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Timothy Thomas
Senior analyst,
Foreign Military Studies Office, USA


The concept of cyber or information deterrence is being debated worldwide. While discussed for almost two decades, the idea is often viewed as unrealistic due to the specific characteristics of cyber issues, such as the anonymity of attackers or the use of surrogates (both individuals and servers). Regardless, American, Russian, and Chinese authors all write on the concept. Inevitably, comparisons are made to the theory of nuclear deterrence, which has dominated strategic thought for nearly seventy years. There are, obviously, striking differences between nuclear and cyber deterrence. If a nuclear weapon was involved, everyone would know about the incident. In the digital age, when a cyber attack occurs, it may take days or weeks to even know it has occurred. Misunderstandings can develop as to the intent of a cyber attack, while the intent of a nuclear attack is transparent. Nuclear attacks are conducted by nation-states at the present time, while a cyber attack can be initiated by a lone hacker whose intent and location can be masked. These and other points of concern continue to make information or cyber deterrence a concept that is continually controversial and a point of discussion.

This article focuses on how China views the information or cyber deterrence concept. [1] It is important to study China’s and other nations’ concepts to see if there is an evolving answer to the problem of defining and utilizing the term that other countries can utilize. Further, it is important to understand the context from which nation’s make their assessments, as some nations are still developing their cyber deterrence concepts, while others are nearing the stage of completion. The conclusions focus on what the Chinese model reveals for the concept of deterrence in general. It appears that the Chinese intend to utilize the concept to achieve flexibility in negotiations and gain a psychological and digital strategic advantage, perhaps through a show of force. It is not clear whether the Chinese concept offers a better way of thinking about the term, however.

Cyber Deterrence versus Nuclear Deterrence

There are significant differences among nations regarding information/cyber deterrence and nuclear concepts. Of primary significance is just the construction, transport, and delivery issues. For nuclear weapons, a host of measures are required for each step of the process. Remaining covert during each step is extremely difficult. The construction, transport, and delivery issues are of more concern in the information/cyber concept due to difficulties in envisioning them. A good algorithm writer with knowledge of an important network’s landscape can do much damage surreptitiously.

Another difference involves the pain and destruction associated with the attack. The pain that a nuclear explosion imparts is well-known. We can watch videos of blasts and predict destruction and fall-out impacts. An attack on underwater cables would not generate the type of panic that a mushroom cloud would produce. The pain of an information/cyber attack is less predictable. In the final analysis, social chaos and psychological fear may be the immediate fall-outs that most expect. A cyber attack on a banking system could produce panic overnight. What is less known are the effects of an attack on a digital decision-making apparatus, on an industrial or electrical infrastructure in winter, or on a communications satellite. Thus, for the immediate future the two types of deterrence cannot be equated, as one absolutely negates the use of the weapon (nuclear), while the other (cyber attacks) occur daily in a much more limited form (usually reconnaissance, although some attacks have caused harm).

Nuclear deterrence has a history and there has been ample time to discuss the issue. The advent and development of an information/cyber deterrence history, associated with technology, is shorter and advancements have been extraordinarily fast. In the past fifteen years we have witnessed the development of thumb drives, Facebook, YouTube, and numerous other online progress. Quantum computing is waiting in the wings. Cyber advancements mandate the development of new ways to consider deterrence beyond the term’s nuclear heritage (or even the exclusion of cyber deterrence as a concept). New concepts could include, for example, ways to deter algorithm attacks on networks.

Under the umbrella of nuclear deterrence only governments or nation-states played. Under an information/cyber deterrence standoff, anyone can potentially play. No longer are we tied to governments and ambassadors and foreign ministries as the negotiators of nuclear deterrence. The cyber world operates in stark contrast to the nuclear one as extremists and terrorists see opportunities to play on the cyber field as well, which the nuclear era has not offered to date. With nuclear weapons we usually knew who the opponent was. With information/cyber issues, we do not always know. In short, it is time to talk about what we really mean by information deterrence separate from the nuclear heritage of the term “deterrence.” The information/cyber age has distinctive characteristics that we must work with in the future.

Yet another issue involves the legal aspect of nuclear versus information/cyber deterrence. Entire treaties and policies have already been developed to contain the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons. The construction of a similar system for information/cyber deterrence issues remains distant but the work of a host of legal experts has provided hope, such as the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare. The issue is still in need of final policy statements from a host of nations, however, as each nation fears being constrained by issues they could not foresee based on a lack of practical experience in the area.

