PLA Strategy Now Openly Touts Cyber Forces

An authoritative People’s Liberation Army document now openly describes China’s cyber and network warfare forces for the first time, and lays out their division of labor, a leading expert on Chinese cyber warfare practices said Thursday at the Jamestown Foundation’s annual China Defense and Security Conference in Washington D.C. Joe McReynolds, with the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, said about once every 15 years the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences puts out a new edition of “The Science of Military Strategy.” The document is authored by dozens of high-level PLA officials working together to produce a “consensus document” on China’s military strategic thoughts. Western analysts obtained the new Chinese-language SMS last summer, which acknowledges the PLA’s “specialized military network warfare forces” and describes their three divisions. They are: the military’s operational attack and defense units, “PLA authorized forces,” such as civilians from the Ministry of State Security, and external “non governmental forces,” which can be mobilized if needed. The disclosure shows the PLA is “planting the flag” when it comes to control of network warfare activities within China and is preparing for potential future conflict by and through the cyber domain, McReynolds said. These tools could be used to target key US strengths, such as satellite and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance networks, he noted. (Conference agenda here.)