Cyber Warfare with China; Is the Department of Defense Prepared?

Executive Summary

            The dynamic nature of technology has brought a lot of good to the world but not without new issues to worry about for security apparatus in different global territories. This thesis takes an in depth look into the issue of cyber warfare and the United States Department of Defense preparedness on the face of cyber warfare with China.

There is a lot of research information alluding to the fact that since the discovery of what is termed in military language as the fifth battle space; tension has been on the rise owing to colliding activities in the cyberspace between global leaders U.S. and China. With that regard, the researcher seeks to present an empirical analysis into the level of preparedness of the U.S. in the case of cyber warfare with China. The researcher uses a wealth of information found in previous literature together with empirical results from research conducted to make deductions on whether the U.S. Department of Defense is prepared and how well it is prepared. The ground research is conducted in the form of interviews and surveys on selected participants who are fit to reply objectively on the subject matter for instance Department of Defense officials.

Responses received will be reviewed and analyzed to realize the level of preparedness of the United States against China in cyber warfare. The general notion of this thesis paper is despite the fact that China might be a potential cyber threat; the U.S. Department of Defense is well prepared to neutralize any ensuing threats and defend its computer networks and information systems against proliferation of any kind from enemy networks. Through intensive research and review of previous literature on the subject matter, the researcher hopes to achieve the objectives.

Keywords: cyberspace, cyber warfare, security.  


Problem Description and Statement

            The People’s Republic of China has been identified by research as being more willing to actively use cyber warfare in gaining mileage against other top global players like the U.S. This opening remarks best starts off this thesis paper which seeks to present an in depth research to the question of whether the United States, Department of Defense is ready for cyber warfare against the People’s Republic of China. Research by Hjortdal (2011) informs that, cyberspace is and will continually be a key element in China’s strategy of international system ascends.

This implies that China as a forthcoming global power is actively utilizing the cyberspace as a key pillar in its global strategies. It is important to understand at this juncture that cyberspace is a contemporary global dynamic that was not present for most if not all of the prevailing global powers during their struggle for global space. Hjortdal’s (2011) research gives mainly three reasons that inform the need for China to continually apply cyber warfare which are – military espionage, industrial espionage and deterrence. In a proper explanation, the researcher is made to understand for a fact that the main reason why China would be more likely to use the cyberspace offensively than the United States is the fact that the United States been already well on the top of the global ladder has little to gain from China while opposite, China has a lot to gain from the United States.

According to Hjortdal (2011), in the recent years, the United States has received several attacks on the cyberspace which were then traced back to China. A study on the development of China’s cyberspace and the patterns also indicate that the cyberspace is part and parcel of all their strategic planning. Deterrence through penetration of critical national infrastructure, military espionage on foreign military infrastructure in order to gain information and advantage and economic espionage aimed at studying the economy and planning everything for own economic advantage are just some of the ways that the People’s Republic of China utilizes their cyberspace against top players like the U.S and definitely against every other state who they may feel obliged to espionage.

The above been the case, the United States department of defense needs to be prepared contingently to neutralize any cyber attacks that may arise. Military specialist in cyber warfare issues informs that cyberspace is tentatively the fifth battle space which has for a good time now been a major priority for defense concerns (Racicot, 2008). Racicot (2008) concurs with Hjortdal (2011) by airing out on one of the biggest cyber espionage sagas ever retraced back to the people’s republic of China – the GhostNet. This cyber espionage comprised of over a hundred infected computers around the whole of East Asia in different cities.

It represents a clear image of the case in point which is that China is a country ready engaging in offensive cyberspace utilization – any attempts to resolve this from any of the global bodies or countries will definitely lead to a break in peace. If the United States is the strongest nation or the most looked up to nation of the twenty first century, is it readily prepared for cyber warfare with China? Racicot (2008) in his detailed literal view tries explaining the possible reasons that might be behind the offensive attitude adopted by China in the question of use and development of technological might. Prior to the nineteenth century, the people’s republic of China had progressed well under the Qin dynasty until a mutiny in the court occurred that divided the kingdom leading it to a period of decline.

During this period, the researcher informs that China was forced to agree to unequal treaty deals that seized control of Hong Kong to the British and cause the opening of more ports and the ravaging trade in opium. This situation during China’s century of humiliation served to shape China’s future interactions with the west to what they are presently.

Racicot (2008) informs that Qin had been so convinced of the superiority of Chinese culture thus concerning themselves with their own kingdom and paying less attention to developments in other places of the world. This led to them to lose in a sea battle against the first ever iron ocean ship of the British – the Nemesis. In this contemporary times therefore, with technology being within every authorities’ reach, the People’s Republic of China regard the cyberspace as a key battlefront in all their global activities whether military, economic or informational.

  On the other hand, the World Affairs journal reports that in 2011 cyber warfare was an abstract topic in United States discussions on security issues. According to the journal most of the discussions then were about defending U.S. computer networks and not attacking any other party’s networks or preparedness levels on the face of government to government attacks. It is clear that the United States is less concerned about engaging in offensive acts in cyberspace but the point of this research is not to ignore the fact that China, a promising global player is actively engage in cyberspace offensives and to discuss the preparedness of the U.S. department of defense as far as this is concerned.

Research has already informed that a number of cyber attacks on U.S. networks were traced back to China. The United States department of defense reports that its cyber warriors already have superior technologies that can facilitate the precise attack on enemy computer networks (Gjelten, 2013). It is no doubt that there is a great deal of tension between military interests as far as matters of cyber warfare are concerned.

The need for cyberspace détente between the United States and China is spelled out clearly informing that both countries would do with an ease of political and military activities on the cyberspace (Austin, 2014). This deduction makes the problem statement for this thesis paper – if there are tensions in the cyber space between key global military interests, how prepared is the United States department of defense being one of the military interest to neutralize threats and attacks on the cyberspace when the enemy interest is China? 