Cyber Deterrence and China

Deterrence from a Chinese perspective emphasizes the use of psychological pressure or threats against an opponent. The psychological quality of deterrence appears to allow the PLA to use the cyber option so daringly in head-to-head confrontations based on risk and reward. In On China, Dr. Henry Kissinger noted Mao’s tendency to utilize the psychological quality of deterrence: For Mao, the Western concept of deterrence was too passive. He rejected a posture in which China was obliged to wait for an attack. Wherever possible, he strove for the initiative. On one level, this was similar to the Western concept of preemption—anticipating an attack by launching the first blow. But in the Western doctrine, preemption seeks victory and a military advantage. Mao’s approach to preemption differed in the extraordinary attention he paid to psychological elements. His motivating force was to … change the psychological balance, not so much to defeat the enemy as to alter his calculus of risks. [2]

When referencing a discussion with former paramount leader of China Deng Xiaoping, Kissinger noted that Deng had proposed a preemptive policy with regard to countering any offensive moves along China’s borders that could be made by the then Soviet Union. Kissinger added that Deng’s policy of preemption was an aspect of China’s offensive deterrence doctrine. [3]

Today, it is unknown how closely China’s cyber activities follow Deng’s advice, that is, whether they are designed to develop an offensive preemptive cyber strategic advantage in anticipation of other nation’s cyber capabilities. The continuous and wide-ranging reconnaissance activities of the Chinese do, however, lead one to think that Deng’s guidance is under consideration. Perhaps of greater importance is whether the PLA can make an opponent’s cyber battlefield transparent or whether the PLA can generate new cyber combat power. This combination seems to offer a better chance of attaining a psychological advantage and information deterrence capability than old thinking about deterrence. An opponent will be deterred in the contemporary age when his risk calculus becomes problematic as a result of being confronted by an opponent with an offensive and deep reconnaissance capability that provides a seemingly all-knowing information picture that mirrors reality. These capabilities can even allow a force to “win victory before the first battle.”

Over the past decade the Chinese have discussed the information/cyber deterrence concept in their books and journals. Writing in China Military Science in 2001, Zhao Xijun, a deputy commander of Second Artillery (responsible for nuclear weapons), defined deterrence as “military actions in the form of a show of force between countries or political groups, or an indication of their resolve and readiness to use force, intended to make an opponent not dare to take hostile action or to escalate his actions.” [4] If one were to attempt to extrapolate what China’s cyber deterrence theory might look like, Zhao’s article is an interesting contemporary start point. [5] In this case, a show of force could simply be a digital presentation of another side’s cyber capability.

Zhao bases deterrence theory to a degree on a combination of stratagems. Zhao notes that key factors in Sun Tzu’s writings that influence contemporary deterrence theory include having superior military power, being fully prepared for war, having severe measures of punishment at one’s disposal, having superb skill at “attacking strategy” and “attacking diplomacy,” and making one’s ideology of deterrence a lynchpin in a more complete system. All of these factors have cyber- age relevance. Zhao adds that a counter deterrent capability is the most effective method to stop the aggressive attempts of powerful nations from harming China’s national interests. [6]

Zhao states it is necessary to combine truth with falsehood, a direct application of a stratagem. This combination can work to awe an enemy force into submission through the use of psychological means. Friendly (Chinese) forces must look for opportunities to attack an enemy force’s power and resolve, thereby depriving an enemy of will power. When striking, they must do so resolutely, threatening targets with the greatest strategic value first. When there is no smoke or gunpowder, strategy and psychology act as multipliers of power and resolve in deterrence. [7]

A proper deterrence strategy includes the ability to judge the hour and to size up the situation while cautiously making decisions. A nation must have a good grasp of the target and the objective of its deterrent posture, [8] items that can be accomplished via digital reconnaissance. Zhao adds that China should use an integrated deterrence approach. A single deterrent force is not sufficient to constitute effective deterrence. Comprehensive power must be employed to retain the strategic initiative. This thought brings to mind the work of Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui in their book, Unrestricted Warfare The latter authors noted twenty-four different types of warfare and then theorized that a “tasty cocktail” mixture of the methods would best bring about success. [9] Thus, one might envision Zhao or others contemplating a cyber mixture of options that would serve as a deterrent force.

