In February 1999, the PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House in Beijing released a fascinating book written by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, two Senior Colonels of the People’s Liberation Army. The title of the book was Unrestricted Warfare [available on Lancers Publishers website]1.
The two Chinese officers prophesized the ‘destruction of rules’ in future warfare. They wrote: “The direct result of the destruction of rules is that the domains delineated by visible or invisible boundaries which are acknowledged by the international community lose effectiveness. This is because all principals without national power who employ non-military warfare actions to declare war against the international community all use means that go beyond nations, regions and measures.”
The website of the French embassy in Beijing was blocked for several days due to a massive cyber attack. It happened a few days after President Nicolas Sarkozys meeting with the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland.
Interestingly they gave some examples: “Whether it is the intrusions of hackers, a major explosion at the World Trade Center, or a bombing attack by bin Laden, all of these greatly exceed the frequency bandwidths understood by the American military, …they [the US] have never taken into consideration and have even refused to consider means that are contrary to tradition and to select measures of operation other than military means.”
Everyone knows what happened two years later in New York on 9/11. It is only after the attack on the Twin Towers that the US, (and India as well) began considering other modes of warfare.
The two Colonels explained their theory on future warfare and described the new actors on tomorrow’s battlefield: “Visible national boundaries, invisible Internet space, international law, national law, behavioral norms, and ethical principles, have absolutely no restraining effects on them. …When carrying out war with these people, there is no declaration of war, no fixed battlefield, no face to-face fighting and killing, and in the majority of situations, there will be no gunpowder smoke, gun fire, and spilling of blood. However, the destruction and injuries encountered by the international community are in no way less than those of a military war.”
The research of Qiao and Wang was the result of their study of the US decisive victory over Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War of 1990-1991. The main question that Unrestricted Warfare tries to answer is how a technologically less advanced nation can overcome its inferiority and defeat the enemy (or at least inflict ‘10,000 cuts’).
According to reports emanating from the FBI and the US Secret Service, the computer networks of Barak Obama and John McCain were attacked during the presidential campaign. Newsweek quoted a FBI agent telling Obamas managers: “A serious amount of files have been loaded off your system.”
The Colonels noted: “During a short period of over ten years, they [the new warriors] were transformed from being persons of nameless origins to world public nuisances, with the chief among them being computer hackers. The popularization of personal computers, and especially the formation of the Internet, has resulted in the malicious acts of hackers increasingly endangering the existing social order. The hackers we speak of here refer to those network killers who steal information, delete and change files, release viruses, transfer capital, and destroy programs on the network. In order to differentiate them from the non-malicious hackers, we should perhaps call the former ‘network bandits’ or ‘network tyrants’ which would be much more accurate. Their powers of destroying the present world are shocking.”
During the following years, the writings of the two Colonels motivated thousands in China. The PLA was itself probably inspired by this innocuous sentence: “the struggle for victory will take place on a battlefield [and] beyond the battlefield.” It became an integral part of China’s war plans.
The ancient Art of War propounded by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC was re-actualized by the Colonels: “there is no means which cannot be used in the war; and there is no territory and method which cannot be used in combination. The applicability of the actions of war to the trend of globalization is manifested in the word ‘beyond’. This word is sufficient to mean using one to apply to ten thousand, but what we mean by ten thousand methods combined as one is precisely covered by the word ‘beyond’.
For the authors of Unrestricted Warfare, a ‘combined method’ is first and foremost a way of thinking and only later a method.
Very few nations have been able to grasp this way of thinking. Though in recent months some Indian security experts have been taken it more seriously, it is usually not ‘the Indian way’ of doing things.
The writings of Qiao and Wang came back to mind when I read that the website of the French embassy in Beijing was blocked for several days due to a massive cyber attack. It happened a few days after President Nicolas Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland. A French diplomat had told AFP on December 11: “The server was attacked for several days, saturated by massive requests for a connection, mostly coming at night.”
China played down the incident. Liu Jianchao, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman told the foreign correspondents: “We have not seen any questions or concerns raised by France. When reporting or covering this issue, the media should base their reports on solid proof and not target China”. Though it is a relatively minor incident compared to some more serious intrusions such as in the Pentagon’s server, it shows the Chinese mindset.
While India takes it easy, the awareness of the issue has drastically increased during the past few years in the West.
The Chinese Army was quick to implement the Colonels new warfare methods. In August 2001, the China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation2 reported: “It is increasingly evident that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is devoting considerable resources to the research and development of advanced high-technology weaponry. …this effort warrants vigilance by the United States because there is the potential that China could achieve technical breakthroughs that would enable them to exceed certain U.S. military capabilities.”
In 1999, the Chinese President Jiang Zemin had requested the Central Military Commission “to give him Assassins’ Maces to bring victory over Taiwan”.
As explained by the China Brief. “The Assassins’ Mace concept is from ancient Chinese statecraft, in which warring nobles sought secret weapons that would attack their enemies’ vital weaknesses and bring about their rapid military collapse.”
This was part of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in China. The RMA means that advances in information technology, combined with other military technical progresses, can provide new deadly weapons to weaker states, without resorting to nuclear devices.
It is in this context that the Dark Visitors appeared on the Chinese stage. Today they have become one of the most serious threats to the national security of the United States …and India.
While India takes it easy, the awareness of the issue has drastically increased during the past few years in the West. Take the US elections. According to reports emanating from the FBI and the US Secret Service, the computer networks of Barak Obama and John McCain were attacked during the presidential campaign. Newsweek quoted a FBI agent telling Obama’s managers: “A serious amount of files have been loaded off your system.”
In this context that the Dark Visitors appeared on the Chinese stage. Today they have become one of the most serious threats to the national security of the United States …and India.
Though both camps had reported that hackers ‘from an undisclosed foreign location’ targeted their network during the summer, nobody openly dared to say that China was responsible for the attacks. The objective of the hackers seems to have been to collect documents related to the candidates’ future policies.
The recurrence of this type of wild hacking however worries many security experts. In December 2007, the US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez traveled to Beijing for discussion with Chinese officials. In May 2008, the National Journal Magazine in an article China’s Cyber-Militia3 alleged that Gutierrez was also targeted: “spyware programs designed to clandestinely remove information from personal computers and other electronic equipment were discovered on devices used by [the US Secretary].”
According to the US magazine, these spyware programs are “designed to open communication channels to an outside system, and to download the contents of the infected devices at regular intervals.”
When the National Journal interviewed Rich Mills, the US Commerce Department spokesman, Rich did not confirm or deny the reports.