Research Questions and Objectives

            The researcher has a number of objectives that the research seeks to realize at the end. They include one main objective and a four other objectives. Through review and empirical research, the researcher intends to realize the objectives as follows:-

  • The main objective of this research is to asses the level of preparedness of the United States Department of Defense on the face of cyber warfare with China.
  • Secondly, the researcher takes it up as an objective to properly study the cyberspace, its origin and some of its specific importance to military interests globally.
  • It is an objective of this research to investigate ways in which cyber warfare between states might occur and discuss the advantages thereof under each of the possible way of occurrence.        
  • Why China is the most concern for the globe as far as matters of cyber warfare are concerned.
  • Use relevant data in determining the level of preparedness and discussing different ways through which the United States Department of Defense can neutralize cyber warfare threats in the case of occurrence.

The researcher will also seek to answer the following research questions at the end of the research. It is a general understanding that for the research to be complete, the researcher should have attained the above stated objectives and answered all the questions of research. Some of the questions that the researcher seeks to answer through an in depth studies of the topic at hand include:-

  1. What is the level of preparedness of the United States Department of Defense against cyber warfare with China?
  2. What are the key interests that militaries protect in the cyberspace?
  3. Why is the cyberspace a key field for contemporary military interests to concentrate on?
  4. What are the major disadvantages of cyber warfare?
  5. Which activities of the People’s Republic of China on the cyberspace can be considered as a threat and which ones are just normal activities?

The researcher intends to conduct a deep study into the preparedness of the United States department of defense against cyber related warfare. The study to be conducted will rely on professional information from cyber specialists among other defense representatives especially those dealing closely with cyber related crimes/cases. The fact that the research will be specific on the type of respondents implies that the researcher seeks to gather only valuable information from people able to give it in the specific field of study.

Significance of Research Project and Audience

Practically, this research project is of great significance to all concerned audience. First thing first, the targeted audience for this research project ranges from the day to day law enforcement officials, to legal practitioners, to defense agents on to military studies scholars and to the general public. It is no doubt that the general public and citizens of the two countries being discussed here have as much right to understand the state of affairs as any other special party mentioned.

This research project practically seeks to instill morale on the patriotic citizens while partly challenging national security apparatus through the highlighting of some of the reasons why the country need to be ready for cyber warfare against China. According to already consulted research, China being on an ambitious climb up the global ladder would readily utilize cyber warfare in order to get leverage. The United States agrees that there is need for a détente between it and China as far as matters cyberspace is concerned. Therefore, through the analysis of United States level of cyber warfare preparedness this research project intends to have a moralizing effect on the broader homeland security by pointing out on why the United States department of defense is still better prepared.

            Another significance of this research is the fact that it educates more on why the cyberspace is continually becoming more and more of a military zone in the contemporary global situation. By trying to study the main activities on the cyberspace that are considerable as potential threats to foreign powers and those that are consider normal cyberspace activities, the researcher seeks to educate the audience on what actually is going on in the cyberspace and how bad is a cyberspace war in the case it occurs. Ways in which the People’s Republic of China uses the cyberspace offensively also when highlighted helps concerned parties in understanding how the cyberspace can be used offensively which might be helpful in helping concerned parties develop protection to their computer networks. This research also adds to research on the field by investigating a topic area that has not been widely explored by previous research projects.

The researcher notes that most of the previous research on cyberspace and the effects of cyber warfare have focused a lot on the offensive practices of China and less on the preparatory moves of the United States department of defense in tackling and neutralizing cyber warfare related threats. Therefore, by pioneering this discussion using empirical research and back up evidence from previous literature the researcher seeks to contribute to current research on the field by highlighting ways in which the U.S. department of defense is prepared to tackle cyber warfare threats from enemies. Understanding ways of tackling studied offensive cyberspace moves educates the audience on counter-technical moves that can be used for cyberspace warfare.

            In another light, the researcher sees that the research will be significant to different economic interests through highlighting economic espionage and how it works to the advantage or disadvantage of respective parties. Earlier consulted research informed that China uses economic espionage activities to get forehand economic information that helps it plan and twist the economy to its advantage. Therefore, through highlighting how this is achievable, the researcher intends to educate economic interests on the need to secure its economic networks and flow of information. This may be useful not only to governments but even to multi national or national corporations that seek to secure its economic directions by securing its most sensitive information. Therefore the researcher identifies the above as another significance of the research project.

Literature Review

            In order to objectively understand this research project, the researcher deems it important to first and foremost define the term cyberspace and explain with the help of research why it is so important to contemporary military interests.

Cyber Space

            According to army specialist Brett Williams (2014) the term cyber space has no direct definition and the most explanations of the term can only be understood by the technically advanced individuals. It is therefore, not in every one’s place to understand the term cyberspace since not most of the people globally including the average internet users understand the dynamics of the internet. However, for the purposes of most of the target audience for this proposal, cyberspace can be defined as a complex esoteric concept generally hard to comprehend but which adds new dimensions to economic and political projections. Further research evidence helps understand the term as a time-oriented set of interconnected computer networks together with the human users interacting with the networks (Ottis and Lorents, 2012). For the purposes of our research project, the human users in interaction with the interconnected computer networks are trained cyber warriors working for the federal government.

            Sufficient research informs that the cyberspace which is basically the internet is what numerous factions of the society from militaries, political leaders, and business leaders among others unmentioned rely on for real time information in the contemporary times (Williams, 2014). According to further research, the cyberspace is divided into the surface web and the deep web. The surface web is where all average internet users connect and see, share or comment on information but under this surface web, is the real cyberspace that is for great interests to governments due to many reasons information and security being just some of them.

Lev et al. (2013) defined the deep web as the part of the internet consisting of websites and databases that cannot be index by search engines. These databases and websites contain information that are unavailable to normal internet users owing to the fact that the information can only be accessed by special software designed for that purpose (Lev et al., 2013). According to them, the deep web is a warehouse of classified information and a channel through which private online affairs are conducted: the sole reason for its existence. While the government, intelligent agents and law enforcers are the main consumers of the deep web, terrorists, drug and human traffickers also find it as an ideal venue they can use to propagate their operations.