Editors Peng Guangqian and Yao Youzhi defined deterrence in their excellent 2001 work The Science of Military Strategy as “military conduct of a state or a political group in displaying force or showing the determination to use force to compel the enemy to submit to one’s volition and to refrain from taking hostile actions or escalating the hostility.” [10] Deterrence requires a deterrent force able to impact the overall strategic situation; the determination and volition to use the force; and the ability to make an opposing force perceive and believe these prior two points. [11]

The military action of strategic deterrence is defined as “the strategic move taken by a state or a political group for the purpose of forcing the opponent to submit to one’s volition in the overall war situation through showing force or the determination of preparing to use force.” [12] What strategic deterrence values most is momentum from military preparation, from showing a disposition of strength to an enemy, and from military strikes. [13] Thus, the creation of momentum, or shi, is a valued commodity of a deterrence concept or means of deterrence. Shi can also be interpreted as energy or strategic advantage. It is the latter concept that deterrence strives to attain whether through physical (force development and deployment) or mental (development of fear of retribution in an opponent).

Information deterrence is defined in The Science of Military Strategy as “the deterrence that depends on the powerful performance of information science and information technology, and it is put into effect by the momentum and power of information warfare.” [14] In the world of information, the creation of deterrence from momentum is accomplished via the preparation of cyber power, showing an enemy force a disposition or capability of cyber strength, and from actual cyber strikes (perhaps the numerous computer reconnaissance activities of the Chinese).

Information deterrence, according to Peng and Yao, has the following features: first, permeability or the ability to permeate not only the military but also politics, the economy, culture, and science and technology; second, ambiguity, where the difference between information deterrence and information offense is hard to distinguish; third, diversity, such as unauthorized visits, malicious software, database disruption, etc.; fourth, two-way containment, where victims of an information attack may not be just the enemy but also others, to include oneself, due to the interconnectedness of networks and the global grid; and finally, the use of People’s War as a capability, that is, the potential of people joining in to combat an enemy on the net. [15]

The Science of Military Strategy also notes the following points which apply more to the transmission of information (“information transmission is the necessary condition for creating the deterrent impact of strength and determination” [16]) in order to impact the cognition of an opponent:

Deterrence requires turning the strength and the determination of using strength into information transmitted to an opponent, and to impact directly on his mentality in creating a psychological pressure to shock and awe the opponent…for this reason, effective strategic deterrence depends not only on strength and determination, but also on the above-mentioned information acquired by the deterred side. If the opponent has not acquired the above information or the information acquired is not accurate, or the deterred side believes that the acquired information is only bluffing and intimidation, then it cannot create creditable and effective strategic deterrence…only when the opponent on receiving deterrence information perceives and believes that if he acts rashly, he may suffer a more severe punishment, can the deterrence obtain the expected impact. [17]

Finally, Peng and Yao write that deterrence seeks momentum in several postures: creating momentum through military preparation, demonstrating momentum by showing one’s disposition of strength, and augmenting momentum with military strikes. [18]

In 2003 editor Cai Cuihong’s book, Information Networks and International Politics, proposed an information deterrence theory. The work views the information umbrella as more utilitarian than the nuclear umbrella. An information umbrella can theoretically enable one side to see the adversary, while not allowing the adversary to see friendly activities. Control over information has become a new deterrent force as a result. Cai’s work notes that “the side that controls information can manipulate the start and conclusion of wars, can use informatized weapons to paralyze enemy weapons and command systems, and can destroy the enemy’s precision-guided weapons. [19]

Network warfare includes network spy warfare and network attack and defense warfare. It is a form of fighting similar to IW. [20] Network warfare could be conducted between countries, between countries and organizations, between countries and individuals, between organizations, between organizations and individuals, and even between individuals. [21] The deterrent strength of China’s armed forces will be balanced on the basis of its computing power, communications capacity and reliability, real-time reconnaissance capabilities, computer simulation capabilities, and other information elements. These elements can deter through preying on an opponent’s misconceptions and administering psychological pressure, [22] accomplished through information control. Cai added the more uncomfortable assessment that “information network warfare under conditions of nuclear deterrence will be the new form of future international conflict.” [23]

In 2004, the journal China Military Science published a few articles on strategic deterrence that offer insights into how it could be applied to cyber issues. Zhou Peng and Wen Enbin, from the Academy of Military Science, wrote that strategic deterrence refers to a “country or political bloc’s military actions to compel an adversary to not dare take hostile action or escalate actions through a show of force or indicating the resolve of being prepared to use force, thereby achieving specific strategic goals.” [24]

The possession of military strength is a prerequisite, along with the resolve to use force and the ability to make the target of deterrence aware of one’s capabilities. Targeted deterrence can be achieved based on the controllability and flexibility of informatized measures. [25] Thus a show of force could be presented to another country in the cyber age simply by demonstrating control over a network.

