Later in the documentary, Col. Du Wenlong, a researcher at China’s top military research institute, argues that the country’s ability to attack and defend its networks “must be interwoven.” He adds, “To keep up with the pace of virtual technology, we must increase our fighting ability.”
For more than a decade, experts say, China has had a cyberwarfare capability, and in recent years, the nation has seemed intent on developing it — especially now that the United States has launched a Cyber Command to coordinate the military’s offensive and defensive capabilities. The countries have recently begun a dialogue to reduce tensions in cyberspace.
The 22-minute documentary featuring the clip includes images of the Pentagon, the White House and U.S. jets bombing targets as the narrator describes China as behind its adversaries in developing cyber-capabilities. Du describes several types of attacks that might be deployed in cyberwarfare, including “logic bombs,” software implanted in a foe’s network that later can be triggered to cause crucial systems to crash.
Western experts who viewed the clip — first reported by the Epoch Times, a news service affiliated with the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that long has clashed with the Chinese government — said the military computer program featured in the video was not especially sophisticated and probably does not represent the state-of-the-art of Chinese cyber-capabilities. Yet the experts were struck by what appeared to be the first and most public indication from an official Chinese source that it has the ability and the intention to hit adversaries, even when their computer servers are based in other countries.
“Their official line is they’re innocent, ‘Why are you blaming us?’ ” said James A. Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ technology and public policy program. In the clip, he said, “they were caught with their pants down.”
Chinese officials have long insisted that their national laws prohibit any disruption of computer networks. Yet when major cyberattacks have happened — against Google, Lockheed Martin, the Dalai Lama, the office of the German chancellor — U.S. analysts and some international authorities have blamed China.
Between 1999 and 2001, China began cracking down on Falun Gong activists, whom they saw as a potential source of unrest, according to a 2002 Rand study. Falun Gong was banned in 1999 by the Chinese government, which declared it an “evil cult.” Since then, human rights activists say, many of its followers have been killed and thousands detained amid a decade-long crackdown.