Similarly, Brian (2001) agreed with the idea that a large portion of the internet is invisible even to the most powerful search engines like Google and AltaVista. According to his article, “Getting to Know the Invisible Web”, he refers to this chunk of hidden part of the web as the deep web. According to Bright Planet, quoted by Brian, the deep web zone is not only invisible to the search engines but also harder to find as explained by the fact that the World Wide Web is evolving at a higher rate than the search engines can cope. Contrary to Ciancaglini et al., who sees deep web as a potential tool to facilitate hooliganism, Brian views it as a source of vital information fundamental to librarians and to professionals (2013).

Having realized the deep web as online information hidden to search engines, Ciancaglini et al. (2013) explored various networks, otherwise referred to as “Darknets”, which guarantee undetectable access to web content and include TOR, I2P and Freenet. Through these networks, people can send encrypted information that is hidden from network surveillance network tools like search engine crawlers. Nevertheless, these network however, especially the TOR network, have facilitated cybercrime and other online underground online activities like spreading of virus and other malicious content like pornography.

On the other hand, Eddy (2015) argued that the deep web is that place online that makes technological marketplace operates in secrecy. According to him, he believed that the deep web is the zone where the worst of the worst of activities happened online hiding them from surveillance. However, just like Lev et al., he argued that the deep web is the course towards secure internet (Eddy, 2015). This is explained by the fact that a larger portion of secure information is not found at the face value of the internet but rather on the deep web. Nevertheless, information with the deep web zones is rare to come by because it can only accessed via an anonymous network which makes it hard to access the information and hence hard to be indexed by search engines.

In accordance to the above literatures, the deep web is a zone on the World Wide Web where information can be conveyed without being easily traced or being indexed by search engines. It is the next evolution of storage and access of information on the internet in a secure way. Finally, information stored on the databases on the deep web can only be retrieved using specialized software that are in most cases designed by the owners of those databases. Study of this topic is relevant in the current world because of the increased wave of digitalization and technological advancement that has swept the globe. It is therefore necessary to understand functioning of the deep web to be well positioned to tackle underground marketplace activities which are mainly coordinated via the deep web.

Importance of Cyberspace to Military Interests

            The growing interconnectedness through the internet which led to the birth of the term globalization has been reported to be advantageous to virtually all the world economies. As a result, more and more countries are enthusiastic about the great economic advancement opportunities that have been presented by the internet and the cyberspace. Researchers Gijsbers and Veenendaal (2015) report that the dependence of contemporary economy on information technology is projected to continually grow to the point where there will be no substitute for digital technology in the economy.

As a result, there is no doubt that cyberspace control and security has an immense effect on the economic development, security, diplomatic, information and military aspects of every nation. This thus shows one of the major uses of cyberspace – the ability to enhance and facilitate globalization. This is also arguably the overall international use of the cyberspace. In concordance to the above, Friedman (1999) informs that the technological advancement and the development of the cyberspace has been for over two decades now bee the active force shaping and redefining industries, politics, cultures and interactions between people globally. In a typical example, Friedman (1999) educates that the social media nowadays is a cohabiting place among most individuals with the numbers of people globally using social media and the internet hitting over 2 billion.

The research informs that the fact that social media bear a lot of hidden information for different individuals informs that cyberspace is a sector of interest for security apparatus of each and every nation because it is up to them to ensure that information hidden in the darkweb is not easily accessible to any other personae. In concurrence to Lev et al. (2013) and Eddy (2015), Friedman (1999) informs that despite the fact that most of the personal information of individuals is not visible on the surface web and requires more sophisticated means to access, there are instances where criminals have successfully hacked and infiltrated digital information for some individuals. These instances are what make cyberspace a key area for authorities to look into because without proper measures to protect the digital information and networks of one’s country, the country is defenseless in an era where information is key in achieving competitive advantage.     

            Secondly, it is important to discuss the impactful role of cyberspace on the political direction of countries. According to research by Reardon (2012), cyberspace has the potential to affect the political direction of countries and as a matter of fact, global leader countries like the United States, Russia and China utilize cyberspace in attaining political objectives. In the United States and many other moderate, capitalist countries, political cyberspace comes in handy in promoting the recognition of political underdogs.

Research informs that cyberspace if properly utilized can have transformative effects on national and international politics by ensuring the empowerment of previously sidelined political players. On the other hand, in extremist countries and many of the eastern countries, the use of cyberspace politically is to achieve the digital deterrence of potential oppositions. The above descriptions explain the political use of cyberspace and why it will continually grow to be a key factor to consider on all national matters. In a research study from the journal of defense resources management, researcher Podhorec (2012) informs that political use of the cyberspace is not only national but international too.

The research shares evidence that global leader countries like the U.S. and China use the cyberspace to conduct political espionage on countries of interest. In an era of information, gathering political information on countries of interest helps these countries to be a step ahead of the countries concerned without the countries knowing. This would consequently be tabled to affect to the advantage of the superior country future negotiations of trade or otherwise between these countries. Podhorec (2012) educates that more and more countries are training specialists in cyberspace management and security so that they can protect their political information from spilling to other countries and putting them in a precarious political position.

            On the military front, it is not surprising why cyberspace dynamics are so important. Logically, everything that affects the economic and political state of a country is bound to affect the military strategies of the same country. According to research consulted, the United States of America has invested quite a lot in ensuring that the country’s computer networks are not susceptible to any enemy attacks (Racicot, 2008). Further research evidence on the military importance of cyberspace to the United States department of defense is tossed up by researcher Gjelten (2013) who informs that American cyber warriors have since devised cyber weaponry of superior dimensions that can attack and break enemy computer networks with utmost precision.

