathan-and-andrewscobell/how-china-sees-america.
5 “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014.”
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Space6, Infrastructure7
, Energy8, Nuclear Power9, Technology Firms10, Clean
Energy11
, Biotechnology12, and Healthcare.13
China’s 12th Five Year Plan reflects overall goals and objectives of the
government to promote economic industry growth. It is a critically important
tool that maps out in five-year cycles the country’s future progress via
guidelines, policy frameworks, and targets for policy makers at all levels of
government.14 In the current Five Year Plan, which covers 2011-15, China
identified seven priority industries to develop, areas in which the United
States has typically been an innovator and leader. These “strategic emerging
industries” are intended to become the backbone of China’s economy in the
decades ahead.15
These industries are:
ï‚· New Energy (nuclear, wind, solar sower)
ï‚· Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection (energy reduction
targets)
ï‚· Biotechnology (drugs and medical devices)

6 John Walcott, “Chinese Espionage Campaign Targets U.S. Space Technology,”
Bloomberg, April 18, 2012, available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-
18/chinese-espionage-campaign-targets-u-s-space-technology.html.
7 Tom Simmonite, “Chinese Hacking Team Caught Taking Over Decoy Water Plant,”
Technology Review, August 2, 2013, available at:
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/517786/chinese-hacking-team-caughttaking-over-decoy-water-plant/.
8 Tom Simmonite, “Chinese Hacking Team Caught Taking Over Decoy Water Plant,”
Technology Review, August 2, 2013, available at:
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/517786/chinese-hacking-team-caughttaking-over-decoy-water-plant/.
9 Jennifer Liberto, “New Chinese Hacker Group Targets Governments, Nuclear Facilities,”
CNN Money, June 4, 2013, available at:
http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/04/technology/security/cyber-hackergroup/index.html.
10 Stew Magnuson, “Stopping the Chinese Hacking Onslaught,” NDIA, July 2012,
available at:
http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2012/July/Pages/StoppingtheChin
eseHackingOnslaught.aspx.
11 Susan D. Hall, “Chinese Hackers Targeting the Healthcare Industry,” FierceHealthIT,
March 20, 2013, available at: http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/chinese-hackerstargeting-healthcare-industry/2013-03-20.
12 Nick Paul Taylor, “Chinese Trial Data Hackers Reportedly Active Again,” Fierce
BioTechIT, May 27, 2013, available at: http://www.fiercebiotechit.com/story/chinesetrial-data-hackers-reportedly-active-again/2013-05-27.
13 Susan D. Hall, “Chinese Hackers Targeting the Healthcare Industry,” FierceHealthIT,
March 20, 2013, available at: http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/chinese-hackerstargeting-healthcare-industry/2013-03-20.
14 “China’s 12th Five Year Plan,” APCO, December 10, 2010, available at:
http://www.export.gov.il/UploadFiles/03_2012/Chinas12thFive-YearPlan.pdf.
15 Ibid.
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ï‚· New Materials (rare earths and high-end semiconductors)
ï‚· New IT (broadband networks, Internet security infrastructure,
network convergence)
ï‚· High-End Equipment Manufacturing (aerospace and telecom
equipment)
ï‚· Clean Energy Vehicles16
It is easy to see that a correlation can be made between the types of industries
that have been targeted in the United States in the last two years and the
strategic emerging industries that China has highlighted for development.
Moreover, China views cyber as an ideal tool to accomplish these objectives
being an inexpensive facile technique to engage several potential intelligence
targets at once. In February 2007, China National Defense News defined
cyber warfare as the “use of network technology and methods to struggle for
an information advantage in the fields of politics, economics, military affairs,
and technology.”17
The key takeaway here is that cyber warfare is directly
related to “information advantage” and not military advantage, suggesting
that peacetime cyber activities are more about bolstering China’s
development in strategic areas and less about establishing military superiority
vis-a-vis reconnoitering a future battle space.
The Perceived Chinese Cyber Threat
While some experts believe that the United States, along with China and
Russia, are engaged in a cyber arms race,18 China has yet to be suspected or
implicated in an incident involving the destruction of information systems or
the information resident on them. Many Chinese strategic military writings
advocate the use of information warfare as a pre-emptive weapon prior to the
onset of military engagements;19 however, if China is behind the volume of
cyber espionage activity attributed to it, during peacetime China prefers to
leverage the benefit of computer intrusions as a means of information
collection and commercial advantage, rather than one of deterrence.

16 “China’s 12th Five-Year Plan: Overview,” KPMG China, March 2011, available at:
http://www.kpmg.com/cn/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/Chi
na-12th-Five-Year-Plan-Overview-201104.pdf.
17 Robyn E. Ferguson, “Information Warfare with Chinese Characteristics: China’s Future
View of Information Warfare and Strategic Culture,” (Dissertation), 15.
18 Robert Windrem, “Expert: U.S. In Cyber Arms Race With China, Russia,” NBC News
Investigations, February 20, 2013, available at:
http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/20/17022378-expert-us-incyberwar-arms-race-with-china-russia.
19 James Mulvenon, “The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age,” (Santa
Monica: RAND, 1999), 183.
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Currently, several countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, India,
Taiwan, and the United Kingdom, among others, have publicly accused China
of intruding into their public and private sector networks.20 In particular, the
United States has been the prime target of suspected Chinese orchestrated or
directed cyber operations for approximately a dozen years. While the U.S.
government maintained a reserved stance for most of this time, in 2012 it
became more outspoken with regard to the volume of cyber espionage activity
targeting its public and private sectors. In October 2011, U.S. Congressman
Mike Rogers of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
publicly accused China of stealing sensitive information:
“China’s economic espionage has reached an intolerable level and I
believe that the United States and our allies in Europe and Asia have
an obligation to confront Beijing and demand that they put a stop to
this piracy.”21
In 2013, the security company Mandiant published a detailed report
identifying a Chinese military unit involved in cyber espionage.22 Never
before had technical evidence and analysis linking activities to a government
entity been made public. The Mandiant report proved to be a watershed
moment for senior U.S. government officials with several of them, including
President Obama, publicly addressing the issue of Chinese cyber espionage.
Shortly after publication of the Mandiant report, in March 2013, U.S National
Security Advisor Thomas Donilon stated:
“…businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about
sophisticated targeted theft of confidential business information and
proprietary information through cyber intrusions emanating from
China.”23

