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China's cyber squad is for defense

09:25, May 31, 2011

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By Li Hong

Now that a rising number of militaries are setting up cyber warfare commands to protect their national interests, it is natural for the People's Liberation Army to catch up and launch a similar command responsible for defending China's cyber security.

Last week, the Ministry of National Defense announced the debut of such a squad -- known as the "Cyber Blue Team" – at the PLA's southern Guangzhou Military Command. Although it is made up of merely 30 technology-savvy officers and soldiers, the establishment of the squad is a move in the right direction, targeting one of the most sensitive and largely invisible battle fields in this Internet age.

As information of a country's crucial financials, utilities, satellite and telecommunication facilities and strategic military installations is now linked by one cable – and theoretically accessible to the top-notch hackers – it is important for a sovereign nation to erect the best possible firewalls to deny others' attack. And, in time of conflict, the ability to launch a counterattack to disable the enemy's operations is also indispensable.

The stake will be high if China loses the battle. In the past years, China, like other countries, has been victimized by online hacking and other digital vandalism. It is imperative for the country to strengthen capability to detect and fight back against cyber assaults. Like other battle lines, any provocation of and intrusion into China's interests should be met with resolute countermeasures.

Adequate manning and funding of the PLA's cyber squad is a must. We have learnt that the U.S. Cyber Command, set up two years ago and subordinate to the Pentagon's Strategic Command, spans a wider range than the standard for military service, and has an annual appropriation of more than $3.2 billion.

It is strongly suggested the PLA's cyber efforts should be equally built up. Backed up by a solid national income, China's cyber effort should match the world's advanced Internet army.

In addition to funding, finding the right talents for the Cyber Blue Team is another key to success. In April this year, the PLA revealed that it has launched a talent pool project which said that, by 2020, the military would have trained and recruited sufficient and highly-skilled personnel to cope with advanced weaponry, cyber warfare and carrying out unconventional security capabilities. To garner up talents, the PLA could recruit outstanding students from both military and civilian colleges and research academies.

And, China and the PLA should be steadfast in enhancing Internet defense ability, regardless of the finger-pointing by the critics. As usual, the official announcement of China's establishment of the cyber squad has caused outside grievances and criticisms.

Over the weekend, a foreign news agency decried, saying that the PLA's latest move "is sure to ring alarm bells around the world among governments and businesses wary of Beijing's intentions." The report tried to demonize this country by suggesting the U.S., Australia, Germany and other Western nations have long alleged that hackers inside China are implementing a wide-range of attacks on other governments' computer systems.

Want to know China's intentions to launch its cyber squad? It's to deter the potential hackers and perpetrators that want to harm China. As this country is developing fast economically, the PLA has the obligations to defend it in all facets, from land, sea, air, space and the cyberspace. So forget about releasing the alarmist rhetoric against China all the time. The sole duty for the PLA is defending the country.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hong has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.


Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."

Li HongmeiLi Hongmei

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.