Is China a Paper Tiger in Cyberspace?

Despite outside perceptions, Chinese analysts are feeling increasingly vulnerable in cyberspace

From Adam Segal, the Council on Foreign Relations:  Two recent studies of national cyber power have placed China near the bottom of the table. China is number 13 on the EUI-Booz Allen Hamilton Cyber Power Index, behind Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil but better off than Russia, Turkey, South Africa, and India (the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia are the top three). The Brussels-based Security & Defence Agenda groups China with Italy, Russia, and Poland in the fifth tier (the U.S. and the UK are in the third tier, below Finland, Sweden, and Israel; the top group is empty).

These are very subjective studies based on interviews, surveys, and vague metrics. Still, they cut against the grain of popular perceptions. If you were just paying attention to the almost weekly reporting in the Western press about alleged Chinese cyber espionage, you could be forgiven for thinking that China ruled the cyber waves. Yet recent writings in the Chinese press have more of a “China is vulnerable” flavor and suggest that analysts, if not characterizing the country’s cyber strategy as weak, think there is a great deal of work that remains to be done.

The work ahead is both defensive and offensive, technical and strategic. Zhang Yongfu, a professor at the PLA’s Information Engineering University, told the PLA Daily that the “cybersecurity situation” was in its early stages.  As with every other country, deciding which bureaucracies should be involved in defense and coordinating among them is difficult; cyber management, in Zhang’s words, is fragmented and ineffective.  Since a cyber event could develop over hours if not minutes, policymakers must seriously wonder if the People’s Liberation Army, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology can successfully coordinate their roles during a crisis.  (photo: ‘No Matter’ Project/Flickr)

Image: Flickr%202%2016%2012%20China%20Paper-TIger%20in%20Cyber.jpg