Apart from the United States of America, research possesses evidence that the People’s Republic of China is and will continue to use cyber warfare in order to gain an edge over rivals in the international front (Hjortdal, 2011) – this is a classical case of the use of cyberspace for military purposes. It is important to notice the connection between the use of cyberspace for information and military. In a continually informational age, the first hand winner is he who has prior information about anything.

As a result, countries worldwide see great importance in guarding their cyberspace and utilizing it for military purposes through the scramble for firsthand acquisition of new information. Countries also as seek to guard the information in their individual cyberspaces as can be justified from research evidence which informs that more and more countries are recruiting more manpower in the cyberspace related departments to ensure that cyber security of a country is granted (Podhorec, 2012). Another form of military use of the cyberspace is through cyber warfare which occurs in different ways all seeking to infiltrate enemy computer networks gathering information about what plans they have. These forms include all state-sanctioned economic espionage, military espionage and political espionage.

According to Hjortdal (2011), China is the only country that is actively utilizing the cyberspace for the above stated military purposes. It should be understood at this juncture that there is proper use of cyberspace for military, political and economic advantage but when these uses are made directly with an aim of achieving informational advantage against another state and sanctioned by a particular state, then they seize being legal uses but offensive uses of cyberspace. Apart from the foregoing, Podhorec (2012) reports that the United States air force through the development of precision drones and using information technology in programming and powering these drones is using cyberspace for military purposes. These computerized drones are operated through a network of information technology system relying on the cyberspace and they are a classic case of the advancement of technology and importance of cyberspace to military interests.

The above discussed are some of the importance of cyberspace to military interest globally, the researcher deduces that each and every state has a responsibility of developing ways and measures to ensure that their cyberspace is protected from infiltration. Despite the fact that most developing countries have little interests to hide from infiltration, it is important from the onset that countries understand that the cyberspace is the key source of information globally in these contemporary times and the more secure a nation’s cyberspace, the better the overall security level of the country.

Disadvantages of Cyber Warfare

            Cyber warfare although largely unnoticeable has many disadvantages to the life in the contemporary world. According to evidence from researcher O’Connell (2012), the United States of America has the most number of expertise and personnel monitoring the internet and this has for a good number of years resulted in cold cyber warfare between the United States and China.  Scott Applegate (2015), reports that cyber warfare is an emerging threat with adverse effect on the data security, economic and financial security of a victim because it provides the attacker with asymmetric leverage over the victim while providing him with plausible deniability.

Further reading informs that current players in the cyberspace who possess sophisticated capabilities can use these cyber capabilities to attack and fragment control and command structures, disrupt critical infrastructure and greatly undercut security apparatus of the attacked. A case in point is the United States cyber attack on Iranian nuclear facilities – this proved that superior cyber warfare weapons are arguably more dangerous than actual warfare weapons. Generally, it can be stated clearly that cyber warfare is disadvantageous as it is the quickest way to trigger a full fledged war in this second millennia.

            Research from the journal of law, policy and globalization (2013) informs that another possible disadvantage of any instance of cyber warfare globally is the loss of valuable data. According to the research, there are many companies multi-nationally, nationally or locally operating that have stored valuable information online. The occurrence of cyber warfare can lead to the immediate lose of these valuable information (Maskun, 2013). The lose of really valuable information of even the most important of government offices can lead to the crippling of an entire economy as set out by Applegate (2015).

Maskun (2013) informs that apart from the lose of information; the occurrence of cyber warfare globally can lead to the loss of millions of money banked online. In a properly built case, the researcher informs that for instance when there is cyber warfare and all information in PayPal or any other online bank is crumbled, most people together with the company stand to lose millions and millions of money because the records are altered and there is no possible way of retrieving the data because of crumbled systems. This points out on the need for proper security measures by governments to help secure countries’ computer networks from the threat of cyber attacks.

            In concordance to the above stated, Tisdall (2010) informs that like any other form of attack, cyber warfare takes a toll on the world with economies been the most affected parts in the occurrence of cyber attacks. In the study of the disadvantages of cyber warfare socially research finds out that criminals perpetrating attacks have plausible deniability and the rate at which technology evolves gives them great cover and time to plan next attacks with new designs and dynamics (Tisdall, 2010; Applegate, 2015). Therefore, the only proper remedy against cyber warfare is for authorities and governments to always be on the defensive and look out for the patterns of attacks. This research informs that the ever changing nature of attacks puts authorities on a disadvantage if they try to prepare offensive because they will then be attacked without any form of defense to protect them a situation that leaves the computer networks more vulnerable as compared to going on the defensive and putting up enough manpower to study and neutralize upcoming attacks.

A proper case to look into to get some real insight on the possible disadvantages of cyber warfare attacks on a country is the Estonia 2007 attack that is to date regarded as one of the worst cyber attacks. According to Tisdall (2010), this attack was perpetrated through the use of over a million infected computers in the Estonian territory that were negatively used to jam business, media and government websites. Word went round that the attacks were made by the Russians but as explained by Applegate (2015) cyber attacks main disadvantage is the fact that they give the attacker asymmetrical advantage over the attacked and plausible deniability in the aftermath. This attack led to the lose of millions in Euros and apart from the United States infiltration of the Iranian nuclear plants, this is another example of the disadvantages of cyber warfare.

            Matsubara (2012) agrees with Tisdall (2010) on the point that cyber warfare is on the rise and may soon be a weapon of choice for states in the face of international threats. In reviewing the United States Stuxnet attacks on Iranian nuclear infrastructure, Matsubara (2012) posits that any state or group of individuals with superior know-how in matters of cyber warfare can do a lot of damage to the power systems, grids, security systems and even financial systems of any country. These sentiments had been earlier echoed by Applegate (2015). A critical look at the above possibilities in the face of cyber warfare inform why research by O’Connell (2012) finds out that the United States has the most number of personnel acting as sentries on the cyberspace. This is the epitome of tension between the United States and Chi8na on the cyberspace and in case of occurrence of cyber warfare, the whole globe would lose a lot financially and the systems of many countries would be crashed totally. Despite cyber warfare been a looming threat, research evidence shows surprise on how many countries are misunderstanding and underestimating the potential damage that the cyberspace can do to a country’s technical apparatus (Matsubara, 2012; Tisdall, 2010).