According to Zhou and Wen, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin recommended elevating deterrence to the level of strategy. The concept of strategic deterrence could be used to contain war, delay its outbreak, or prevent its escalation. The core of new deterrence capabilities should be “assassin’s mace” technologies. Jiang emphasized mobilization measures as a priority development. China has emphasized information mobilization processes ever since, with many such military and civilian exercises conducted annually. China “must establish an emergency mobilization combat force” due to the fast nature of high-tech wars and corresponding requirement to be ready at a moment’s notice. A war’s start can have decisive significance in the information age. Mobilization capabilities enable China to unleash the deterrent effect of people’s war under high-tech conditions. [26] This emergency mobilization force could be the cyber militias that China has developed or a host of other cyber elements.

Comprehensive national strength, in Zhou’s and Wen’s opinion, generates a reliable deterrent effect that must be developed now during China’s so-called 20-year “window of strategic opportunity.” A good deterrent force involves the use of nuclear deterrence, conventional deterrence, space deterrence, and information deterrence, again reminding one of cocktail warfare236 The authors add that “The acme of the art of strategic guidance is fully reflected in the proper selection and constant innovation of deterrence forms; it is the most real, most dynamic part of wielding strategic deterrence.” [27]

In a second 2004 China Military Science article, a research group from the Academy of Military Science (AMS) wrote an article on strategic deterrence. They noted that: to deter, a nation must possess an adequate force, the determination to use the force, and the ability to make an opponent believe that these conditions exist. [28] Accusations from a host of nations accusing China of extended cyber reconnaissance activities inside commercial firms worldwide indicate they could be in the process of establishing this type of deterrent form.

The AMS research group stated that a combination of nuclear, conventional, space, people’s war, and information deterrence was needed to offer a comprehensive deterrent. The latter element was of particular importance. It permeates each of the other forms of deterrence and offers both psychological ambiguity and the diversity of using either hard or soft kills. What strategic deterrence values most, the authors noted, is momentum created by military preparation, a demonstration of the disposition of strength to an opponent, and the ability to augment momentum with military strikes. [29] China has demonstrated it preparation of an informatized military, has demonstrated its suspected ability to penetrate foreign systems, and has continued to upgrade its military force.

In 2007 Major General Li Deyi stated that information deterrence will rise to a strategic level close behind nuclear deterrence. New and important modes of deterrence will include information-technology deterrence, information-weaponry deterrence, and information-resource deterrence. Further, counter information deterrence will be part of China’s new mode of thinking. [30] Also in 2007 Senior Colonel Deng Yifei wrote that information deterrence would be a means, behind nuclear deterrence, to achieve national strategic goals and military strategic goals. Deng believes that information has become the core concept in military thinking. Vying for information supremacy and forming information deterrence capabilities are the key areas of current military thought in his opinion. [31]

In 2009 a few top nuclear generals in China wrote how information resources and the information components of weaponry apply to information deterrence. Zhou Fangyin noted that the concept of information deterrence is defined as forcing an adversary to lay down his weapons through demonstrations or through highlighting friendly force weaponry’s advanced precision under informatized conditions. [32] Zhou’s example leads the reader to believe he is talking more about precision guided weaponry, of course, than cyber attacks on infrastructure.

In 2010 Senior Colonel Yao Yunzhu, writing in the US journal Air & Space Power stated that China will continue to apply deterrence at the grand strategic level while depending more on “uncertainty” for a better deterrence effect. [33] Even though her comments were with regard to nuclear deterrence, they could easily fit an information deterrence scenario. In the age of computer hacking, “uncertainty” as to a hacker’s actual identity or government connection is perhaps the concepts biggest obstacle for those attacked or reconnoitered to overcome.

Also in 2010 Chinese analysts Tang Lan and Zhang Xin, at a US conference hosted by the East West Institute, delivered a paper titled “Can Cyber Deterrence Work?» The authors wrote that the anonymity, global reach, scattered nature, and interconnectedness of networks and the Internet reduces the efficacy of cyber deterrence and can even “render it completely useless.” [34] These issues further separate cyber deterrence from deterrence issues associated with nuclear issues, not to mention that cyber attacks are associated with low-cost and low-risk issues in comparison to nuclear ones. Tang and Zhang noted that “indirect damage is the primary problem with cyber deterrence.” [35] They added the following points: mutual assured destruction does not apply to cyber deterrence; major obstacles to cyber deterrence are difficult technical hurdles, a lack of social responsibility and security awareness, and inadequate international cooperation (especially the reluctance of states to “budge on their perceived cyberspace interests or on differences they have in terms of laws and politics”), and the lack of a clear stance on what constitutes illegal and harmful information based on different beliefs in the free spread of information or other customs and traditions. [36] Thus, these authors stressed the concept’s ineptitude to deal with contemporary technical issues.