20 Timothy L. Thomas, “Google Confronts China’s Three Warfares,” Parameters 40:2
(Summer 2010), available at:
http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/Articles/2010summer/Tho
mas.pdf.
21 “Lawmaker: China Engaging in Cyber Spying,” Fox News, October 4, 2011, available at:
http://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/2011/10/04/lawmaker-china-engaging-incyber-spying/.
22 “APT 1: Exposing one of China’s Espionage Units,” Mandiant, available at:
http://intelreport.mandiant.com/Mandiant_APT1_Report.pdf.
23 Tom Donilon, “The United States and the Asia-Pacific in 2013,” The Asia Society,
March 11, 2013, available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressoffice/2013/03/11/remarks-tom-donilon-national-security-advisory-president-unitedstates-a.
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In that same month, President Obama engaged directly with Chinese
President Xi Jinping about cyber security and future engagement
possibilities,24 which was followed by a summit in June, where the two leaders
more fully discussed cyber security, with Obama opting not to directly accuse
the Chinese leader of espionage activity.25
However, any headway was
derailed in May 2014 when the U.S. Department of Justice indicted five
Chinese military officers with committing cyber espionage, the first time ever
the U.S. government publicly accused members of a foreign government with
crimes against U.S. companies.26 Further reports of another suspected
Chinese espionage group like ‘Axiom’,
27 reputed to be more sophisticated than
the one profiled in the Mandiant report, further paints a condemning picture
of China as a relentless cyber thief of sensitive information. Given the
voluminous cyber incidents pointing toward some level of Chinese
government affiliation, Beijing finds itself trying to sustain its ‘peaceful rise’
image in the midst of growing global public dissent, led at the spear tip by the
United States and its threat of imposing cyber sanctions against those entities
that benefited from commercial espionage activities.
Three Warfares – A Primer
It seems counterproductive for a country so concerned with ‘face’ to engage in
such blatant and aggressive activities that threaten to harm its global image.
Two important concepts in Chinese culture are guanxi and mianzi. The first,
guanxi, has been defined as sharing favors between individuals, connections,
relationships, and the ability to exert influence. The second, mianzi, means
‘face,’ as in saving face, losing face, and giving face.28 So why would a country
steeped in this mindset willingly risk its image, especially at a time when the
country is seen as a peacefully rising world economic power?

24 Steve Howard, “Obama, China’s Xi Discuss Cybersecurity Dispute on Phone Call,”
Reuters, March 14, 2013, available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/ususa-china-obama-call-idUSBRE92D11G20130314.
25 M. Alex Johnson and Matthew DeLuca, “Obama Takes Diplomatic Tack on Chinese
Cyberespionage Charges,” NBC News, June 7, 2013, available at:
http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/07/18804533-obama-takes-diplomatictack-on-chinese-cyberespionage-charges.
26 Devlin Barrett and Siobhan Gorman, “U.S. Charges Five in Chinese Military of
Hacking,” The Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014, available at:
http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304422704579571604060696532.
27 Adam Segal, “Axiom and the Deepening Divide in U.S.-China Relations,” Council on
Foreign Relations Blog, October 29, 2014, available at:
http://blogs.cfr.org/cyber/2014/10/29/axiom-and-the-deepening-divide-in-u-s-chinacyber-relations/.
28 “China,” Cultural Savvy, available at: http://www.culturalsavvy.com/china.htm.
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The implementation of non-kinetic, non-violent, but still offensive operations
is best suited for Chinese peacetime strategy of influencing the cognitive
processes of a country’s leadership and population, or what Sun Tzu describes
as ‘subduing the enemy without fighting.’29 In 2003, the Communist Chinese
Party Central Committee and the Central Military Commission approved the
concept of ‘Three Warfares,’ a People’s Liberation Army non-military
information warfare tool to be used in the run up to and during hostilities.30
Collectively, the ‘Three Warfares’ allow China to enter any fray, whether in
peace or war, with a political advantage that can be used to alter public or
international opinion.31
They are:
 Psychological Warfare–Undermines an enemy’s ability to conduct
combat operations through operations aimed at deterring, shocking,
and demoralizing the enemy military personnel and supporting
civilian populations. 32
 Public Opinion/Media Warfare–Influences domestic and
international public opinion to build support for China’s military
actions and dissuade an adversary from pursuing actions contrary to
China’s interests. 33
 Legal Warfare–Uses international and domestic law to claim the legal
high ground or assert Chinese interests. It can be employed to
hamstring an adversary’s operational freedom and shape the
operational space. Legal warfare is also intended to build
international support and manage possible political repercussions of
China’s military actions. 34
Media warfare incorporates the mechanism for messages to be delivered,
while legal warfare provides the justification of why actions are permissible.
Psychological warfare provides the necessary nuance leveraging the
dissemination capability of the media and the more formalized legal
mechanisms to substantiate its activities to domestic and international

29 Sun Tzu, The Art of War, available at:
http://www.theartofwar.ws/The_Art_of_War.pdf.
30 “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011,”
Office of the Secretary of Defense Annual Report to Congress, 2011: 26, available at:
http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2011_CMPR_Final.pdf.
31 Timothy L. Thomas, “Google Confronts China’s Three Warfares.”
32 “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011,”
26.
33 Ibid.
34 Ibid.
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audiences. Given that each of these types of warfare rely on the targeting and
influencing of a specific target audience, it is easy to see why Chinese analyses
almost always link these three types of ‘combat’ together.35

Public Opinion/Media Warfare
Public opinion warfare refers to the use of various information channels,
including the Internet, television, radio, newspapers, movies, and other forms
of media in accordance with an overall plan and defined objectives to transmit
selected news and other materials to an intended audience.36 The goals are to
preserve friendly morale, generate public support at home and abroad,
weaken the enemy’s will to fight, and alter the enemy’s situational
assessment. Defensive public opinion warfare is leveraged against adversarial
public opinion warfare to neutralize possible effects on the Chinese
populace.37
Given the voluminous hacking allegations levied against China,
defensive public opinion warfare is a natural counterbalance.
According to Cheng, four themes are inherent in Chinese writings on public
opinion38:
 Follow Top-Down Guidance–The senior leadership will dictate
courses of action based on strategic objectives.
 Emphasize Preemption–Chinese analyses of public opinion warfare
emphasize that “the first to sound grabs people, the first to enter
establishes dominance (xian sheng duoren, xianru weizhu).”
 Be Flexible and Responsive to Changing Conditions–Use of different
propaganda activities depending on the audience. “One must make
distinctions between the more stubborn elements and the general
populace.”
 Exploit All Available Resources–Civilian and commercial news assets
such as news organizations, broadcasting facilities, Internet users, etc.,

