International Agreement for Control of Cyber Weapons


China’s Strategy for Cyberspace (Pt. II) – Analysis

Chinese Cyberspace (中国网络空间)

Below are a few conclusions we can draw regarding how the Chinese government views cyberspace (网络空间 wǎngluò kōngjiān).

Economic and cultural advantages of Cyberspace. There is acknowledgement of progress in communications, education, coordination and manufacturing, healthcare, finance and a number of other areas. Cyberspace is viewed as being a driver for economic development. In general, there is a very positive view of the potential for cyberspace to benefit both China and humanity as a whole.

Cyberspace is a new type of national “territory”. Although abstract in nature, the Chinese view is that cyberspace deserves the same type of protection as “brick and mortar” territory (land, sea, air, and space). Not only must the territory be protected, but it must be expanded if possible. There is a “competition” between nations to expand their cyber territory.

Threat to political security. The Internet and cyberspace can be used for many activities that might harm society or the political system. There is a risk to the “political security” (政治安全 zhèngzhì ānquán) of China. This view likely comes from the Chinese assessment of the “Arab Spring” or other social movements that have been enabled through the Internet and which destabilized or swept away governments.

Cyberspace can make China vulnerable to cyber espionage. China policymakers fear the use of the Internet for carrying out “cyber espionage” (网络窃密 wǎngluò qièmì) and for eavesdropping (网络监控 wǎngluò jiānkòng)  (spying on) Chinese society, its businesses, associations, or government.

The Internet can be used by China’s enemies to destabilize its political system. There is a fear that by inciting social unrest and promoting unhealthy or incompatible ideas, the enemies of China may attempt to use the Internet to overthrow the government. As a result, part of the Chinese strategy for cyberspace is to put in place controls on information imported from outside China. This curbing of the free flow of information is viewed as being a prudent measure of public safety, and although there is a trade-off with individual rights, a priority is placed on maintaining social stability in the world’s largest nation.

Cyberspace should curtail other than socialist core values. China has a concept of harmful information (有害信息 yǒuhài xìnxī) and cultural security (文化安全 wénhuà ānquán) that do not have an exact equivalent elsewhere. The idea is that the Internet and its unfettered communication provide a platform for spreading obscenity (淫秽 yínhuì), ideas about violence (暴力 bàolì) against society, superstition (迷信 míxìn), moral anomie (道德失范 dàodé shīfàn), and decadence (颓废文化 tuí fèi wén huà).  Here, the meaning of “superstition” really is “religion” as scientific communism or historical materialism do not recognize a supreme being, and promoting such beliefs is not compatible with communist society. Cyber space should be free of this type of content, much of which is commonplace in other parts of the world. The difference is that it is Chinese government policy to protect the Internet inside China from these bad influences.

Fake News in social media should be repressed. There is a specific notion that network rumors (网络谣言 wǎngluò yáoyán), can harm society. Therefore fake news should be kept off of the Internet. And this should be done by the government as a means of providing security to the Chinese people.

China employs a concept of “Internet Terrorism”. Online terrorism (网络恐怖 wǎngluò kǒngbù) is defined as being both general hacking (stealing information, infringement of intellectual property rights), as well as inciting and fomenting illegal behavior. There are three general classes of cyberspace terrorism: (1) using the Internet as a means of communication for the purpose of promoting terrorism; (2) committing computer crimes against persons or organizations; and (3) committing crimes against the Internet itself (hurting its operation, denial of service attacks, destruction of information or network logic), such as through introduction of viruses or malware (计算机病毒 jìsuànjī bìngdú).  There is no significant difference between the Chinese and nation’s views in this area.

China views cyberspace as a new territory to control and harvest. Cyberspace is thought of as a new “territory” where it is vital for nations to grasp control of strategic resources (网络空间战略资源 wǎngluò kōngjiān zhànlüè zīyuán). This means not only grasping the physical aspects of the Internet where possible, but also getting control over how the rules are made. This is generally referred to as Internet Governance (规则制定权 guīzé zhìdìng quán). China’s approach to internet governance is to emphasize the role of government as taking the lead. This is in contrast to the multi-stakeholder processes in vogue in much of the rest of the world. The Chinese system is simply not organized to allow non-government actors to make public policy.