Matsubara (2012) further informs that the main source of confusion on the strength of cyber warfare capabilities is the lack of understanding among parties of the dynamics of cyber attacks like the Estonian 2007 or the recent Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure. This lack of knowledge on most of the authorities inform that cyber warfare can have adverse disadvantages to such countries in case of occurrence because most of these countries do not have the slightest defense against the slightest form of cyber warfare. Research finds out that another disadvantage of cyber warfare is the fact that most of the countries globally do not posses the expertise nor the financial resources to develop sophisticated cyber weaponry (Matsubara, 2012) – this therefore puts most nations apart from the global leaders with cyber technology in a precarious position and is the more reason that there should be a political détente in cyberspace activities between the U.S. and the China.

Why China is a Concern – Synthesis

            The above review of literature has focused on the definition and the national importance of the cyberspace. This is important to the overall research since it helps the audience understand how important the cyberspace is for nations and as a result prepares the audiences’ mind to understand the need for the United States department of defense to be properly prepared in case of a cyber warfare against any of the eastern global powers. The statement of different importance of cyberspace to nations globally aims at opening the mind of the audience to understand specific uses of cyberspace to nations. Since previous research has already shed light on the ready and willingness of China to deploy cyber warfare in order to gain international mileage, the level of preparedness of the United States department of defense is under question. This gives this research project the green light to research and understand the level of preparedness of the United States of America department of defense against cyber warfare with China.

            According to Matsubara (2012), the United States of America possess one of the most sophisticated cyber warfare weaponry and this is justifiable by concurrent research evidence from Gjelten (2013) that reports the United States development of precision cyber weaponry with the capabilities of infiltrating enemy computer networks and launching attacks. O’Connell (2012) in agreement to the foregoing informs that in the global cyberspace, the United States of America is the only country that has staged numerous spies and surveyors a situation that brews a lot of tension between the U.S. and China. The literal evidence also pointed out on the three offensive methods that the People’s Republic of China utilizes the cyberspace for and deterrence informs why the numerous number U.S. cyberspace spies have been unable to penetrate the Chinese computer networks. Based on all the research evidence consulted so far, there are two possibilities that can be used to explain the scenario.

The first possibility is that the Chinese have superior offensive as well as defensive measures on the cyberspace that deter U.S. spy agents from infiltrating and gathering any information from the Chinese cyberspace. Relating the above with Gjelten (2013) and Matsubara (2012) evidences, the above possibility is disputable owing to the fact that the United States claims to possess the most superior cyber weaponry and that it can infiltrate any computer systems and cause a breakdown as per discretion. The Stuxnet infiltration of Iranian nuclear infrastructure is enough evidence to show that the United States has superior cyber technology. The other possibility that the researcher finds plausible to explain the scenario is that despite the U.S. having a lot of personnel monitoring the cyberspace than any other country globally, the U.S. unlike China is not interested in using the cyberspace offensively but in monitoring the use of the same by other global players. The researcher’s opinion is that the last scenario best explains why the United States has not yet launched a cyber offensive on China (Gjelten, 2011). 

            Irrespective of the above case, research finds evidence that the republic of China has tried launching a number of cyber espionages on the U.S. There have been numerous attempts to attack or infiltrate the United States computer networks and electronic systems but according to research, none of the attempts have been successful (Lai & Rahman, 2012). According to Lai and Rahman (2012) China’s continued cyber attacks on the United States cyber space display a lack of technical dominance of the former over the latter. The researchers point out that from the attacks it can be studied that unfortunately, China’s dominance of the cyberspace is more of a cognitive issue than a technical issue.

The researchers offer evidence of the use of cyber war in the operation desert storm by the United States that shocked the whole globe and probably made China alert on the importance of offensive cyber warfare. A similar explanation of China’s offensive tendencies on the cyberspace was explained by Racicot’s (2008) research that informed that ever since the defeat of the Chinese by the British in the nineteenth century due to technological superiority of the British, the Chinese have vowed to work extra hard in ensuring that they are developed technologically to be a key player in global matters.

The researcher in comparing previous research already reviewed finds out that the United States despite being laid back and conducting no offensives on any foreign countries except for military purposes might still be the best prepared country globally in the face of cyber warfare with whichever country. This is justifiable by two main facts already highlighted – the fact that there has been no successful infiltration of the United States computer networks by any foreign countries despite numerous attempts and the fact that the United States has successfully waged cyber warfare against enemies to the surprise of most of the nations globally. On the other hand, it is agreed that the People’s Republic of China is the most aggressive user of the cyberspace and that no country including the United States has attempted directly stopping its numerous aggressive activities in the cyberspace. For a long time, the Chinese cyberspace has been a no go zone and there is still sufficient reason to belief that the Chinese cyberspace is one of the most secured cyberspaces globally.

This is attributable to superior cyber technologies and expertise. According to some of the evidence consulted, China uses the offensive cyber warfare in conducting economic espionage to gain economic advantage against competitor countries through acquiring information and making fast plans that would ensure economic turns are favorable. Political espionage and deterrence, implying that other countries are unconditionally denied access to the Chinese cyberspace while the country secretly collects political information on other countries and military espionage in collecting and tapping intelligence information for military interests.