35 Dean Cheng, “Winning Without Fighting: Chinese Public Opinion Warfare and the
Need for a Robust American Response,” The Heritage Foundation, No. 2745, November
26, 2012, available at: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/11/winningwithout-fighting-chinese-public-opinion-warfare-and-the-need-for-a-robust-americanresponse.
36 Ibid.
37 Ibid.
38 Ibid.
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are seen as an invaluable resource in getting China’s message before
domestic and global audiences.
Public criticism over Beijing-sponsored intrusions surfaced as early as 2005
when it was revealed that suspected Chinese government intrusions dubbed
‘Titan Rain’ had been targeting U.S. public and private sectors entities since
2003.39 Since that time, numerous foreign governments have gradually come
out publicly to identify the Chinese government, or its operatives, as
perpetrators of intrusion activity against their networks.40 Furthermore, U.S.
government entities have long suspected Chinese telecommunications
companies Huawei and ZTE as being instruments of the state, and possible
mediums that can be leveraged by the Chinese government for intelligence
collection.41
Such debate has risen to the highest levels as seen in 2013
meetings between Chinese president Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack
Obama.42 In 2014, Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel disclosed U.S. cyber
force structure and capabilities to China in an effort to demonstrate military
transparency.43
Chinese Public Opinion / Media Warfare Applications to Cyberspace
Chinese response has evolved during this period in which it has been framed
as an antagonistic cyber presence. Typically, China has met such accusations
with a defensive posture, denying allegations and asking for more information
in an attempt to help track down the perpetrators. Indeed, senior official

39 Nathan Thornburg, “The Invasion of the Chinese Cyberspies,” Time, August 29, 2005,
available at: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1098961-1,00.html.
40 Jason Koutsoukis, “Chinese Waging Online Spy War;” The Age, February 10, 2008,
available at: http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/chinese-waging-online-spywar/2008/02/09/1202234232007.html; Roger Boyes, “China Accused of Hacking into
Heart of Merkel Administration,” The Times, August 27, 2007, available at:
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/europe/article2595759.ece; Donna
Buenaventura, “China Tried to Hack Our Computers, Says India Security Chief M.K.
Narayanan,” The Times Online, January 18, 2010, available at:
http://blogs.msmvps.com/donna/2010/01/18/china-tried-to-hack-our-computerssays-india-s-security-chief-m-k-narayanan/.
41 Nathan Ingraham, “US Government Claims Huawei and ZTE Pose a Risk to National
Security: the Accusations, Responses, and Fallout,” The Verge, October 11, 2012, available
at: http://www.theverge.com/2012/10/11/3488584/huawei-zte-us-governmentsecurity-investigation.
42 “Admit Nothing and Deny Everything,” The Economist, June 6, 2013, available at:
http://www.economist.com/news/china/21579044-barack-obama-says-he-ready-talkxi-jinping-about-chinese-cyber-attacks-makes-one.
43 Joe McReynolds, “Cyber Transparency for Thee, But Not for Me,” The Jamestown
Foundation China Brief, 14: 8, available at:
http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=42246&no_cache=1#.VTfXN
BdSxdY .
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statements issued from China’s Ministry of Defense,44 Ministry of Foreign
Affairs,45 and its Prime Minister46 have towed the same party line, asserting
that China is not behind the attacks, that China is a victim not a perpetrator of
cyber-crime activity, and that China’s laws strictly identify hacking as illegal.47
However, China shifted to a more assertive stance once former NSA
contractor Edward Snowden released alleged highly classified documents
exposing U.S. global surveillance efforts. Instead of trying to deflect
accusations, China now points its own finger at the U.S. government. In
particular, Beijing has demanded an explanation from the United States over
reports of NSA spying on the Chinese company Huawei.48 The irony is not
lost on China, given earlier U.S. government concerns over Huawei’s
suspected spying on behalf of the Chinese government, which was ultimately
not proven after a study was conducted on behalf of the U.S. Congressman
and Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
Mike Rogers.49 Although skeptics persisted, in October 2012, the White
House conducted its own security review of Huawei and found no clear
evidence that Huawei spied on behalf of the Chinese government.50 Further
pushing U.S. cyber malfeasance into the spotlight, in March 2014, China’s
National Computer Emergency Response Team identified the United States
as the top source of intrusion activity against its computers.51

44 Charles Riley, “China’s Military Denies Hacking Allegations,” CNNMoney, February
20, 2013, available at: http://money.cnn.com/2013/02/20/technology/china-cyberhacking-denial/.
45 David Barboza, “China Says Army Is Not Behind Attacks in Report,” The New York
Times, February 21, 2013, available at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/business/global/china-says-army-not-behindattacks-in-report.html?_r=0.
46 “Espionage Report: Merkel’s China Visit Marred by Hacking Allegations,” Spiegel
Online, August 27, 2007, available at:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/espionage-report-merkel-s-china-visitmarred-by-hacking-allegations-a-502169.html.
47 “M Trends 2014: Beyond the Breach,” Mandiant, available at:
https://dl.mandiant.com/EE/library/WP_M-Trends2014_140409.pdf.
48 Liz Peek, “U.S. and China in a Lethal Game of Cyber Chess,” The Fiscal Times, April 9,
2014, available at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Blogs/Peek-POV/2014/04/09/USand-China-Lethal-Game-Cyber-Chess.
49 Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, “Investigative Report on the U.S. National
Security Issues Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei Technologies
and ZTE,” U.S. House of Representatives, October 8, 2012, available at:
https://intelligence.house.gov/sites/intelligence.house.gov/files/documents/HuaweiZTE%20Investigative%20Report%20%28FINAL%29.pdf.
50 “Huawei: Leaked Report Shows No Evidence of Spying,” BBC News, October 18, 2012,
available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19988919.
51 Ben Blanchard, Li Hui, and Paul Carsten, “China Blames U.S. for Rise in Hacking
Attacks,” The Fiscal Times, March 28, 2014, available at:
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U.S. efforts to manage its public image have fallen short after allies and
adversaries alike expressed outrage from the Snowden scandal.52 The subtle
nuance from which the U.S. government bases its defense, namely that it
conducts such activities to support national security interests and not to
provide competitive advantage to U.S. corporations, seems trite, particularly
after being caught with its hand in the proverbial cyber cookie jar. Several
accusations have surfaced because of leaked documents pointing to the NSA
spying on non-national security entities such as Brazil’s biggest oil company,
53
the European Union commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and
Intel,
54 and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.55
Even on its
home front, the U.S. public and special interest groups seeking to preserve
civil liberties have condemned NSA activities.56
While the U.S. seemed to have an upper hand and international support
regarding suspected Chinese cyber espionage, China has successfully regained
some of its public facing pride. China continues to promote itself as a cyber
victim as well as a willing cyber security partner. In 2014, China expressed its
desire for mutual cyber cooperation with the United States,57 and as of April
2014, the Pentagon has engaged in military exchanges with China in the spirit
of military transparency.58