China is building a cyber deterrence capability. Cyberspace is a platform through which a nation can build a deterrence strategy (网络威慑战略 wǎngluò wēishè zhànlüè). Deterrence is the principle that a nation if attacked will retain enough capability to do a significant amount of damage against its enemies. This makes it impossible for one country to attack another without itself suffering overwhelming damage. It is speculation to suggest how this principle would work in cyberspace. Nevertheless, deterrence must be based on the development of offensive cyber capability, which we can assume China is busy developing. In this connection, Chinese strategy is focused on preventing cyberspace conflict (网络空间冲突 wǎngluò kōngjiān chōngtū).

China recognizes there is a cyber arms race that should be controlled. The Chinese view the cyber arms race (网络空间军备竞赛 wǎngluò kōngjiān jūnbèi jìngsài) as being a danger to international peace and security. It is not known if the Chinese Government is interested in pursuing an international treaty for the control of cyber weapons. However, it does acknowledge that there is an arms race in cyber. We can conclude that China is working as quickly as possible to develop and deploy an entire arsenal of cyber weapons. China recognizes the need to control the cyber arms race (网络空间军备竞赛 wǎngluò kōngjiān jūnbèi jìngsài).

China continues to deploy a national network control system.  It appears that Internet security in its broadest sense is to be guaranteed by the Government of China through a national system (国家网络安全保障体系 guójiā wǎngluò ānquán bǎozhàng tǐxì). Cyber security (网络安全 wǎngluò ānquán) practices are intended to keep the network stable, reliable and secure.

China Supports Cyber Arms Control

China recognizes there is a cyber arms race that should be controlled. The Chinese view the cyber arms race (网络空间军备竞赛 wǎngluò kōngjiān jūnbèi jìngsài) as being a danger to international peace and security. It is not known if the Chinese Government is interested in pursuing an international treaty for the control of cyber weapons. However, it does acknowledge that there is an arms race in cyber. We can conclude that China is working as quickly as possible to develop and deploy an entire arsenal of cyber weapons. China recognizes the need to control the cyber arms race.

China intends to use international negotiations to govern cyberspace. The Chinese government is pursuing a multilateral governance system for the Internet(多边国际互联网治理体系 duōbiān guójì hùlián wǎngzhì lǐtǐ xì). Internet governance (网络空间治理 wǎngluò kōngjiān zhìlǐ) is viewed as handling terrorism, cybercrime, and even helping to bridge the digital divide(数字鸿沟 shùzì hónggōu) between developed and developing countries. It is not clear how much non-governmental input China views as being essential to development of a global multilateral Internet governance arrangement.

China’s Governing Principles for Cyberspace

A nation’s cyberspace is sovereign territory. A nation has complete authority within its territory, and within its cyberspace territory, to control everything that happens there. Cyberspace sovereignty(网络空间主权 wǎngluò kōngjiān zhǔquán) is an essential principle.

No nation should dominate cyberspace. China acknowledges the concept of “cyber hegemony”(网络霸权 wǎngluò bàquán), which may be a reference to the United States, which is the source of most of the world’s innovation and commercial products in cyberspace. No cyber-powerful nation should be able to destabilize the “cyberspace order”(网络空间秩序 wǎngluò kōngjiān zhìxù) by forcing into another country information that is harmful (有害信息 yǒuhài xìnxī) to its national security or national “interests”.

Use of Cyberspace should not threaten international peace and security. The Chinese view is that certain actions by nations can be a threat to international peace and security as defined in the United Nations Charter. This should be avoided. By specifically using the phrase “threat to international peace and security” (国际安全与稳定相悖 guó jì ān quán yǔ wěn dìng xiāng bèi), China is drawing upon the United Nations Charter. This presumably means that a cyber attack could be brought before the United Nations Security Council.

Law should govern cyberspace. There is a recognition that cyberspace should be governed by law (依法治理网络空间 yīfǎ zhìlǐ wǎngluò kōngjiān). This appears natural, but actually it is only one of several models for internet governance. An alternative view is to rely on self-organizing systems. For example, Wikipedia, the Linux operating system, or many internet technical standards are not planned, but instead are spontaneously created through more or less unorganized masses of contributors. This is explained clearly in the classic book The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The Chinese view of relying solely on law to govern cyberspace is in line with its view of government as being the premier and sole source of governance authority.



Eric S. Raymond, The cathedral and the bazaar : musings on Linux and Open Source by an accidental revolutionary, Beijing; Cambridge, Mass.: O’Reilly, 2001.








China’s National Strategy for Cyberspace (Pt. I)– Vocabulary

Part I – Vocabulary

China’s national strategy for cyberspace is breathtaking in its comprehensiveness. It recognizes the importance of the Internet in all domains of human activity (education, science, business, communications), but also acknowledges what it views as being major problems with the Internet as it operates now.

Notable Quotations

没有 网络 安全 就 没有 国家 安全 (méiyǒu wǎngluò ānquán jiù méiyǒu guójiā ānquán)
Without cyber security, there is no national security.
网络空间 是 国家 主权 的 新疆域 (wǎngluòkōngjiān shì guójiā zhǔquán dí xīn jiāngyù)
Cyberspace is the new territory of national sovereignty. (Lit. Cyberspace is national sovereignty [of] new territory.)
网络 攻击 威胁 经济 安全 (wǎngluò gōngjī wēixié jīngjì ānquán)
Cyber attacks threaten economic security.
网络 有害 信息 侵蚀 文化 安全 (wǎngluò yǒuhài xìnxī qīnshí wénhuà ānquán)
Harmful online information corrodes cultural security.

Chinese Cyberspace Terminology

NB: Many of the terms are more or less the same as in English, others are different for two reasons: First, there is an inherent ambiguity in the Chinese language that makes it possible for a work (or character combination) to have a number of meanings in English, some narrow some general; Second, even though some of the terms translate into English, the context of the Chinese text indicates that their meaning actually is slightly different or may have a specific Chinese context.

In addition, a few terms are used in a way that indicate the overall policy thrust of the Chinese government both internally and in international fora, and this is noted.

We have inserted spaces into the Chinese phrases to separate the characters into words, usually two-characters in length. In written Chinese, there is no spacing between words. After the characters, we have inserted the romanization of the characters with the Mandarin 4-tone accent marks, and also clustered together these into words with spaces.

The order is according to the romanization of the Chinese. This is because there are numerous variations in the english equivalents (or semi-equivalents).

安全 (ān quán)

暴力 (bàolì)
Violence. This refers to content. (It is peculiar that violent gaming is very popular in China.) We can conclude that this refers to the use of the Internet to provoke or condone violence or political upheaval.

颠覆 (diānfù)

多边 国际 互联 网治 理体 系 (duōbiān guójì hùlián wǎngzhì lǐtǐ xì)
Multilateral (international) network governance system.

道德 失范 (dàodé shīfàn)
Moral anomie; moral degeneracy.

分裂 国家 (fēnliè guójiā)
Split the country; separatism. This refers to any communications on the Internet that discuss the break-up of China. Examples would be Tibet, which was occupied by China in the 1950s, and also Occupied East Turkistan, which is occupied by China. It is specifically prohibited to communicate information that would suggest any change in current political arrangements.

国家 关键 信息 基础 设施 (guójiā guānjiàn xìnxī jīchǔshèshī)
National critical information infrastructure. This definition appears to be the same as in the West.

公众 监督 (gōngzhòng jiāndū)
Public supervision. This refers to government “control” of the Internet and its content, but also control over all aspects of the technology, including standards, governance procedures, domain name registration, and so on.

国家 网络 安全 保障 体系 (guójiā wǎngluò ānquán bǎozhàng tǐxì)
National network safety protection system; national network security system.

规则 制定 权 (guīzé zhìdìng quán)
Right to make rules; Internet governance.

关键 信息 基础设施 (guānjiàn xìnxī jīchǔshèshī)
Critical information infrastructure.

计算机 病毒 (jìsuànjī bìngdú)
Computer virus; malware.

迷信 (míxìn)
Blind faith; superstition. This refers to what the West would call “religion”. In other words, the spreading of “superstition” is considered to be a danger on the Internet. It is in the class of information that must be controlled and weeded out.

渗透 (shèntòu)
Penetration. This term is used for hacking, that is, the illicit access to an information system through the Internet.

数字 鸿沟 (shùzì hónggōu)
Digital divide. This is the standard terminology used to express the difference in access to information technology between the developed and developing countries. It is a holdover from the New World Information Order that was started originally in UNESCO as an anti-Western movement seeking government control over mass media.
社会 主义 核心 价值 观 (shèhuìzhǔyì héxīn jiàzhí guān)
Socialist core values viewpoint. This term is used to express what China believes should be a guiding principle in content available through the Internet. The other side is that is that information without this viewpoint is officially not welcome.

颓废 文化 (tuífèi wénhuà)
Decadent culture; dispirited culture. This term refers to content on the Internet that does not have the correct and acceptable point of view or theme.

网络 (wǎngluò)
The internet.

文化 安全 (wénhuà ānquán)
Cultural security. This term refers to a vulnerability caused by the Internet, by Cyberspace. There is a fear that without appropriate control, the Internet will harm “cultural security”. This term is alien and more or less unknown in the West.
网络 安全 (wǎngluò ānquán)
Cyber security, network security; network protection.

网络 安全 防御 (wǎngluò ānquán fángyù)
Network security defense; cybersecurity defense. This term is general in nature and does not specifically refer to actions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

网络 安全 审查 制度 (wǎngluò ānquán shěnchá zhìdù)
Network security review system. This term refers to a national program or set of policies that will enforce security checks on the Internet, that is, on the entire Internet within China. By necessity, it is a centrally directed effort of the government.

网络 空间 冲突 (wǎngluò kōngjiān chōngtū)
Cyberspace conflict. There is no specific example of this. For example, it is not clear if it applies to only the technology and network level or also includes information operations. Within the context of the overall policy, it would include information operations. Therefore, we can conclude that providing unacceptable information into China is a form a aggressing leading to cyberspace conflict.
网络 空间 (wǎngluò kōngjiān)

网络 空间 国际 规则 (wǎngluò kōngjiān guójì guīzé)
International rules for cyberspace. In the Chinese point of view, this term refers to a negotiated set of treaties and international agreements that will govern the Internet. These rules and norms will be negotiated by countries. This model of Internet Governance is not compatible with the Western point of view which emphasizes a multi-stakeholder approach.
网络 空间 国际 反恐 公约 (wǎngluò kōngjiān guójì fǎnkǒng gōngyuē)
International convention against terrorism in cyberspace; (Lit. Internet (cyber) international against terrorism convention). There is no such convention, but it is interesting that China is interested in the negotiation of such a treaty.

网络 空间 军备 竞赛 (wǎngluò kōngjiān jūnbèi jìngsài)
Cyberspace Arms Race; Internet space arms competition. Although China recognizes there there is a cyber arms race, there is no discussion we have seen of a desire for an international treaty to limit the proliferation of cyber weapons.

网络 空间 秩序 (wǎngluò kōngjiān zhìxù)
Cyberspace order. This term to refer to internal Internet conditions (within China), and also internationally. It reflects the China ideal notion of a type of stable and “ordered” international information system of Internet and “cyber space”.
网络 空间 治理 (wǎngluò kōngjiān zhìlǐ)
Cyberspace governance; internet governance.
网络 空间 主权 (wǎngluò kōngjiān zhǔquán)
Cyberspace sovereignty. This is a broad concept. In general, it considers that Chinese networks are integral to the nation and themselves are connected with national sovereignty. Therefore, an attack on Chinese cyberspace is the same as an attack on the landmass of China.
网络 空间 战略 资源 (wǎngluò kōngjiān zhànlüè zīyuán)
Strategic resources of cyberspace. This concept does not appear in Western thinking and may be a unique perspective in China. It considers that cyberspace is a type of territory in which there are various “resources” that can be acquired and controlled. In the Chinese view, it is an important aspect of national cyberspace policy to acquire and control these resources.

网络 伦理 (wǎngluò lúnlǐ)
Network ethics. Behavioral aspects of citizen activities online.

网上 思想 文化 (wǎngshàng sīxiǎng wénhuà)
Online ideology and culture. This refers to type of values and behaviors of people that spend much time online, and to expected behavior and cultural norms presented.

网络 窃密 (wǎngluò qièmì)
Cyber espionage; Using the Internet to steal secret information. China does not specifically define “secret” information, but in practice has a very broad definition. Chinese rules concerning cyber espionage are similar to other countries.

网络 威慑 战略 (wǎngluò wēishè zhànlüè)
Cyber deterrence strategy. There is no specific discussion of this in the cyber context. However, it presumably means that it is official Chinese policy to develop cyber weapons that can be used to counter-attack in case China itself is attacked in cyberspace.

网络 谣言 (wǎngluò yáoyán)
Network rumors; Fake news and false information spread through social media. This is another class of prohibited information. The Chinese government spends significant resources on monitoring and controlling rumors.

信息 传播 秩序 (xìnxī chuánbō zhìxù)
Information dissemination order. Here the term “order” refers to a state in which everything is under strict control. So this implies that how information is distributed, and what the information is, should be under strict control. This, of course, is incompatible with Western thinking. It also may be incompatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

淫秽 (yínhuì)
Obscenity. Same meaning as in the West, but obscene information is specifically prohibited by national policy. There is no exact definition of obscenity.

应急 响应 (yīngjí xiǎngyīng)
Emergency response. This has the same meaning as in English, and in the West. It refers to quick response in case of a computer network emergency, such as a massive denial of service attack.
有害 信息 (yǒuhài xìnxī)
Harmful information.
有害 信息 (yǒuhài xìnxī)
Harmful information (harmful to national security or national interests). Chinese doctrine defines large classes of harmful information, and there is a specific policy to prevent this harmful information from spreading.

依法 治理 网络 空间 (yīfǎ zhìlǐ wǎngluò kōngjiān)
Governance of cyberspace according to the law; (Lit. According to the law govern cyberspace). This concept sounds neutral, but actually it is a more limited concept than found in the West. In the Chinese view, the “law” will be determined by governments and multilateral institutions without significant input from multi-stakeholder groups. So what this phrase means is something like “government monopoly on Internet governance”.

政治 安全 (zhèngzhì ānquán)
Political security. This term is unique to China. It has no equivalent in the West. In general, it refers to political stability or the credibility of the political system. Within the context of cyberspace doctrine, “political security” is a risk factor. That is, there is a fear that content transmitted on the Internet will generate or magnify dissent against the political system. In the Chinese context, it is government policy to censor or otherwise prevent such information from being transmitted through the Internet.





The US is Losing the Cyber War Race (II)

The United States has Squandered its Cyber and Information Power

The United States has lost its edge in Cyber. But at on time is had a substantial edge.

In brief, the United States built up a substantial amount of informational power during the Cold War, and used that power first in Europe. This was done in conjunction with the Marshall Plan, which funneled billions of dollars into Europe. As the Second World War concluded, Europeans were living on less than 1,500 calories per day, and aid from the United States was essential to get the economies of Europe to revive.  Otherwise, people would starve to death. The British could not feed the people under their control in occupied Germany.  There already was an emergence of competition between the East and the West, between the United States and Russia, between “unbridled” capitalism and communism.

The struggle was intense; the shape of the power-war system in Europe had not yet emerged. Economic development and recovery through the Marshall Plan, and the careful issue of revival of Germany, was not settled, but soon was, and not entirely to French liking.


Figure 1 –– Since the end of the Cold War, US information power as exercised in support of national strategy has declined, but Russia had dramatically improved, leaving the US at a disadvantage.

Psychological and Economic Warfare

The East and West engaged in psychological and economic warfare.

It is difficult to know the true extent to which the communist leadership in Russia truly believed that revolution was imminent in the West, that soon the devastation of war and the frustration of the common man would overwhelm the political systems of the West, resulting in a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist yoke around the necks of those countries destroyed by the horrible nature of the war just past. But in Washington, there was genuine fear that Europe was not stable, and could be indoctrinated by communist propaganda.

In particular, there was a significant communist movement in Greece, and in Italy, and probably elsewhere. But it was in the Italian election that information operations by the United States had one of their most memorable victories.

US Information Warfare in Italy — A Success Story

The 1948 Election in Italy was a training ground for some of the most famous spies of the post-war period, including James Jesus Angleton, who went on to become the head of counter-intelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Without going into extensive description (there is good documentation available), we can distill the tools of information operations in the election. These included the following:

Strategic Objective. The Government of the United States (GOUSA) decided at the highest levels to oppose a pending victory by the communist party in the Italian election, and this decision was taken as part of a larger and more or less coherent strategy to rebuild Europe and keep it in the Western orbit (so it would not become hostile in the future).

Messaging. The distillation of a clear message that communism was inimical to Catholicism and Christianity. Since Italy was overwhelmingly Catholic, this was a powerful message. This was the major message, but there were sub-messages, such as questions of human freedom under communism, and the superior economic vitality of the West (a more difficult message to get across given the state of the economy in Europe).

Media — Cinema. Movies were created and then to aid their distribution, information operatives traveled through various towns and villages in Italy with portable movie projectors, and then arranged a viewing of these movies in town squares. (Not many Italian villages had cinemas.) Keep in mind that at the time there was no television as a popular or common medium.

Media — Radio. Similar messages were sent through the radio, a widely used media at the time.

Media — Print. A number of flyers, pamphlets and other publications were financed, written and distributed through a number of channels. Financing operations were hidden. A common tool in election propaganda at the time, posters were used widely throughout Italy. Newspapers friendly to the Western cause also were financed, and influenced through a variety of means. Again, financing was kept secret. These were covert operations.

Media — The Pulpit. Although these days the pulpit is not thought of as being an influential source of public persuasion and communication, in Italy it was. In the West, the Church always has exerted a powerful influence on public opinion. In Italy, the Pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church took a strong stance against communism because of its atheistic underpinnings. The Pope also threatened to excommunicate any person who supported the communists. This had a huge effect because it meant that a person would not be able to get married in the Church, or even be buried with Church Services.

Personal Messaging. The GOUSA also put in place a massive letter-writing campaign from Italian-Americans to their relatives in Italy. The messaging was the same: To vote into power a communist government in Italy would undermine Christianity and Western Civilization.

The Result in Italy perhaps was predictable. The communists lost, and a “Christian Democratic” Party was put in place, and has remained in place for most of the post-war period. It was a decisive victory by the GOUSA in changing the election outcome in a European country.


There is no need here to go into a discussion of the morality of one government taking action so as to effect the election in another country. That is another discussion. In the case of Italy, we need see these very effective information operations as being part of an overall strategic plan to rebuild Europe in a mold that would not be anathema to the United States and its values of liberal democracy, individuality, religious liberty, freedom, and of course capitalism.

What is important to note is that these information operations did not take place in isolation, but instead were an integral part of national strategy for the United States. There were a number of dimensions in this strategy including (1) military (prevention of further advances of the Red Army or Russian influence); (2) economic (keeping in place an effective capitalist economic system, and bringing Germany into the fold); (3) political (ensuring that a general philosophy of liberal democracy would become the standard in Europe, in contrast to the “dictatorship of the proletariat” which in practice meant the rule by an unelected clique of communist officials that eventually became a gerontocracy in the Soviet Union and remains so in some of the surviving communist nations such as Cuba and Mozambique, also straining under the weight of despotic senior citizens); (4) geo-strategic (preserving Italy as an important part of the Western world, due much in part to its geographic location, but also due to its historical significance as the site of the Western Roman Church.) (The greater church of the Byzantine Empire in Occupied Constantinople (now called “Istanbul”) long before had fallen to the invading Arabs, the original “crusaders”.)

Later Developments

We started the discussion with Italy, but in Europe, information operations remained an essential element of GOUSA strategy during the Cold War period. The best known example was the development of Radio Free Europe (RFE), and Voice of America which was financed and operated specifically for the purpose of providing pro-US messages to various populations, and in their own language. The tools mentioned above were supplemented in other cultural spheres. One example is in the development of various cultural, academic and scientific exchange programs. Money also was given for the translation of a number of books. Similar programs were put in place in other parts of the world, but with weaker resolution.

Erosion of US Information Power

We argue here that the United States has lost its edge in information power, now known as Cyber power. There are two reasons for this, and they are somewhat inter-related: First, there has been a dramatic change in the technologies of communication; Second, national strategists, such as there are any, no longer have considered information operations to be essential element of national power.

Technology change. The first major change was the growth in speed and capacity of international telecommunications. Apart from the growth of the world’s giant undersea cable infrastructure, primarily used for transmission of telephone voice and telegraphic (including Telex) communications, a major advancement is symbolized by the live television broadcast of the speech of by Pope Paul VI at the United Nations General Assembly October 4, 1965. After that, in both voice, video and data, satellite communications radically reduced the cost of international communications and vastly increased the capacity (bandwidth) for moving information. Upon that infrastructure has been laid the Internet and World Wide Web, which has further increased the utility of international communications dramatically reduced its costs.

National strategy. If national information strategies in the United States had kept up with changes in the technologies of international communications, then we would be living in a different world. There is, however, no indication that information strategy is integrated in national strategy in the same close and purposeful way as it was in the immediate post-war period and in the early stages of the Cold War. Instead, the national leadership of the United States has allowed these important tools of national strategy to atrophy, and the informational aspect of national planning it seems no longer is at the table. Or at most it may be given some lip service. Funding for the United States Information Agency was discontinued. Funding for Voice of America has been lacklustre. But even more serious is that these important assets have been laid to waste through non-use in a coherent international strategy. The United States does not have a coherent and integrated information strategy. 

The only exception in the USA might be the military. In that domain, the role of real-time communications including real-time intelligence is considered to be an essential infrastructure of war-fighting capability. In addition, there are many indications that US intelligence has developed some capability for collection of important information through the Internet. (We do not know how well it is analyzed, but there are indications much is collected.) But the military and intelligence domains are merely specific applications of a national information strategy. They may not be considered to be part of an integrated national strategy used for active promotion of national objectives. (In future blog entries, we will examine the strategy of the National Security Agency (NSA), and we will conclude that it has a mission, but there is no active and integrated information strategy for the United States, at least not yet.)

Instead, the GOUSA has gone down the slippery path of privatization and reliance on market forces to guide the development of the world’s information structure. This has led to the rapid penetration of media around the world, including both the emergence of international television news channels, as well as the rise of the World Wide Web and social media. (Facebook is the world’s largest carrier of email service.)


The United States developed many of the operational concepts that tied information strategy to both national and military strategy. This was effective during the early stages of the Cold War. But at the same time, national competitors, particularly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) developed aggressive overseas information strategies. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Russian Federation, these policies have continued and even strengthened with the development of the Russia Today television channel, followed by Sputnik News, and with the continued use of a number of channels and means to influence international public opinion.

So at this time, the US has allowed its tools to go to waste, and perhaps even forgotten how to use them as part of a coherent information strategy, while its strategic competitors have made the investment in both money and time to build up formidable national capabilities. In contrast to the United States, these strategic competitors are fully capable of creating content as part of a national strategy.

The Rise of Cyber Nationalism

Countries now have informal gangs of cyber warriors positioned to attack foreign countries. This appears to have happened a number of times. Reports indicate that after the president of Taiwan made a congratulatory telephone call to Mr. Trump, the 45th President elect of the United States, nationalists in mainland China launched a series of cyber attacks against facilities in Taiwan. Since there are so many Chinese in the mainland, and since Taiwan is so small in comparison, one can imagine the severity of the damage. Various news reports (The Diplomat, The Jamestown Foundation, Financial Times) indicate that the current Chinese government is “worried” about the ferocity of these cyber attacks.

Cyber Nationalism

In China, the fear is “cyber nationalism”, the spontaneous development of nationalist “armies” of hackers who attack foreign countries viewed as being antagonistic to China. Below we list various techniques identified as being associated with cyber nationalists.

Malicious Hacking. Attacks may take place against websites of a foreign government in an “enemy” country. Or attacks may take place against foreign newsmedia that publishes information not favorable to the hacker’s home country, its foreign policy, its domestic policy, its leadership, or its government. In general, “hacking” is a broad and less-than-specific term that may refer to a number of actions including (1) Denial of Service (DOS) attacks against a website, thus more or less making it impossible for people to find the website or use it; (2) Introduction of propaganda onto the target website; for example, instead of having its regular home page show up, a defaced home page will show up containing a negative message for readers; (3) Alteration of information on a website, either in a major or subtle way; (4) introducing malicious code onto the target website.

Social Media. A second tactic is to bombard social media with the intended political message. This can be of either the positive or negative variety. “Positive” refers to setting up social media locations, such as a Facebook page, that expresses a point of view compatible with that of the cyber nationalists. “Negative” refers to visiting social media pages of organizations or individuals who have an opposing (or targeted) point of view, and introducing (or bombarding the site with) harsh comments. There are a number of social media sites, but since Facebook is the world’s largest carrier of email, for all practical purposes, these social media wars take place on Facebook.

