China’s military chiefs are seeking to unify the country’s cyber warfare capabilities as they build a modern fighting force that relies less on ground troops. A move to a centralized command reporting to the Central Military Commission would better organize China’s cyber warfare capabilities, which are scattered across a variety of units and ministries. It would further elevate the role of cyber within a PLA that has long prioritized the army over the navy and air force, two branches that require a high level of computerization skills.
This could accelerate the transformation of cyber as a military tool.
A unified command would be “a pretty big deal” in organizing domestic cyber forces to “win informationized local wars,” according to Council on Foreign Relations cyberspace program director Adam Segal, citing a goal enshrined in China’s first white paper on military strategy released in May.
Other countries are adopting similar strategies. Russia was moving to create a new army corps to ensure information security, Pravda reported on its website in mid-2013. Little is known about the structure of North Korea’s cyber warfare operations, though it was blamed for the hacking of computers at Sony Corp.’s Hollywood studio late last year and the regime has said previously it’d retaliate against any U.S. provocations with conventional, nuclear and cyber attacks.
The PLA’s first specialized information unit was set up in July 2010, not long after the U.S. Cyber Command went operational.