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/03/28/China-Blames-US-Rise-HackingAttacks.
52 Charly Wilder, “Out of Hand: Europe Furious over U.S. Spying Scandal,” Spiegel
Online, October 24, 2013, available at:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/angry-european-and-german-reactionsto-merkel-us-phone-spying-scandal-a-929725.html.
53 Jonathan Watts, “NSA Accused of Spying on Brazilian Oil Company Petrobas,” The
Guardian, September 9, 2013, available at:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/09/nsa-spying-brazil-oil-petrobras.
54 Edward Moyer, “NSA Spied on EU Antitrust Official Who Sparred With U.S. Tech
Giants,” Cnet, December 20, 2013, available at: http://www.cnet.com/news/nsa-spiedon-eu-antitrust-official-who-sparred-with-us-tech-giants/.
55 Mark Hosenball, “Obama Halted NSA Spying on IMF and World Bank Headquarters,”
Reuters, October 31, 2013, available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usasecurity-imf-idUSBRE99U1EQ20131031.
56 Charlie Savage, “Watchdog Report Says NSA Is Illegal and Should End,” The New York
Times, January 23, 2014, available at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/us/politics/watchdog-report-says-nsaprogram-is-illegal-and-should-end.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=twnytimes&_r=1.
57 “U.S., China Agree to Work Together on Cyber Issues,” Reuters, April 13, 2013,
available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/13/us-china-us-cyberidUSBRE93C05T20130413.
58 Peek, “U.S. and China in a Lethal Game of Cyber Chess.”
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Despite ongoing allegations of Chinese cyber misconduct, China has made
strides in somewhat polishing its tarnished image at the timely expense of
U.S. secret cyber activities. Perhaps in light of this, in May 2014, the U.S.
Justice Department indicted five Chinese military hackers for cyber
espionage.59 While this landmark decision attempted to directly implicate
China’s government with cyber espionage, it failed to incriminate China any
more in the public’s eye. After all, many public and private organizations
generally believe that the Chinese government steals intellectual properties
and sensitive information. Rather, the onslaught of exposed highly sensitive
documents revealing the U.S. government’s role in similar activity (against
allied and adversary governments alike) proved to be a bigger injustice and a
black mark against a government advocating human rights and individual
freedoms.
Legal warfare
Legal warfare is one of the key instruments of psychological and public
opinion warfare.60 Legal warfare is typically used in conjunction with one or
both of the other two types of warfare as maximum effectiveness is achieved
when they build upon each other. In this way, legal warfare provides the basis
that strengthens public opinion warfare and psychological warfare.61
By
definition, legal warfare is designed to provide justification for a course of
action.
There are two influences that help form Chinese legal warfare:
 Chinese Views of the Role and Rule of Law–Historical and cultural
considerations inform the Chinese government’s understanding of
legal warfare. Confucianism and Legalist influences were integral to
imperialist China but as the government evolved during Mao’s tenure,
Marxist perspectives advocated that the “law should serve as an

59 “U.S. Charges Five Chinese Military Hackers for Cyber Espionage against U.S.
Corporations and a Labor Organization for Commercial Advantage,” U.S. Department of
Justice, May 19, 2014, available at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-charges-fivechinese-military-hackers-cyber-espionage-against-us-corporations-and-labor.
60 Dean Cheng, “Winning Without Fighting: Chinese Legal Warfare,” The Heritage
Foundation, No. 2692, May 21, 2012, available at:
http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/05/winning-without-fightingchinese-legal-warfare.
61 Kexin, L., Study Volume on Legal Warfare, (Beijing, PRC: National Defense University
Press, 2006): 18, 34-37.
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ideological instrument of politics.”62 Today, there is a focus on
commercial and contract law, while criminal law remains weak.63
 Chinese Perception of Legal Warfare in the West–China perceives that
importance of Western interests to use law as justification for its
actions. In the first Gulf War, the United States obtained U.N.
authorization for sanctions as well as use of force in Iraq, while in
Kosovo, it argued that its actions were “consistent with the law”
because they were taken under NATO auspices.64 Being able to use
rule of law or its legal perceptions to justify actions is a powerful tool
in Chinese thinking.
Chinese legal warfare applications to cyberspace
As a mode of influence, legal warfare is typically used prior to the outbreak of
physical conflict, and occurs only in context of actual warfare. However, since
the international spotlight has shifted to cyber espionage activities and China
has been called out as a perpetrator of intellectual property theft, evidence
suggests that the Chinese may be using tenets of legal warfare to push
strategic interests. The following events occurred after several governments
publicly blamed China for hacking into their networks and stealing data:
 2014 U.S. Plans to Relinquish Internet Control–In December 2012,
China along with Russia gained international support to have all states
have equal rights to the governance of the Internet. The agreement
updated 24-year-old U.N. telecommunications rules.65 While nonbinding, eighty-nine countries signed it with 55 reserving the right to
sign it at a later date,66 showing the widespread support. This
initiative continued the necessary steps for the International
Telecommunications Union (ITU) to play an active role in the multistakeholder model of the Internet.67 Such efforts, coupled with the
leaking of sensitive documents pertaining to the National Security

62 Eric W. Orts, “The Rule of Law in China,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law,
January 1, 2001, available at: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-72733959.html.
63 Cheng, “Winning Without Fighting: Chinese Legal Warfare.”
64 Ibid.
65 Amy Thomson, “UN Telecom Treaty Approved Amid U.S. Web-Censorship Concerns,”
Bloomberg, December 14, 2012, available at:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-12-13/u-s-and-u-k-refuse-to-sign-unagreement-on-telecommunications.
66 “U.S. and UK Refuse to Sign UN’s Communications Treaty,” BBC News, December 14,
2012, available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20717774.
67 Ibid.
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Agency’s alleged global surveillance, applied considerable pressure on
the United States to back away from supporting the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) influence on
Internet controls.68 Gaining international support and using the ITU
as an authorized body gave these efforts the auspice of legitimacy. As
of January 2016, U.S. officials remained committed to relinquishing
federal government control over the administration of the Internet by
September.69
 2011/2015 China-Russia Letters to the United Nations–Since there
are no official international laws or even common definitions
governing cyber activity, China has been a prominent voice in
advocating for norms of behavior for nation states. In 2011, China
teamed up with Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to submit an
international code of conduct for information security to the U.N.,70
and updated it in January 2015.71
Essentially, the core of both
proposals highlighted identifying the rights and responsibilities of
states in the information space, as well as promoting their constructive
and responsible behaviors to enhance their cooperation in addressing
common threats and challenges. Although as of this writing, the
proposal is still being reviewed by member states, China did assume a
leading international role in trying to establish behavior norms for
nation states using an international body as a validating entity of its
efforts.

