The notion of a nation state conducting war games to test its military readiness is hardly a new idea, but China is approaching its next round of fake war with a new twist: This time, the war games will be conducted in the virtual realm. Somewhere, teenage Matthew Broderick is smiling.
A report from the Xinhua news agency – the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China – has announced that the upcoming exercises will, in part, “test new types of combat forces including units using digital technology amid efforts to adjust to informationalised war.”
The short report states that the exercises, which will be carried out next month at the country’s largest military training field at the Zhurihe training base in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, will also “be the first time a People’s Liberation Army exercise has focused on combat forces including digitalized units, special operations forces, army aviation and electronic counter forces.” Eight military academies are forecast to participate in the war games, as well as members of the 38th and 68th combined corps of the Beijinh Military Area Command.
The June date for the exercises mean that they are likely to follow a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in California next week. The two are expected to discuss cyber security in light of renewed fears of Chinese cyber attacks into U.S. military networks.
As recent as this week, continued reports claim that Chinese hackers have been actively breaching networks belonging to military and intelligence organizations around the world. In the latest example, Australia’s ABC Television reported that the floor plans of a projected new headquarters for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization had been stolen by an attack linked to the Chinese government.
Similarly, earlier this month, the Pentagon sent a classified report to the U.S. Congress that was eventually leaked to the media. The news also stated that the U.S. government was the subject of hacks “attributable directly to the Chinese government and military.”
For its part, the Chinese government has repeatedly denied any involvement in these attacks, or any of a similar nature. According to the Chinese authorities, the cyber-warfare arm of the People’s Liberation Army – which was created in 2011 – is entirely defensive in nature, and therefore any suggestion of offensive hacking is misinformed as such actions would fall outside of the scope of the division.
That said, not only do such allegations persist, but the PLA is stepping up defense spending to develop new technologies. With this new front of war gaming opening up, it appears that the Chinese authorities take cyber war very seriously, even if they’re not already engaged in it quietly.