            Austin (2014) finds out that the above scenario pits the United States against the People’s Republic of China on the cyberspace with confirmed evidence that the latter is more willing to use radical measures in the cyberspace in order to gain mileage. According to Austin (2014), there is need for political détente between these two global leaders or the inevitable will happen – the occurrence of massive cyber warfare. With the disadvantages of cyber warfare to the globe having been outlined, it is shocking to think of what would become of the world if the U.S. is to go at war with China in the cyberspace. The objective of this research project is to identify whether the United States of America is prepared enough to defend its cyberspace against cyber attacks from China.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Previous Literature

            There is a lot of literature on cyberspace and cyber warfare online and this informs that there is much to learn from as pertains to cyberspace and cyber related security issues from previous literature alone. However, there is no doubt that previous literature has some weaknesses which therefore justifies the researcher’s reasons to use both previous literature and empirical research in making deductions for this research project. The researcher finds a major strength of previous literature as being the fact that retired army officials, military personnel as well other players or stakeholders in cyberspace security are the researchers. For instance, researchers Racicot (2008) and Austin (2014) are individuals who have worked closely with matters of security especially pertaining to cyber warfare.

This informs that most of the research consulted contained credible information as far as cyber related security issues are concerned. Therefore, the fact that military officials have invested time in educating the masses on matters of cyberspace and cyber warfare strengthens this research and gives it direction by offering useful insights on what is to be expected in the occurrence of cyber warfare. This fact makes the researcher’s work partly done and leaves him with little worrying to do. On the other hand, the fact that information age has necessitated the smooth flow of information, previous literature is endowed with strengths such as plenty of information on cyber warfare. Apart from specialized personnel in military and security issues conducting research on cyber warfare, research finds out that there is a lot of literature on cyberspace and cyber related security issue. This is attributable to mainly two factors. The first factor is that there is a smooth flow of information due to technological advancement and therefore this has made it easy for any researchers interested in the line of study to conduct meaningful research and share it online.

The other factor that can be blamed is the red alert on the cyberspace and cyber related issues which has caused the media and other interested parties to conduct research on the effects of the cyberspace on the global economics, politics and security dynamics. A proper example of the foregoing is the World Affairs Journal research conducted by researcher Gjelten (2011); this research was necessitated by the red alert on cyber related security issues. As a result of the two explained factors, there is a lot of cyberspace and cyber warfare information that the researcher found useful in the construction of this research project – this was a major strength of previous research to this new research project.

Another strength worth to include in this section due to its effectiveness in providing empirical information for use in the research is the fact that the United States department of defense has shared information on the level of preparedness of the department as far as matters cyber warfare are concerned. This eases the research process leaving only the hard work being to find out the tentative potential of enemy forces to attack the American cyberspace. In support to the foregoing, there is enough research evidence that points out to the potential strengths of China in offensive utilization of the cyberspace. For instance Hjortdal’s (2011) research gives important information on the economic, military and politic espionage offensives that the People’s Republic of China carries out using the deep cyberspace. In concordance Lai & Rahman (2011) sharer that China has carried out a number of unsuccessful attacks on the American cyberspace.

Empirical evidence such as the stated that touches directly on the United States’ and China’s activities on the cyberspace serve to give the research proper direction and act as pillars of research from which important deductions will be made after relating literature to empirical results. In a nutshell, previous literature offers enough information to work on for this research but for objectivity purposes, the researcher intends to also carry out an empirical study of the level of preparedness of the United Sates department of defense against China in cyber warfare.

            Despite the undeniable fact that there is a lot of information from previous research on cyberspace, cyber warfare, its advantages to military interests and potential disadvantages to the world, there are some weaknesses specific to this research that the researcher deems it fit to highlight. Contrary to the mentioned strengths above, there is no doubt that there is little research conducted on the level of preparedness of the United States department of defense against cyber warfare with China or Russia. The above informs that this research project will be the first to focus on the level of preparedness of the United States military against cyber warfare with China.

Apart from being the first research to expressly focus on those lines; this research project has ethical considerations as previous research has not directly focused on comparing the levels of preparedness between the United States and China. In that light therefore, the researcher understands that it may be hard to present a completely genuine comparison between the levels of preparedness of the two global powers. This is because, obtaining information specific to the level of preparedness of the United States of America against the People’s Republic of China on the face of cyber warfare can be hard due to the ethical considerations highlighted. Specific information pertaining to national levels of preparedness against any form of disaster let alone cyber warfare is normally classified in order to shield the general public from tensions that are less their concern.

Therefore, the researcher anticipates that it would be hard to obtain information that would specifically measure or state a measure of the level of preparedness of the United States of America against China in cyber warfare. This is therefore the greatest blow to this research project coupled with the fact that no previous research has specifically tried addressing the matter as it is. Most of the previous research that the researcher has relied upon in developing this project has been directly focused on exploring cyberspace or cyber warfare as pertaining to U.S. and China in isolation. Therefore, this research will have a difficult time overcoming the ethical issues and presenting a detailed research on the level of preparedness of the U.S. against cyber warfare with China. The above are the main weaknesses envisioned by this research project and experienced from previous research in the field too.

Tentative Solutions/Answers

            Dipert (2010) defines cyber warfare as one nation’s attack on the civilian or governmental information networks of another. In depth reading shows that existing international war policies as well as existing war laws do not directly apply to cyber warfare and as a result better approaches need to be adopted in order to curb the break out of a major cyber war. The People’s Republic of China in its bid to become the best positioned country globally intends to continue waging cyber warfare on different fronts (Hjortdal, 2011) – this situation has precipitated a major stand off between China and the United States as far as cyberspace control is concerned.

The reason why traditional war laws can not properly tackle the cyber warfare menace is because the dynamics of cyber warfare are a bit more complicated when compared to those of traditional warfare where physical damage and casualties were signs of warfare. Cyber warfare is termed as to potentially have adverse effects on an nation’s important interests and apart from this, attribution of cyber warfare is a case that remains contentious since the attacker possessing superior cyber weaponry can launch attacks and feign irresponsibility. 

With regard to the above, this research proposal argues that the best solution and answers to cyber warfare globally can only be found if proper cyber warfare policies are put in place. The fact that there are few advanced negotiations towards the development of global cyber warfare policies informs why there is a long stand off between global leaders and further necessitates the need for inclusive global cyberspace policies. For instance research by Austin (2014) reports that the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China all agree that there is need for a cyber warfare truce between the two countries.