68 Craig Timberg, “U.S. to Relinquish Last Control Over the Internet,” The New York
Times, March 14, 2014, available at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/us-to-relinquish-remainingcontrol-over-the-internet/2014/03/14/0c7472d0-abb5-11e3-adbc888c8010c799_story.html.
69 RRN Prasad, “Towards Freedom of the Internet,” The Financial Express, January 4,
2016, available at: http://www.financialexpress.com/article/fe-columnist/towardsfreedom-of-the-internet/187447/.
70 “Letter dated 12 September 2011 from the Permanent Representatives of China, the
Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the United Nations addressed to the
Secretary-Genera,” UN General Assembly, A/66/359, available at:
https://ccdcoe.org/sites/default/files/documents/UN-110912-CodeOfConduct_0.pdf.
71 “Letter Dated 09 January 2015 from the Permanent Representatives of China, the
Russian Federation, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to the United Nations Addressed to the
Secretary General,” UN General Assembly, A/69/723,
https://ccdcoe.org/sites/default/files/documents/UN-150113-CodeOfConduct.pdf.
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 2009 Updating of Chinese Cybercrime Legislation–China has
maintained publicly that hacking is against Chinese laws.72 In 2009,
China extended penalties for those convicted of cybercriminal
activities.73 When accused of sponsoring hacking, China is quick to
cite its laws as a legal justification of why it does not engage in that
activity.74
China uses international organizations like the UN, whose authorization is
backed by legal considerations, in order to give its efforts legitimacy. This
ultimately serves two important strategic objectives: 1) It tempers the
negative image of China as a hacking state by showing that it is seeking to
work collectively and within the defined rules of established international
organizations, and 2) It helps China implement non-kinetic asymmetric
means to pursue its political and economic objectives, avoiding the need to
use military force or influence, thereby reducing the risk of potential
escalation over a given issue.
Chinese psychological warfare
Psychological Warfare is deeply rooted in Chinese strategy; for example,
“Chinese writings posit that during peacetime, psychological operations seek
to reveal and exploit divisions in the enemy’s domestic political establishment
or alliance system and cast doubt on the enemy’s value concepts.”75
It aims
for a high degree of precision in targeting critical nodes in order to achieve
nonlinear effects.

72 “China Says Cyber Hacking is Against the Law,” Voice of America, January 13, 2010,
available at: http://www.voanews.com/content/china-says-cyber-hacking-is-againstlaw-81473967/111452.html.
73 Gu Jian, “Strengthening international cooperation and joining hands in fighting
against transnational cybercrime,” China.org, November 9, 2010, available at:
http://www.china.org.cn/business/2010internetforum/2010-
11/09/content_21306503.htm.
74 Jim Finkle, Joseph Menn, and Aruna Viswanatha, “US Accuses China of Cyber Spying
on American Companies,” Reuters, November 20, 2014, available at:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/20/us-cybercrime-usa-chinaidUSKCN0J42M520141120.
75 Mark Stokes, “The Chinese Joint Aerospace Campaign: Strategy, Doctrine, and Force
Modernization in China’s Revolution in Doctrinal Affairs,” James Mulvenon and David
Finklestein (eds.), (Alexandria, VA: CNA Corporation, 2005), 272.
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Chinese psychological warfare applications to cyberspace
According to Chinese scholars, psychological warfare is an integral part of
information warfare.76 However, defining information warfare in a Chinese
context is more challenging, as there is not a published doctrine on
information warfare and there are only Chinese doctrinal writings available to
provide insight into this complex discipline. Early writings on the subject
were largely borrowed from translated United States, Russian, French, and
German doctrines.77
As time has passed, there have been developments in
Chinese thinking with regard to information warfare, most notably with
regard to the concept of ‘information dominance,’ which according to Chinese
cyber expert Dr. James Mulvenon, is the main objective of Chinese
information warfare strategy.78 Information dominance has two primary
targets: The physical information infrastructure and the data that has passed
through it, and perhaps more importantly, the human agents that interact
with those data, especially those making decisions.79
According to Chinese writings, there are five broad tasks associated with
psychological warfare.80 Taking into consideration China’s involvement in
global intrusion activity, these tasks may be applied to the current
environment in the following manner:
1) Presenting Your Own Side as Just—China is very much concerned
with its public image, which makes its ambivalence toward the
negative publicity surrounding suspected hacking activity curious. All
attempts to ‘blame and shame’ China have ended in a resounding
failure, which can be attributed to the fact that China has established
and maintained the same official position, regardless of what
government is finger pointing. Beijing typically parries such claims by
consistently denying hacking allegations and then immediately
pointing out that they are the victims of hacking.81
Further, as noted

76 Dean Cheng, “Winning Without Fighting: The Chinese Psychological Warfare
Challenge,” The Heritage Foundation, No. 2821, July 11, 2011, available at:
http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/07/winning-without-fighting-thechinese-psychological-warfare-challenge.
77 Ferguson, “Information Warfare with Chinese Characteristics,” 31.
78 James Mulvenon, “The PLA and Information Warfare,” in The People’s Liberation
Army in the Information Age, James Mulvenon and Richard H. Yang (eds.) (Washington,
DC: RAND, 1999): 180.
79 Cheng, “Winning Without Fighting: The Chinese Psychological Warfare Challenge.”
80 Guo Yanhua, Psychological Warfare Knowledge (Beijing: National Defense University
Press, 2005), 14-16.
81 “Remarks by President Obama and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of
China After Bilateral Meeting,” The White House, June 8, 2013, available at:
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earlier, Beijing frequently cites that hacking is against the law in
China,82 trying to show that, as a country, it is doing its part to best
address hostile activities in cyberspace through legal channels. Lastly,
China in partnership with Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan,
proposed before the United Nations (UN) a code of conduct in
cyberspace for nation states,83 and updated it in February 2015 after it
had received input from member states.84 This achieved two
important objectives: 1.) It showed China being proactive in trying to
establish an international set of responsible behavior norms for nation
states in cyberspace; and 2.) It demonstrated China’s willingness to
collaborate with others as equals. The proposal tendered at the UN
further demonstrated China’s desire to gain consensus among the
international community. Taken collectively, these efforts can be
interpreted as China’s mitigation of the negative press it receives by
presenting itself as responsible and collaborative. The proactive desire
to collaborate with other governments on such issues may have been
the impetus to lead the United States in June 2015 to agree to
negotiate with China on some kind of “code of conduct” in
cyberspace.85
2) Emphasizing One’s Advantages—In 2014, China became the world’s
largest economy. China’s gross domestic product blistered from 2003-
13, averaging more than 10 percent a year.86 While the United States
has kept Chinese companies at bay from penetrating U.S. markets,
China has enthusiastically pursued other markets where the U.S. has
typically enjoyed a trade advantage. Recently, China overtook the
United States as Africa’s and Brazil’s largest trade partner. 87 This has

