In­for­ma­tion war­fare and PLA

SP's MAI - - MILITARY REPORT - [ By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) ]

Speak­ing at the meet­ing of the Po­lit­i­cal Bureau of the Com­mu­nist Party Cen­tral Com­mit­tee in late Au­gust, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping called for more in­no­va­tion in the coun­try’s armed forces and a new strat­egy for in­for­ma­tion war­fare (IW) amid a global mil­i­tary revo­lu­tion. Xi said that China should lib­er­ate ideas and con­cepts, and have the courage to change fixed mind­sets on mech­a­nised war­fare and es­tab­lish the ide­o­log­i­cal con­cept on in­for­ma­tion war­fare. He wanted China strive to es­tab­lish a new mil­i­tary doc­trine, in­sti­tu­tions, equip­ment sys­tems, strate­gies and tac­tics and man­age­ment modes for in­for­ma­tion war­fare. Though China is well ad­vanced in IW, IW be­ing at the fore­front of the revo­lu­tion in mil­i­tary af­fairs (RMA) launched dur­ing the Jiang Zemin, the re­marks ap­par­ently were to ad­dress the rag­ing com­pe­ti­tion that China has with the US in the IW sphere. In May, China had said it will take ac­tion against the US for prose­cut­ing five PLA of­fi­cers for al­leged cy­ber es­pi­onage. In an indictment unsealed on May 19, 2014, the US had charged Wang Dong, Sun Kail­iang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chun­hui with eco­nomic es­pi­onage linked to com­puter hack­ing of Amer­i­can nu­clear power, met­als and so­lar com­pa­nies. In May 2014, Geng Yan­sheng, Chi­nese Min­istry of Na­tional De­fence, had said that on­line at­tacks from a spe­cific coun­try had tar­geted Chi­nese com­pa­nies, its mil­i­tary and im­por­tant web­sites. But China has been ac­cused of sim­i­lar cy­ber at­tacks and cy­ber steal­ing over the years.

As part of RMA, the Chi­nese lead­er­ship has con­tin­u­ously stressed us­ing asym­met­ric tech­niques to counter more pow­er­ful na­tions like the US and In­for­ma­tion Op­er­a­tions (IO) and IW are tools that the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) uses to achieve their goals. Chi­nese IO and IW are based on con­cepts and terms sim­i­lar to the US but with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics suit­ing Chi­nese cul­ture and the com­mu­nist doc­trine.

China has adopted the idea of in­for­ma­tion from the US but her method for achiev­ing in­for­ma­tion dom­i­nance em­ploys the an­cient meth­ods like the ‘Thirty Six Strat­a­gems’ to win wars: de­ceive the heavens to cross the ocean; be­siege Wei to res­cue Zhao; kill with a bor­rowed sword; wait at leisure while the en­emy labors; loot a burn­ing house; make a sound in the east, then strike in the west; cre­ate some­thing from noth­ing; openly re­pair the gallery roads but sneak through the pas­sage of Chen­cang; watch the fires burn­ing across the river; hide a knife be­hind a smile; sacrifice the plum tree to pre­serve the peach tree; take the op­por­tu­nity to pil­fer a goat; stomp the grass to scare the snake; bor­row a corpse to res­ur­rect the soul; en­tice the tiger to leave its moun­tain lair; in or­der to cap­ture, one must let loose; toss­ing out a brick to get a jade gem; de­feat the en­emy by cap­tur­ing their chief; re­move the fire­wood from un­der the pot; dis­turb the wa­ter and catch a fish; slough off the ci­cada’s golden shell; shut the door to catch the thief; be­friend a dis­tant state while at­tack­ing a neigh­bour; ob­tain safe pas­sage to con­quer the State of Gou; re­place the beams with rot­ten tim­bers; point at the mul­berry tree while curs­ing the lo­cust tree; feign mad­ness but keep your bal­ance; re­move the lad­der when the en­emy has as­cended to the roof; deck the tree with false blos­soms; make the host and the guest ex­change roles; the beauty trap-honey pot; the empty fort strat­egy; let the en­emy’s own spy sow dis­cord in the en­emy camp; in­flict in­jury on one­self to win the en­emy’s trust; chain strat­a­gems, and; if all else fails, re­treat. Per­haps there isn’t a more com­plete trea­tise on treach­ery and de­ceit but that is what Chi­nese strat­egy is all about.