This will ease the tension between the countries and as a result, instances of cyber warfare that are expected there been no truce will be averted. In a study conducted by Colarik and Janczewski (2012) it is found out that the development of national cyber warfare doctrine is probably the best way to go about the sanitization of the fifth battle space. According to the researchers, with this doctrine in place, a country’s information technology systems and any other supporting infrastructures will be considered legitimate military targets in conflicts. With this clear identification, it will be easy for countries to identify attacks on their cyberspaces and the clear identification will ensure that potential cyber warfare threats are reduced thanks to the cyber warfare doctrine.

            Therefore, the overall solution to the case in study as far as the various research evidences have confirmed is the development of global cyber warfare policies. These policies should be jointly developed between leading global countries. The joint development will ensure that interests of each global country are articulated in the policy development process. With a proper cyber warfare policy, the world can be sure to avert the looming cyber warfare threat between leading countries like the United States of America and China.


            A mixed approach will be employed as the method for data collection throughout this research project. The researcher identifies that one single method will be insufficient in attaining the purpose of the study and therefore there is need to incorporate mixed methodology for the research. The mixed methodology approach will help the researcher clearly make findings on the level of preparedness of the United States department of defense against cyber warfare with China, a number of data collection and analysis methods will be used.

The first method that will highly be employed through the study is field research method where selected respondents will be welcomed for interviews in which they will provide detailed information about their experience with cyber warfare related cases. The sampling technique to utilize for the field research is non-random purposive sampling whereby individuals identified to be specialized enough to give empirical information on the matters of cyberspace and cyber warfare will be invited in for interviewing.

These will be individual with specialized skills in computer networking, information technology, university computer science teachers and curriculum developers among other specialized individuals that can offer useful information on the subject. The sample number for interviewees will be a minimum of one hundred interviewees and this number is large so that the researcher can collect a wide array of information that will be useful in determining the level of preparedness of the United States department of defense on the face of cyber warfare with China.

The interviewer will seek to find out important information about the interviewee for instance how often he/she deals with matters related to cyber warfare and what is the bulk of information protected by different military interests in  the cyberspace? The field research is a proper and advantageous method to the entire research because it guarantees the research first hand information from professionals and personnel who either directly or indirectly deals with matters pertaining to cyber warfare in the United States of America on a daily basis. Utmost care will be taken while selecting respondents such that only respondents who fit a particular bracket will qualify to be interviewed for the research project. This ensures that the research gathers genuine information from the field which would be instrumental in making final deductions of research. The estimated time-frame for the field research will be at least five weeks at an average of three interviews per day.

This timing despite been long, will prove worthwhile since at least a hundred respondents will be scheduled and interviewed. The researcher will prepare twenty interview questions that each interviewee will be required to reply to, to the best of his/her knowledge. The researcher understands that most of the interviewees will be specialized individuals in computer networks and cyberspace security concerns and acknowledges the fact that these individuals most of whom have no direct experience in matters of national security whatsoever can not be in position to help the research in assessing the level of preparedness of the department of defense against cyber warfare.

This is why the researcher intends to use this interviews as routes to understanding the United States general publics understanding of the cyberspace and the possibility of cyber warfare and precautions taken thereof. The interviewees consisting of university technicians, corporation computer networks technicians, individual computer literates among other persons versed in the operations of computer networks stand up as the best representation of a nation’s computer literacy. Therefore the researcher intends to find out how versed these populations are and this will go hand in hand in understanding the level of preparedness of the department of defense against cyber warfare threats from China.

The research will also conduct surveys through phone interviews to different respondents in the military as well as other cyberspace security responsible agencies and stakeholders. The survey questionnaires will be developed from the analysis of the information gathered from the interviews conducted on cyberspace specialists. As such, this survey questions will be brief but will touch on the most important issues that need to be addressed from the type of respondents that they will be addressed to. The fact that it could be impossible to find military officials and interview them as well as other security agencies dealing closely with cyber related security issues informs the need to conduct the short surveys via phone.

The number of respondents to be surveyed will be ten and their responses to short, direct questions on cyberspace and cyber warfare will be an integral part of this research. The aim of the survey questions is to ensure that the military personnel and other agency officials dealing with cyber warfare related issues respond to formal inquiries with concrete and verifiable information. Utilizing this method of data collection ensures that the findings of the entire study are concrete, genuine and objective. These questions will be relatively different from the open ended questions used in the field research however, questions from the field research together with the responses received will be put to use in building up and developing the survey questionnaire. This thus informs that the questionnaire will be rigorous and will help capture information that is very instrumental to the entire research. 

            The analysis of the data collected from the research methodologies will be done rigorously to ensure each and every bit of information is clearly indicated and analyzed in order to have a bearing on the final research results. From the qualitative review of previous literature, the researcher developed the understanding that despite the United States department of defense playing dumb as far as the question of preparedness against cyber warfare related threats is concerned, the department is well prepared to tackle any threats in the cyberspace. Research evidence even indicates that the United States cyber warriors have since developed powerful cyber weaponry that can mount attacks on enemy computer networks and information technology systems and cause a lot of digital damage.

The People’s Republic of China continues to use cyber warfare in securing and fortifying its cyberspace which is relative to the military importance of cyber security. However, the researcher only having to test the difficulty level of breaking into computer networks and information systems of the United States can not confidently make any deductions on the level of preparedness of the Chinese republic however as previous research has informed, there is no doubt that China has one of the tightest cyber spaces globally.


            Analysis of the data collected under the interview section and the survey section of the research methodology presented a pattern that suggested that the department of defense of the United States is rather prepared for whatever cyber threats that the world may present especially if from the Republic of China. The interviewing section conducted over a hundred interviews of different respondents with all respondents responding to a range of twenty open ended questions that probed on their knowledge and experience in matters related to cyberspace and impending threat of cyber warfare. As already explained, the selection process for interviewees was non-random and purposive so that only respondents fitting the specialty criteria qualified to be interviewed.