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/08/remarks-president-obamaand-president-xi-jinping-peoples-republic-china-.
82 “China Says Cyber Hacking is Against the Law.”
83 “Letter Dated 12 September 2011 from the Permanent Representatives of China, the
Russian Federation, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to the United Nations Addressed to the
Secretary General.”
84 “Letter Dated 09 January 2015 from the Permanent Representatives of China, the
Russian Federation, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to the United Nations Addressed to the
Secretary General.”
85 Greg Austin, “China’s Cyber Turn: Recognizing Change for the Better,” The Diplomat,
December 21, 2015, available at: http://thediplomat.com/2015/12/chinas-cyber-turnrecognizing-change-for-the-better/.
86 Tom Orlik, “Charting China’s Economy: 10 Years Under Hu,” The Wall Street Journal,
November 16, 2012, available at:
http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2012/11/16/charting-chinas-economy-10-yearsunder-hu-jintao/tab/print/.
87 “More than Minerals,” The Economist, May 23, 2013, available at:
http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21574012-chinese-tradeIasiello: China’s Three Warfares Strategy
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translated into economic advantages regardless of negative press about
alleged Chinese hacking. These countries simply do not care about the
threat, seeing economic engagement and accelerated infrastructure
development as outweighing any potential consequence. Brazil is
welcoming more Chinese private customers as active players in more
diversified ways of bilateral economic cooperation,88 and in Africa,
China has been the leading supplier of telecommunications
equipment.89 The stigma placed on the Chinese telecommunications
company Huawei is a perfect example of China playing to its strengths.
Despite the suspicions leveled largely by the U.S. government that
Huawei may act as an agent of the Chinese government, the Housedriven study didn’t yield any conclusive proof of espionage.
Furthermore, the company is “the second largest telecommunications
provider in the world, with deployed products and solutions in over
140 countries, indicating that several countries in the world are not as
concerned with Huawei posing an intelligence threat.” 90 Even U.S.
allies Australia and the UK appear not to levy the same level of
concerns as the United States. The UK’s Huawei Advisory Board–an
entity composed of both members of the UK’s intelligence service
GCHQ staff, governmental employees, and members of industry, as
well as Huawei personnel–concluded after an audit that Huawei’s
work in the UK did not pose a national security threat.91
In 2013,
Huawei supported the creation of an Australian Cyber Security Center
development to test the security credentials being implemented into
critical infrastructure.92

africa-keeps-growing-fears-neocolonialism-are-overdone-more; “China Overtakes U.S.
as Brazil’s Top Trade Partner,” Latin American Times, October 17, 2013, available at:
http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=333733&CategoryId=10718.
88 Du Wenjuan, “China Investment in Brazil More Diversified,” China Daily, May 14,
2013, available at: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2013-
05/14/content_16498645.htm.
89 “China’s Mighty Telecom Footprint in Africa,” New Security Learning, February 14,
2011, available at: http://www.newsecuritylearning.com/index.php/archive/75-chinasmighty-telecom-footprint-in-africa.
90 Emilio Iasiello, “Stuffing the Genie Back into the Bottle: Can Threats to the IT Supply
Chain Be Mitigated?” Foreign Policy Journal, April 3, 2013, available at:
http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2013/04/03/stuffing-the-genie-back-in-thebottle-can-threats-to-the-it-supply-chain-be-mitigated/.
91 Liat Clark, “Huawei Not a Threat to UK..Says Huawei Oversight Board,” Wired, March
27, 2015, available at: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-03/27/huawei-nota-threat-to-national-security.
92 Hafizah Osman, “Huawei Supports Australian Cyber Security Centre Development,”
Arnnet.com, January 23, 2013, available at:
http://www.arnnet.com.au/article/451519/huawei_supports_australian_cyber_securi
ty_centre_development_/.
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3) Undermining the Opposition’s Will to Resist—There have been several
writings on the China cyber threat by civilian and government
regional, cultural, and functional experts, in addition to international
media and print news channels covering the topic. In each instance,
two resounding messages are conveyed: 1) The Chinese cyber threat is
massive and pervasive representing the largest transfer of wealth in
human history,93 and 2) China seeks access to computer networks to
not only steal sensitive information but also to establish “information
dominance.”94 Whether described as being sophisticated,
rudimentary, or somewhere in between, Chinese espionage activity has
been constant and persistent. Even the term “advanced persistent
threat,” given to it purportedly by the U.S. Air Force in 2006 to be able
to discuss it with unclassified personnel,
95 portrays the adversary as
skilled and relentless, and considering its lack of covertness, fearless as
well. The fact that there have been few consequences suffered by the
alleged Chinese cyber operatives for their actions lends further support
to the notion that they cannot be beat, or at the very least, their brazen
activity cannot be stopped. As Richard Clarke said, “Every major
company in the United States has already been penetrated by China.”96
Coming from a man considered the first cyber czar in the U.S.
government, such platitudes further paint the adversary as a nearly
unbeatable opponent.
4) Encouraging Dissension in the Enemy’s Camp—This task focuses on
disrupting the cognitive processes of policymakers and decision
makers, inhibiting their ability to develop a plan of action. The theory
suggests that the best strategy is to attack the enemy’s mind, leaving
him unable to plan,97 which given U.S. policymakers’ history of not

