Updated 9:12 AM EST, Tue, Jan 05, 2021

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US Assesses China’s Information Warfare Capabilities


(Photo : PLA) Personnel of China's Strategic Support Force.

Although immature compared to that of the United States, China's information warfare capabilities remain geared towards gaining "information warfare dominance" over the U.S.

China's information warfare activities are the province of the new Strategic Support Force (SSF) organized only in December 2015, said the Department of Defense's (DoD) recently released annual report to Congress on China's military developments.

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The report is also an in-depth look into the working of the SSF, which Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered to pursue "leapfrog development" and advance military innovation.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) describes SSF as a "growth point" for developing "new-type" forces and is an important force in joint operations.

SSF possesses the capabilities to contest space and cyberspace, which to the PLA are the "new commanding heights of strategic competition." Equally important, the SSF will develop a range of "new concept weapons."

SSF will be a key tool that will allow the PLA to leapfrog the U.S. military in critical emerging technologies.

"China believes its cyber capabilities and personnel lag behind the United States," said the DoD report.

"To deal with these perceived deficiencies, China is improving training and domestic innovation to achieve its cyber capability development goals."

China's investments in information capabilities are focused on developing a more "informatized" military, said the DoD's report.

"The PLA conducts military exercises simulating these operations and likely views conventional and cyber operations as means of achieving information dominance. PLA writings suggest EW, cyberspace, deception, counterspace, and other operations during wartime could deny an adversary's use of information."

DoD said the PLA recognizes the effectiveness of information warfare and cyber in recent conflicts and advocates targeting command-and-control and logistics networks.

"As a result, the PLA may seek to use its cyberwarfare capabilities to collect data for intelligence and cyberattack purposes; to constrain an adversary's actions by targeting network-based logistics, communications, and commercial activities; or to serve as a force-multiplier when coupled with kinetic attacks during times of crisis or conflict." 

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