NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
The Chinese military will wage large-scale information warfare in a future conflict using cyber, electronic and conventional attacks to achieve “information dominance,” according to new details of Beijing’s growing military capabilities outlined in the Pentagon’s latest annual report on the Chinese military.
“The concept of information warfare is an expansive concept that includes individuals, enterprises, societies and national communications networks that form integrated entities, encompassing the electromagnetic spectrum, psychology and perception and intelligence operations,” the report released this week states in a special section on the topic.
Cyber, electronic and conventional military strikes will seek to destroy enemy information systems and promote Chinese Communist messaging and disinformation, according to U.S. analysts.
“China’s goal for information warfare is to gain information superiority, which is achieved by destroying an adversary’s ability to acquire, transmit and process information,” the report said.
At the same time, the People’s Liberation Army will seek to protect its information capabilities from foreign attacks. The Pentagon report reveals that China is building electronic warfare systems to disrupt U.S. satellites and has practiced electronic strikes on satellites in military exercises. The targets include multiple types of space-based communications, radar systems and GPS navigation used in military movements and precision-guided weapons.
The PLA also plans to attack synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites used for military reconnaissance.
“Interfering with SAR satellites very likely protects terrestrial assets by denying imagery and targeting in a potential conflict involving the United States or its allies,” the report said.
China also is believed to be developing jammers to target military satellites communications in a range of frequency bands, including military-protected extremely high-frequency communications, the report said.
PLA information warfare is also behind the military concept of “informationized” warfare — high-technology conflict relying on information. The goal is to achieve “information dominance” — a key strategic military advantage in a conflict that was adopted from U.S. military information dominance during the Iraq war.
PLA forces plan to conduct psychological attacks prior to the start of a conflict, with the goal of eroding the will to fight by both the military and civilian population. Kinetic and cyber attacks on command and control systems also would be carried out to paralyze enemy information flows.
The PLA closely watched the offensive information operations by both Russia and Ukraine during the beginning of the conflict in February. PLA warfighters also plan to employ cognitive warfare that they believe is at the core of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Cognitive domain operations by the PLA would integrate military actions with political, economic, public opinion, psychological and other tools to affect enemy cognition, decision-making and behavior.
The goal is to achieve what the PLA strategists call “mind dominance” — the use of propaganda as a weapon to influence public opinion and change a nation’s social system while creating an environment supportive of Chinese interests and ideology. PLA researchers assert that a victory of cognitive narratives may produce greater benefits than firepower destruction and can last long after conflict ends.
Cognitive warfare would be used by the PLA against the United States to deter entry into a regional war or to shape perceptions and polarize society. The goal is to produce psychological pressure and fear and force a surrender without fighting.
Cognitive military operations would employ artificial intelligence and “big data” — a key Chinese advantage following theft over the past decade of masses of data on Americans obtained through cyberattacks. Artificial intelligence will be used by the PLA to run “bot” networks on social media that can create content and coordinate optimal post times.
“If the PLA is successful in incorporating these technologies into operations, it could increase obfuscation of activities, create more plausible content and enable more accurate targeting of audiences,” the report said.
China to crack down hard on protests
China analysts in China and the United States say Chinese Communist Party authorities are preparing to strike back at the mass protests that erupted last weekend against stringent “zero-COVID” controls and the lack of freedom in the country.
Party officials signaled the coming crackdown in a statement at a meeting this week of the Party’s Political and Legal Affairs Committee.
“We must resolutely crack down on infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces in accordance with the law, resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order and effectively maintain overall social stability,” the committee said in a statement indirectly referring to recent mass protests. The statement also called for bolstering the “combat spirit” of authorities.
The warning came from the committee’s newly appointed chief, Chen Wenqing, a former Chinese intelligence officer who led the session that was also attended by Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong.
In Beijing, hundreds of armored vehicles and other police vans with flashing lights were deployed along streets on Wednesday, as police continued conducting random checks of people’s phones for foreign apps used by protesters to communicate.
Arrests have been made and more are expected based on China’s ubiquitous mass surveillance system, a system that is capable of identifying protesters through their phones or from video cameras linked to security databases. Surveillance is so advanced that a bicycle rider in Shanghai who runs a red light can expect police to show up to their residence within days to impose a fine.
Analysts in China say the protests were allowed to continue for several days as part of a plan by the police and intelligence agencies to identify protesters and go after them. The action is said to be similar to Mao’s campaign in 1956 to 1957 known as the Hundred Flowers Campaign that temporarily allowed free expression for the purpose of identifying regime opponents who were then ruthlessly suppressed.
Chinese sources warn the protests are not expected to last and soon will be crushed as a threat to both the CCP and President Xi Jinping.
The protesters are said to be made up of a combination of groups with different outlooks.
Some are holding vigils for the victims of the recent fire in Xinjiang that killed 10 people who were forcibly quarantined under widely despised government pandemic controls.
Others turned out in large numbers to protest heavy-handed quarantine and lockdown policies by Chinese “neighborhood committees” — police in white hazmat suits called “Big Whites” who enforce the draconian zero COVID regulations. Those activities have included barricading people in apartments and forcing others into quarantine camps.
A very small number of protesters are viewed as radical pro-democracy activists who want to see the Communist regime and Mr. Xi overthrown. It was this group who took the lead in the unusual protests that involved large crowds chanting for an end to CCP rule and for Mr. Xi to step down.
At those demonstrations, more moderate Chinese protesters departed from the group, leaving the radicals to be identified by police surveillance or by electronic phone surveillance.
The anti-regime protesters are expected to be arrested and imprisoned as political dissidents who will be harshly treated, if not killed, by Chinese authorities to crush as any sign of political dissent. Relatives of the protesters also will likely be targeted for reprisals.
As part of its propaganda operations aimed at quelling the protests, the Chinese government has begun trying to redirect public anger at Chinese COVID testing companies that are making large sums of money from the strict lockdown policies. The goal is to divert public anger away from the government and the Communist Party.
— Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.