93 Rogin, “NSA Chief: Cybercrime Constitutes the ‘Greatest Transfer of Wealth in
History.’”
94 Marcel A. Green, “China’s Growing Cyberwar Capabilities,” The Diplomat, April 13,
2015, available at: http://thediplomat.com/2015/04/chinas-growing-cyberwarcapabilities/.
95 Richard Bejtlich, “Testimony before the U.S. China Economic and Security Review
Commission Hearing on “Developments in China’s Cyber and Nuclear Capabilities,”
March 26, 2012, available at:
http://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/3.26.12bejtlich.pdf.
96 Jonathan Fisher, “China Has Hacked Every Major U.S. Company, Claims Richard
Clarke,” Web Pro News, March 28, 2012, available at:
http://www.webpronews.com/china-has-hacked-every-u-s-major-company-claimsrichard-clarke-2012-03.
97 Timothy L. Thomas, “New Developments in Chinese Strategic Psychological Warfare,”
Special Warfare 1:9 (2003), available at: http://www.dtic.mil/cgibin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA434978.
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being in accordance on cyber issues, makes them a prime exploitable
target. One thing is clear: Since suspected Chinese cyber espionage
was first discovered in 2003,98 there has been no concrete course of
action as to how to handle Chinese cyber espionage until the United
States’ creation of cyber sanctions, an effort to deter all grave cyber
activities, but in particular, those believed to be conducted or endorsed
by China.99 Previously, agencies supported various courses of action.
There were proponents of “active cyber defense” such as U.S. Cyber
Command100 and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency101
as a means to deter adversaries in cyberspace. However, there were
some like U.S. Representative Mike Rogers who believed there needed
to be a viable strong defense in place before engaging in any offensive
cyber operations.102 Still others, such as the Government
Accountability Office (GAO) cited lack of clearly defined roles and
responsibilities of federal agencies as a serious impediment to
productive cyber security.103 Continued failure to establish a strong
national level cyber security strategy prohibits the U.S. government
from going down a unified path with all stakeholders understanding
their part in the process. Even a February 2013 Executive Order on
Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyber Security has not generated
significant support. While a positive step, it failed to clearly mandate
changes, relying on companies’ willingness to comply with the
measures stated in the order. Although it did not reference the
February Order, the GAO in a March report still cited the need of an
integrated national cyber security strategy complete with milestones,
performance measures, and Congressional oversight.104 Whether

98 Nathan Thornburgh, “Inside the Chinese Hack Attack,” Time, August 25, 2005,
available at: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1098371,00.html.
99 Tal Kopan, “White House Readies Cyber Sanctions Against China Ahead of State Visit,”
CNN, September 24, 2015, available at:
http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/31/politics/china-sanctions-cybersecurity-presidentobama/.
100 “Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace,” U.S. Department of Defense, July 2011,
available at: http://www.defense.gov/news/d20110714cyber.pdf.
101 Angelos Keromytis, “Active Cyber Defense,” DARPA, available at:
http://www.darpa.mil/program/active-cyber-defense.
102 John Reed, “Mike Rogers: Cool It with Offensive Cyber Ops,” ForeignPolicy.com,
December 14, 2012, available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/12/14/mike-rogerscool-it-with-offensive-cyber-ops/.
103 “National Strategy, Roles, and Responsibilities Need to Be Better Defined and More
Effectively Implemented,” Government Accountability Office, February 2013, available
at: http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/652170.pdf.
104 “A Better Defined and Implemented National Strategy is Needed to Address Persistent
Challenges,” Government Accountability Office, March 7, 2013, available at:
http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/652817.pdf.
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intentionally or not, Chinese cyber espionage campaigns have taken
advantage of the indecisive climate that had permeated in the U.S.
government prior to the 2015 agreement between the two
governments to not hack each other for commercial economic
advantage.
5) Implementing Psychological Defenses—In the Chinese view, it is
assumed that an opponent will mount psychological attacks, as well as
exposing them and defeating them in order to demoralize an opponent
by demonstrating the ineffectiveness of his efforts.105
China has
maintained its political stance that it does not conduct hacking. Even
after approaching Chinese President Xi Jinping directly about Chinese
espionage, Xi deflected blame onto poor network security, and not the
government hacking U.S. targets. Indeed, when the NSA’s secret
surveillance program was exposed, China immediately jumped on the
opportunity of making the U.S. government the bad guy.106 Even the
much-maligned Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei seized the
moment to condemn NSA spying and promote a global cyber security
dialogue.107
When these five psychological warfare tasks are taken collectively, the
message being promoted is that China is a dominant cyber force. By denying
the accusations, China further builds on this image without having to say it
publicly, or leak into the press its involvement in a significant cyber event..
After all, unlike the U.S., China has not found the desire or need to bolster its
image as a dominant player in cyberspace via public announcements or
national strategies; instead, Beijing has relied upon others to speculate on its
capabilities and strength, allowing it to concentrate its energies on trying to
temper negative press while concurrently maintaining its covert espionage
efforts to support its national objectives.
Dodging U.S. Cyber Sanctions
While the Chinese cyber espionage activity has enjoyed relative freedom for a
substantial amount of time, the 2015 state visit put China on notice that cyber

105 Cheng, “Winning Without Fighting: The Chinese Psychological Warfare Challenge.”
106 “China Accuses U.S. of Hypocrisy Over Internet Spying,” Sydney Morning Herald,
June 28, 2013, available at: http://www.smh.com.au/world/china-accuses-us-ofhypocrisy-over-internet-spying-20130628-2p0uk.html.
107 Ellen Messmer, “Don’t Trust the NSA? China-based Huawei Says, ‘Trust Us,’”
Network World, October 18, 2013, available at:
http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/101813-nsa-huawei-274959.html?page=1.
Iasiello: China’s Three Warfares Strategy
Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2016
66
espionage for commercial advantage would not be tolerated by the United
States. In an effort to avoid these penalties, Beijing reached accord days
before President Xi’s official state visit to the United States in which both
agreed that “neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support
cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other
confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive
advantages to companies or commercial sectors.”108
As a result of the agreement, China arrested hackers identified by the United
States,109 thereby demonstrating its commitment to arresting criminal
elements in cyberspace, even if they are China’s own citizens. While opinions
differ on Beijing’s motives for arresting Chinese hackers, it is not without
precedent. In 2010, after a lengthy international coordinated effort, Chinese
authorities detained a Chinese national for hacking seven National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) systems, according to a
testimony from a NASA official to Congress.110
While Washington waits to see if Beijing will prosecute these hackers, the
more important takeaway is China’s demonstration of its willingness to work
with the United States–and perhaps by extension other governments as well–
on similar cyber issues, something that had not been done previously.
Sanctions still loom large on the table if perceived Beijing-sponsored hacking
against commercial interests does not abate; however, if handled correctly,
the threat of sanctions may ultimately serve China’s interests by addressing
head-on the biggest black mark against China. Holding fast to the principles
of legal and media warfare, China’s assurance of “opposing cyber attacks and
espionage and combating all forms of hacking activities in accordance with
the law,”111 coupled with public examples of collaborating with stakeholders
toward this end, may gradually assuage opponents’ concern of the “China
threat,” and in turn, depict China as a willing partner instead of an antagonist.

