Chinese Information Warfare: A Phantom Menace or Emerging Threat?

As a result of these two major high-technology conflicts waged in the past decade, Chinese military analysts generally recognize and accept that some type of revolution in warfare is afoot. One strategist noted that the command and control capabilities demonstrated during Desert Storm represented a “great transformation.”18 One article marveled at the perfect execution of the conflict. Another writer declared, “The unfolding of the new military revolution worldwide is a prominent feature of the international security situation . . . [It] involves such fields as military thinking, military strategy,  operational doctrine, military organization, and arms development.”19 One analyst further elaborated on this new military revolution stating that, “. . . there will be an overall qualitative leap in the military field of all countries—the possession by the military forces of high-quality personnel, integrated C4I systems, high-level training and education, intelligent arms, scientific organization, and creative military doctrines.”20 A Chinese commentator made an even more sweeping claim that “the beginning of the 1990s opened the curtain on the information war era and marked the sudden appearance of the third military revolution.”21

As the last observation hinted, the Chinese recognize that information technologies are an integral part of the so-called RMA. Chinese strategists clearly identify the direct link between information superiority and victory in conflict. One article noted that the information technology revolution is the

core and foundation of this military revolution, because information and knowledge have changed the previous practice of measuring military strength by simply counting the number of armored divisions, air force wings, and aircraft carrier battle groups. Nowadays, one must take into account some invisible forces, such as computing capabilities, communications capacity, and system reliability.22

According to another analyst, “Information technology has .  . . become an indispensable means for better command and communication. Combat between opposing forces is, firstly, between their capabilities in gathering, processing, and analyzing information.”23 The author argues that the ability to decide and act faster and better than the enemy—a central concept of American information superiority—is a prominent part of modern conflict. In future wars, weapons systems and military units will be increasingly “information-intensified.”24

These statements on the characteristics of the RMA demonstrate a strong conviction among some Chinese military analysts that information technologies will be the critical foundation for success in future wars. Recent Chinese literature on IW also suggests that strategists have gradually developed a deeper understanding of IW. Indeed, some general conclusions on the future of IW may be coalescing among Chinese analysts.

Chinese Views on IW Strategies.

Major General Wang Pufeng, widely recognized as the founder of Chinese IW, produced a sweeping working definition of IW. According to the author:

Information war is a product of the information age which to a great extent utilizes information technology and information ordnance in battle. It constitutes a “networkization” (wangluohua) of the battlefield, and a new model for a complete contest of time and space. At its center is the fight to control the information battlefield, and thereby to influence or decide victory or defeat.25

Another definition synthesizes a more concrete Chinese understanding of IW:

IW is combat operations in a high-tech battlefield environment in which both sides use information- technology means, equipment, or systems in a rivalry over the power to obtain, control, and use information. IW is a combat aimed at seizing the battlefield initiative; with digitized units as its essential combat force; the seizure, the control, and use of information as its main substance, and all sorts of information weaponry [smart weapons] and systems as its major means.26