China is prepared to use cyber operations to manage the escalation of conflict, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Defense. The 145-page document is another indication that the U.S. views China as a threat in cyberspace.
Beijing “view cyber operations as a low-cost deterrent and can demonstrate capabilities and resolve to an adversary,” said the annual Defense Department’s report to Congress on China’s military capabilities.
The report said that Chinese cyberattacks aim to deter adversary intervention, and added that Beijing believes their capabilities and personnel lag behind the U.S.
The Chinese government is matching its aggressive cyber skills with an ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
The document said that Chinese military researchers “believe that building strong cyber capabilities is necessary to protect Chinese networks and advocate seizing ‘cyberspace superiority’ by using offensive cyber operations to deter or degrade an adversary’s ability to conduct military operations against China."
By 2030, China is aiming to be leaders in the fields of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and quantum computing with an eye on using the technology for both its economy and military.
“Efforts by China to cultivate a broad base of (science and technology) talent, particularly given its stated focus on dual-use sectors, will be relevant to China’s military power in coming decades,” the document read.
To acquire military and commercial technologies, China uses targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals’ access to these technologies, the report said.
Cyberattacks sponsored by the Chinese government infiltrated a U.S. Navy contractor’s computers, allowing digital thieves to access sensitive data related to secret Navy projects on a submarine anti-ship missile.
The release of the report comes after a string of high-profile hacks attributed to the Chinese government. Examples include the theft of sensitive details from a U.S. Navy contractor, allegations of snooping on countries it trades with in its Belt and Road Initiative, and a hack on Singapore’s health system.