Xie Guang, then Vice Min­is­ter of Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy and In­dus­try for Na­tional De­fence, de­fined IW in De­cem­ber 1999 as, “IW in mil­i­tary sense means over­all use of var­i­ous types of in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies, equip­ment and sys­tems, par­tic­u­larly his com­mand sys­tems, to shake de­ter­mi­na­tion of en­emy’s pol­icy mak­ers and at the same time, the use of all the means pos­si­ble to en­sure that that one’s own sys­tems are not dam­aged or dis­turbed.” More than two decades ago, China be­gan pro­pound­ing the­o­ries, doc­trines, poli­cies and strate­gies for de­fen­sive and ag­gres­sive use of cy­berspace. Re­cently, a stu­dent from the In­sti­tute of Sys­tems En­gi­neer­ing of Dalian Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in China pub­lished a re­search pa­per ti­tled “Cas­cade-based At­tack Vul­ner­a­bil­ity on the US Power Grid.”

If Pres­i­dent Xi is call­ing for re­fin­ing the IW strat­egy it is be­cause China has con­stantly drawn upon the ex­pe­ri­ence of the US and Rus­sia whether the con­flict is in Mid­dle East, Balkans or else­where. The fo­cus al­ways is on how to strengthen China’s ter­ri­to­rial claims and af­fect the course of con­flicts, if and when they oc­cur. IW has been dove­tailed with psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare op­er­a­tions elec­tronic war­fare op­er­a­tions, ex­pand­ing the role for its le­gal schol­ars in jus­ti­fy­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion and ter­ri­to­rial claims. Th­ese then go into what schol­ars de­scribe as a three war­fare pack­age; me­dia war­fare, psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare and le­gal war­fare again to jus­tify ter­ri­to­rial claims by any which way while dis­re­gard­ing in­ter­na­tional treaties and norms like UN­C­LOS. Same is the case with China’s claims with ref­er­ence to In­dia and Tai­wan. China takes IW se­ri­ously with re­gard to her en­ergy se­cu­rity in­clud­ing crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture and net­work of oil pipe­lines.

PLA has al­ready de­vel­oped its In­te­grated Net­work and Elec­tronic War­fare (INEW) doc­trine for gain­ing su­pe­ri­or­ity and in­for­ma­tion dom­i­nance. INEW com­bines ap­pli­ca­tion of com­puter net­work op­er­a­tions (CNO) and EW en­com­passes co­or­di­nated and si­mul­ta­ne­ous at­tack on the ad­ver­saries com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­put­ers, in­tel­li­gence, surveil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (C4ISR) net­works and other key in­for­ma­tion sys­tems/as­sets to gain in­for­ma­tion dom­i­nance. A sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tion to en­able the PLA suc­cess­fully op­er­ate in the elec­tro­mag­netic do­main is for­mu­la­tion of a new ap­proach termed ‘In­for­ma­tion Con­fronta­tion’ es­tab­lish­ing dis­creet ca­pa­bil­i­ties linked to­gether un­der a sin­gle com­mand struc­ture and fully in­te­grated into the over­all cam­paign plan. Mul­ti­ple Blue Forces IW units are be­ing reg­u­larly re­hearsed in proac­tive op­er­a­tions and the IW mili­tia is well or­gan­ised un­der the PLA. In­dia needs to mon­i­tor th­ese de­vel­op­ments closely in or­der to draw lessons from them. In­ter­est­ingly, Pres­i­dent Xi in the same meet­ing of the Po­lit­i­cal Bureau of the Com­mu­nist Party Cen­tral Com­mit­tee urged all party mem­bers to be more aware of mil­i­tary is­sues, de­fence and mil­i­tary build­ing and mil­i­tary preparedness, and to give more support to the coun­try’s na­tional de­fence and mil­i­tary re­forms, which by it­self is no less sig­nif­i­cant.

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