China's Cyber Tool: Striving to Attain Electronic Shi?

China's Cyber Tool: Striving to Attain Electronic Shi?

Timothy L. Thomas (United States Armed Forces (Retired), USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5942-1.ch040


This chapter analyses how China is using cyber reconnaissance to achieve electronic shi, defined as strategic advantage. It examines China's cyber strategy and information age advantages; Chinese financial and military cyber threats; China's hacker population; and Chinese organizations devoted to cyber defense. Once attained, electronic shi allows a country to “win victory before the first battle.”
Chapter Preview

1. Introduction

Shi is an important strategic Chinese concept with roots as far back as Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War. One US source defines shi as the strategic configuration of power or advantage (Sawyer, 1994). A retired Chinese General, Tao Hanzhang, defines shi as “the strategically advantageous posture before a battle that enables it to have a flexible, mobile, and changeable position during a campaign” (Tao, 2007, 124). Another Chinese source, the book Campaign Stratagems, defines shi as the combination of the friendly situation, enemy situation, and the environment; as the sum of all factors impacting the performance of the operational efficiency of both sides; and as the key factor determining the rise and fall of operational efficiency (Zhang and Zhang, 2002).

The attainment of a strategic advantage is directly stated or implied in all of these definitions. Electronic shi, then, is the attainment of an electronic strategic advantage via cyber reconnaissance. US Defense Officials recognize Chinese attempts to realize electronic shi in today’s digital environment. The US deputy undersecretary of defense for Asia-Pacific affairs, Richard Lawless, told Congress in 2007 that the Chinese military’s “determination to familiarize themselves and dominate to some degree Internet capabilities—not only of China and that region of the world—provide them with a growing and very impressive capability that we are very mindful of and are spending a lot of time watching” (Tkacik, 2007).”

Chinese computer specialists, primarily civilian hackers, have developed cyber tools to enhance their Internet capabilities to recon and attack foreign networks and websites. For the purposes of this chapter, the term “cyber tools” refers to software tools of a malicious nature, to include scanners, viruses, botnet controllers, and Trojans among other network reconnaissance and attack mechanisms (author’s definition).

US analyst Phillip Saunders, who specializes in Chinese affairs, believes China uses its cyber tools to accomplish the following goals: secure inputs for its economy; protect against US containment strategies; expand China’s political influence; and pursue commercial interests (Saunders, 2006). Like Saunders, other US analysts also believe the cyber tool has become an attractive option for Chinese security experts.

Chinese officials recognize the importance of attaining electronic shi. Xiong Guangkai, chairman of the China Institute for International Strategic Studies, stated in March 2009 that information and financial security are key elements of China’s contemporary non-traditional security thinking (Liu, 2009). Xiong’s comments are important. He was once the deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff and a senior consultant to those making national policy. His inside knowledge of the Chinese system enables him to ascertain the national security issues of most probable concern to China’s Communist Party leaders. Without control over these two elements, electronic shi will be difficult to attain.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: