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Walid Phares Blog

Assessing U.S. Concern with China's Cyber Actions
By Dr Walid Phares
Mar 13, 2019 - 9:51:59 AM

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Photo courtesy of www.navy.com

China's actions in the cyber realm have become a major problem for the United States and reports of cyber attacks are abundant and widening. At this point, an examination of the big picture is needed, in addition to examining the issue on a case by case basis.

First, why is China doing this and what can be done to stop it on a strategic level?

- Why is China waging a campaign of cyber attacks on the US? What is their goal?

We first need to examine what China is targeting, in the public sector and in the private sector. China has different rationales for both. They operate in both realms, starting with the US defense, particularly the US Navy. Our Navy is blocking China from expanding in the Pacific while it is also shielding Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. It is about geopolitics and how China perceives the role and presence of the US Navy in international waters worldwide. Second, it is about if and how China wants to weaken the role and presence of not just the US Navy, but all US defense.
There's also China's targeting of the US private sector. Their goal in the private sector is either to obtain information about the commercial sector or about financial negotiations.

- How should the US stop it?

The response to cyber attacks should be counter-cyber measures, but not only that. Many responses are possible. We can keep spending on cyber defense measures, but the Chinese have more cash than we do. We need to spend money in other fields.
China has significant investments worldwide, including in Africa and Latin America, where they are building bases and funding our allies. The US should develop better strategies.
Also, China has tremendous weakness domestically. People are changing inside China. This can be used by the US to its advantage; the US needs to use its imagination to reverse the pressure. The classical answer in DC is to increase spending on cyber defense. Yes we should, but this has become an industry that enriches contractors who are also targeted by China. Innovation is the answer.

- Are the trade talks with China a good place to answer? Is there a link with North Korea?

There is a connection between the trade talks with China, nuclear talks with North Korea, and the cyber warfare between the US and China. The Chinese will talk and cut deals, if we act strategically. But, as I have argued on Fox for several months, China is using our talks with Kim to maneuver us. I think the trade talks are positive, but the US need to engage in them for the long-term not just for gains of the immediate short-term.

- Would Russia and China defeat the US in a WW3 like cyber warfare?

A China-Russia first strike can damage the US, but a US counter-strike would win the war. Our problem is our internal division on these matters. We need strategic cooperation between the Administration and Congress on new policies toward cyber attacks. The situation between the two is not at its best right now.

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