News Media. An increasing number of online news outlets invite comments on different news stories. Actually, this is a form of customer retention strategy. People will keep coming back to a website if they can “interact” with it. Sometimes these comments can be made anonymously; other times they require registration to identify the commentators. Online registration has a variety of levels of security and authenticity. In most cases, however, it is possible to register with only a reference email account, and email accounts themselves can be false. This makes it possible for trolls to be accredited anonymously, or to even register under more than one identity. These comments in the media can have a significant effect, one would suppose. (We need to take a look at more detailed social science and communications/media research to see if anyone has empirically measured the effects on public opinion and published the results in a scientific journal.)  But for the time being, let’s assume these armies of commentators can have an effect.

Other Examples of Cyber Nationalism

China is not the only country with entrenched cyber nationalists.  Russia is reported to have conducted “information warfare” in connection with its campaign in the Ukraine. (See “Cyber Threats and Russian Information Warfare” published by the Jewish Policy Center; or “Russia’s Information Warfare” published in Politico; or “Russian and the Menace of Unreality: How Vladimir Putin is revolutionizing information warfare” published in The Atlantic; or “Что такое информационная война?” [What is Information Warfare?] published in ВОПРОСИК; or “Информационная война: определения и базовые понятия” [Information warfare: definitions and basic concepts] published in PsyFactor; or “論中共「信息戰」之不對稱作戰” [The Asymmetric Operation/War of PRC’s Information Warfare] . )

And there is no reason to single out Russia or China only. Other countries do the same thing. For Israel, see “Information and Warfare: The Israeli Case” by Gideon Avidor and Russell W. Glenn. India established an “Information Warfare Agency” to counter messages from its dear friends in Pakistan. We can assume that every advanced country has developed an information warfare strategy, or at least is thinking about it. Some countries are better than others.

Issues for Cyber Arms Control

The essential problem of Cyber Nationalism is its informal nature. In cases like China, and reportedly Russia (which are the strongest examples), there is little if any connection between the government and the cyber nationalist movements. What we have is the spontaneous formation of nationalist cyber activists who are willing to cross over international borders and take cyber action in support of their country. In their heart, they are patriots, eager to defend the honor and reputation of their homeland as they see it.

It would be difficult and probably very controversial for any government to crack down on their private citizens because they were promoting their country overseas in cyberspace.

This means that in terms of an international treaty for control of cyber weapons, cyber nationalism would be problematical to include. It would mean that by acquiescing to an international agreement (treaty) nations would need to agree to crack down (arrest; prosecute; punish; fine) their own nationals when they engage in international cyber activism. Even if there were such an agreement, it would be very difficult to enforce from a practical point of view.

  1. How would the government be notified of the violation overseas?
  2. How would it be possible to verify the true identity of the person committing the violation?
  3. What would be the evidentiary requirements in the judicial process?
  4. What would happen if the action taken abroad by a cyber nationalist was considered a crime where it was committed, but not a crime in the country which is the domicile of the alleged offender? (For example, would a United States prosecutor punish an American citizen because they published information on a Chinese website that in China was considered to be illegal, but in the US would be acceptable or even a form of protected speech?)
  5. Given the number of persons involved, how would it be possible from a practical point of view to police the actions of hundreds of thousands of citizens?

The Criminal Element of Cyber Activism. In the above list, we mentioned two general classes of cyber activism expressing cyber nationalism. In most cases, working on social media and making comments on newsmedia websites that themselves invite commentary would not be illegal, regardless of how outrageous or biased the comments. On the other hand, cyber vandalism (denial of service attacks; hacking of websites to change or distort the information there) is definitely illegal, and probably illegal in all countries.

Application to International Treaty


Figure 1 Treaty coverage for cyber crimes connected with cyber nationalism.

We can conclude, therefore, that an international treaty might be able to tighten up the enforcement against criminal actions.  Presumably, Country A would be willing to prosecute its citizens who performed recognized cyber crimes in Country B, if Country B was willing to prosecute its citizens who performed recognized cyber crimes in Country A. See Figure 1.

This type of agreement would be difficult to negotiate because the definition of cybercrime changes from one country to another. It would be easier to start with bilateral treaty negotiations, but more effective if a global treaty could be put in place.