108 “FACT SHEET: President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to the United States,” The White
House, September 25, 2015, available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressoffice/2015/09/25/fact-sheet-president-xi-jinpings-state-visit-united-states.
109 “Chinese Hackers Arrested After U.S. Request,” BBC News, October 12, 2015, available
at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-34504317.
110 Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
“NASA Cybersecurity: An Examination of the Agency’s Information Security,” Statement
before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, House Committee on Science,
Space, and Technology, February 29, 2012, available at:
https://oig.nasa.gov/congressional/FINAL_written_statement_for_%20IT_%20heari
ng_February_26_edit_v2.pdf.
111 “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on October
13, 2014,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 13, 2015, available at:
http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/t1165638.shtml.
Journal of Strategic Security, Vol. 9 No. 2
http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jss/vol9/iss2/4
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.9.2.1489
67
Additionally, initiating additional cyber security cooperation with regional
governments will further bolster China’s message of seeking a stable Internet,
safe from criminal and terrorist activities. China has been active in this
regard, engaging in cyber security discussions with Japan,112 Malaysia,113 and
South Korea,114 as well as a series of no-hack pacts leading to the November
2015 G20 agreement to not conduct cyber-enabled commercial espionage.115
It can be expected that China will pursue more of these through independent
bilateral meetings or through international organizations like the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization.
Conclusion
Despite being accused of perpetrating long running and substantial cyber
espionage campaigns against the United States as well as several other
countries, China has escaped any significant punitive or economic
repercussions. China’s “Three Warfares,” a three-pronged information
warfare strategy designed to influence the international community, has
played an important role in forestalling any significant deterrence response,
while allowing China to promote itself as a viable partner in cyberspace.
China has sought to dull public perception of its rising threat by denying
accusations, while capitalizing on the Snowden leaks of U.S. global
surveillance activities to tarnish the U.S. image. Concurrently, China has used
legal mechanisms to help promote itself as a viable cybersecurity partner.
The act of championing the right of every state to be included on Internet
governance gained enough traction to encourage the U.S. to step down from
its governing role. Providing the UN with an updated “code of conduct” for
nation state behavior in cyberspace demonstrated its interest to the global
community that it was leading efforts toward achieving stability in cyber
space. Updating its cyber-crime legislation exhibited Beijing’s commitment

112 “S.Korea, Japan, China to Hold Cyber Policy Talks,” Yonhap News Agency, October 13,
2015, available at:
http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2015/10/13/0200000000AEN2015101300480
0315.html.
113 “Malaysia, China to Work Together on Cyber Crimes,” The Malay Mail Online, August
22, 2014, available at:
http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/malaysia-china-to-worktogether-to-combat-cyber-crimes.
114 “S.Korea, Japan, China to Hold Cyber Policy Talks.”
115 Ellen Nakashima, “World’s Richest Nations Agree Hacking for Commercial Benefits Is
Off-Limits,” The Washington Post, November 16, 2015, available at:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/worlds-richest-nationsagree-hacking-for-commercial-benefit-is-off-limits/2015/11/16/40bd0800-8ca9-11e5-
acff-673ae92ddd2b_story.html.
Iasiello: China’s Three Warfares Strategy
Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2016
68
toward penalizing those engaged in hacking, quickly followed by arresting
suspected hackers at the U.S. behest in 2015.116 Finally, China’s use of
psychological operations (PSYOPS) has presented itself as a law abiding
stakeholder in cyberspace while quietly basking in the writings that have
identified it as a significant cyber power. The more experts warn of China’s
powerful cyber capabilities, the more of a cyber equal China is perceived to be
without Beijing ever having to intimate it.
As a result, the confluence of these three strategies has kept the West from
deterring suspected Chinese espionage for a substantial period of time. In
fact, the more time that has been allowed to elapse, the more China has been
able to take advantage of it. In the time that the U.S. has mulled over finally
levying cyber sanctions against China, Beijing has capitalized on meeting with
countries like Japan and South Korea on cyber security issues,117 as well as
engaging in a series of “no hack pacts” between China and Russia,118 the
United Kingdom, 119 and the United States,120 an effort culminating in the
historic November 2015 agreement by members of the G20 to not engage in
cyber-enabled espionage for commercial advantage.121
Moreover, China has done this while becoming the world’s largest economy in
the process, and while promoting itself as a regional leader by spearheading
efforts for a Maritime Silk Road (a system of linked ports, projects and special
economic zones in Southeast Asia and the northern Indian Ocean122) and the
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (which already has 20 governments on

116 Ellen Nakashima, “Chinese Government Has Arrested the Hackers Breached OPM
Database,” The Washington Post, December 2, 2015, available at:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/chinese-government-hasarrested-hackers-suspected-of-breaching-opm-database/2015/12/02/0295b918-990c11e5-8917-653b65c809eb_story.html.
117 “S. Korea, Japan, China to Hold Cyber Policy Talks.”
118 Olga Razumovskaya, “Russia and China Pledge Not to Hack Each Other,” The Wall
Street Journal blog, May 8, 2015, available at:
http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/05/08/russia-china-pledge-to-not-hack-each-other/.
119 Katie Bo Williams, “UK, China Mirror U.S. Anti-Hacking Pact,” The Hill, October 21,
2015, available at: http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/257602-uk-china-mirror-usanti-hacking-pact.
120 “Fact Sheet: President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to the United States,” The White House,
September 25, 2015, available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressoffice/2015/09/25/fact-sheet-president-xi-jinpings-state-visit-united-states.
121 Nakashima, “World’s Richest Nations Agree.”
122 David Brewster, “The Bay of Bengal: The Maritime Silk Route and China’s Naval
Ambitions,” The Diplomat, December 14, 2014, available at:
http://thediplomat.com/2014/12/the-bay-of-bengal-the-maritime-silk-route-andchinas-naval-ambitions/.
Journal of Strategic Security, Vol. 9 No. 2
http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jss/vol9/iss2/4
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.9.2.1489
69
board).123 China’s plan may just be to rise through its region first before
ascending to a global throne brought on by some of the fruits of its espionage
efforts. In this context, China’s cyber espionage can be viewed as less about
reducing U.S. capability, and more about building itself to assume a larger
status in the world.

123 Thitinan Pongsudhirak, “China’s Aspiring Global Leadership,” East Asia Forum,
November 25, 2014, available at: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2014/11/25/chinasaspiring-global-leadership/.
Iasiello: China’s Three Warfares Strategy
Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2016
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without
permission.


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