The specialty criteria was that respondents were to be advanced computer literates with the knowledge of penetra6tinbg not only the surface web but also the deep web and with understanding of the dynamics of the cyberspace and its importance and value to the economic, politics and security well-being of states. One question that received a particularly shared pattern of responses from the respondents was the question of “What makes you think that the department of defense is prepared for cyber warfare with China?” The respondents presented varied reasons for thinking and believing that the United States department of defense was prepared for cyber warfare with China. For instance, one of the respondents alluded to the 1990s desert storm affair where the U.S. department of defense deployed the then new cyber warfare techniques that awed the whole Eastern bloc and used that effective in quashing Iraqi’s forces that were still using technologically inferior means of warfare.

Another respondent, a computer networks technician with a multi-national organization alluded to the fact that their organization alone has been able to quash different cyberspace attacks directed to their systems thus protecting the organization from cyber criminals who wage cyber warfare to gain economic advantages. To this, the respondents made a comparison that if a corporation established in the U.S. has within itself the capacity to defend its computer networks and enable transparent online trading, how then can someone think that the department of defense is not better prepared. In a nutshell, the interview section presented answers to questions that seconded the fact that the department of defense is well prepared for any cyber warfare with the Eastern giant China. The fact that the U.S. has the most personnel monitoring the global cyberspace itself informs that the U.S. is in control of the cyberspace and that it does not intend to use it for any offensive purposes unlike China which tries every means to perform espionage on the former. 

            The on phone survey results presented answers to four direct questions from ten military and security agency officials and the patterns were relative to those of the interview results on computer specialists. Most of the military and security personnel surveyed on phone advised that the American public as well as the world have nothing to fear from the occurrence of a cyber warfare because in case of an occurrence, the United States had means to quash and neutralize attacks in the fastest way possible not to mention the fact that the United States cyber warriors had in their possessions some of the most sophisticated precision cyber weapons that could crash and fragment integral systems of any enemy nation(s). These sentiments are in concurrence with relevant research data that informs that the United States is one of the most technologically sophisticated countries in the world. Instances like a recent infiltration of Iranian nuclear system which caused the attacked country a lot of losses in terms of money and value of information confirm the fact that the United States is superior technologically and thus would hardly be afraid of any of the potential enemies in case of a cyber warfare.

Most of the military and security personnel interviewed on phone replied to a particular question in a rather similar manner, the question asked was “If the United States is not afraid of China in the cyberspace, why would it have the most personnel guarding the cyberspace?” To this question, the researcher analyzed the following reply – The United States being one of the most active players in the rapid development of the cyberspace in the past two decades, takes it as its responsibility to ensure that the cyberspace is protected and that the American population as well as infrastructure are protected from malicious cyber activities, this is the reason that the U.S. is interested in guarding the cyberspace. On the other hand, the U.S. been one of the pillars of civility globally, is not interested in engaging in any cyber offensives but protecting the American computer networks and infrastructure and the world entirely from dangerous offensive practices. This is precisely why, O’Connell (2012) finds out that the United States of America is regularly guarding the cyberspace yet not under pressure to retaliate any cyber attacks that it has faced from China.

            The above deductions help in understanding the tentative position of the United States department of defense as far as matters of cyber warfare are concerned. It is crystal clear that the United States of America has cyberspace capability that can not be easily overcome. The numerous unsuccessful cyber attacks on the American cyber space from China reinforce the foregoing point and as Lai & Rahman (2012) concur, the Chinese dominance in the cyberspace is much in the cognitive than it is in the technical. The actual truth position as found out from some of the empirical results in this research is that the U.S. has been successful in protecting its computer networks and infrastructure from penetration by malicious cyber attackers. This is evidence enough that the U.S. is much prepared for cyber warfare with not only China, but Russia among any other nations that may feel tempted to directly test the strength of this super power in the cyberspace.


            Conclusively, this research project has endeavored to take an in depth look into the global cyberspace situation and on an overview basis, the research has found sufficient evidence that there is a looming possibility for the occurrence of cyber warfare between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

The research finds out that there are two major reasons for the above dreadful possibility. The first reason as researched by O’Connell (2012) is the fact that the United States been one of the main participants in the development of the global cyberspace in the last two decades has more personnel than any other nation monitoring and patrolling the cyberspace a situation that the Republic of China feels is unfair and responds to by tightening deterrence such that American watchdogs can not spy on the Chinese cyberspace. On the other hand, numerous thwarted cyber attacks attempts on the American cyberspace have been retraced by specialists back to China informing that the People’s Republic of China has already made cyberspace offensives towards the U.S.

            The lack of proper international policies governing the use of the international cyberspace, counts as one of the factors that would likely promote fully fledged cyber warfare between the United States and China. From the trend identified from this research, it is confirmable that existing international war laws do not apply to cyber warfare (Dipert, 2010) and as such it is of utmost importance that cyber warfare policies on national and international levels be developed to govern country activities on the cyberspace (Colarik & Janczewski, 2012).

With the development of these doctrines, a countries informational and electrical infrastructure will be considered legitimate military targets and the international bond of the law will deter countries like China from continually attempting any for of espionage on the cyberspace. The research has described numerous disadvantages of cyber warfare and it would be a great global blow if the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China get to war on the cyberspace. Thus, the researcher advices that a détente of activities in the cyberspace between the two global leaders be considered (Austin, 2014); this should then be followed by expedited efforts towards the development of the international cyberspace laws and regulations.

For the purposes of inclusivity, these laws should be developed in consultation with all the major global player countries, this will ensure that interests of all countries are considered and no countries feel left out as this is the origin of all global misunderstandings. In answering the title question of this research paper, the researcher through empirical evidence finds out that despite the fact that China exhibits continuous offensive operations in the cyberspace; the U.S. has all the capabilities to withstand cyber warfare against China.


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