Chinas chilling warning on military cyberspace ambitions: Enhance capabilities

China: Expert discusses impact of AUKUS alliance

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The US, UK and Australia are setting up a trilateral security partnership in order to confront China’s growing security threat. It will include helping Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines. Aukus — the initiative’s name — was jointly announced by US President Joe Biden and Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, who joined the American by video link.

One of the focuses of the group is to work together on cyberwarfare and artificial intelligence.

China has in recent years made clear its ambition of ramping up its cyber presence and credentials.

In a white paper published by the Chinese Ministry of National Defence in 2015, Beijing revealed how it wanted to better co-operate on the international stage in events of major hacking crimes.

However, it repeatedly referred to the militarisation of the internet, suggesting it planned to bolster its cyber forces.

It read: “Cyberspace has become a new pillar of economic and social development, and a new domain of national security.

“As international strategic competition in cyberspace has been turning increasingly fiercer, quite a few countries are developing their cyber military forces.

“Being one of the major victims of hacker attacks, China is confronted with grave security threats to its cyber infrastructure.

“As cyberspace weighs more in military security, China will expedite the development of a cyber force, and enhance its capabilities of cyberspace situation awareness, cyber defence, support for the country’s endeavours in cyberspace and participation in international cyber cooperation, so as to stem major cyber crises, ensure national network and information security, and maintain national security and social stability.”

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From this point on, President Xi Jinping has ramped up his country’s efforts.

In 2015, his People’s Liberation Army (PLA) elevated cyber operations under the Strategic Support Force.

This placed cyber operation at the same level as other branches of the military — hinting at how seriously China considers cyberspace in military terms.

A year later, Mr Xi established the Cyber Security Association of China (CAC), a control agency which oversees the country’s internet.

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Xiao Qiang, head of the California-based China Digital Times, described the CAC as a “ferocious assault on civil society”.

Later in 2016, Mr Xi launched and led the Joint Force Command to better promote integration of cyber capabilities into military operations.

All of this has caught the attention of the Western world, appearing to culminate in this week’s trilateral alliance.

China reacted furiously to the news, describing the historic security pact as “extremely irresponsible” and “narrow minded”.

The pact will also look to influence China’s growing taste for expansion in the South China Sea, it is believed.

The region has been a hotbed of contention for years.

Chinese state media carried editorials denouncing the pact, and one in the Global Times newspaper said Australia had now “turned itself into an adversary of China”.

While China was not mentioned directly in the pact’s announcement, the three leaders referred repeatedly to regional security concerns which they said had “grown significantly”.

A joint statement read: “This is an historic opportunity for the three nations, with like-minded allies and partners, to protect shared values and promote security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Analysts say the alliance is probably the most significant security arrangement between the three nations since WWII.

It is separate from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance which also includes New Zealand and Canada.

Speaking from London, Mr Johnson said the three countries were “natural allies” even though “we may be separated geographically” and said the alliance would create “a new defence partnership and driving jobs and prosperity”.

On the submarine building plan, he added: “This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world, lasting decades and requiring the most advanced technology.”

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