The Chinese media did carry several articles in 2011 on information/cyber deterrence. One article in the authoritative China Military Science noted that China’s core military capability was based on the ability to win local wars under informatized conditions. This capability is supported by the power of deterrence. Authors Liu Yongming and Jin Zhenxing noted the following with regard to China’s information offensive and defensive capabilities in the article:

This includes the capability of effectively conducting strategic information deterrence; the capability of detecting, infiltrating and damaging, and controlling information nodes of hostile operation systems; the capability of dealing hard destruction to hostile information systems; the capability of launching network attacks on hostile computer networks; the capability of guarding against hostile information reconnaissance; the capability of resisting hostile information interference; and the capability of rebuilding information systems. [37]

Many of the articles in 2011 discussed the US cyber strategy that was published at that time. The comments were highly negative in regard to the utility of the US use of a cyber deterrence concept. One of those articles noted the following about a supposed US reliance on cyber deterrence in future wars:

The idea of so-called ‘cyber deterrence’ proposed by senior US military officials is more or less the same as the ‘nuclear deterrence’ proposed in the past…With regard to the United States, ‘cyber deterrence’ can be composed of three parts: First, a cyber army capable of both defense and offense; second, development of weapons including ‘digital bombs’ used in cyber attacks; and third, when necessary, the use of real military force to attack the enemy’s network. It will be impossible for the United States or a small number of nations to monopolize the three component parts as the first two can be achieved even in individual behavior and can be easily imitated. [38]

Another anti-US 2011 article noted that “the effectiveness of cyber deterrence is questionable because of the specificity, complexity, and uncertainty of cyber technologies. Moreover, deterrence theory has exacerbated the distrust and insecurity among countries and thus hindered international cooperation in
cyberspace.” [39]

In 2012 and into 2013 Chinese articles appeared to distance themselves from the information/cyber deterrence concept. Instead, deterrence was linked with “winning local wars under informatized conditions.” For example, an article describing the opening of the first session in 2013 of the 12th National People’s Congress noted that “deterrence and actual-combat capabilities under informatized conditions further strengthened” in 2012. [40] Senior Colonel Xu Weidi, writing in 2012 on military deterrence for the US’s Air and Space Power Journal, noted the following in his article: In other words, during the entire Cold War Era, while the Western powers talked about deterrence, they often exercised coercion. This twisted and alienated ‘deterrence’ is best demonstrated by what they did with forward defense—a defensive posture in which one claims defense by ‘pointing his bayonet right at the neck of the opponent.’ [41]

The concept of coercion was cited as applying to Chinese thought as well, however. In an article by Dean Cheng, a US expert on the Chinese military, it was noted that the PLA Encyclopedia defined a strategy of deterrence, or weishe zhanlue, as the “display of military power, or the threat of the use of military power, in order to compel an opponent to submit.” [42] So it appears that the idea to compel or coerce is not foreign to the PLA’s concept of deterrence. Some US analysts even translate the Chinese concept of deterrence as coercion.

Conclusions: Have the Chinese Helped the Discussion?

Key points to take away from the discussion above are as follows:

• Deterrence can be defined as military actions in the form of a show of force.

• When there is no smoke or gunpowder, strategy and psychology act as multipliers of power and resolve in deterrence.
• New and important modes of deterrence will include information-technology deterrence, information-weaponry deterrence, and information-resource deterrence. Information deterrence will rise to a strategic level close behind nuclear deterrence, a way to achieve national and military strategic goals.

• A good deterrent force involves the use of nuclear deterrence, conventional deterrence, space deterrence, and information deterrence, again reminding one of cocktail warfare.

• The side that controls information can manipulate the start and conclusion of wars, can use informatized weapons to paralyze enemy weapons and command systems, and can destroy the enemy’s precision-guided weapons.

• The deterrent strength of China’s armed forces will be balanced on the basis of its computing power, communications capacity and reliability, real- time reconnaissance capabilities, computer simulation capabilities, and other information elements. These elements can deter through preying on an opponent’s misconceptions and psychological pressure,

• Strategic deterrence refers to a “country or political bloc’s military actions to compel an adversary to not dare take hostile action or escalate actions through a show of force or indicating the resolve of being prepared to use force, thereby achieving specific strategic goals.”

• An opponent will be deterred when his risk calculus becomes problematic as a result of being confronted with an opponent with an offensive and seemingly all-knowing information image that appears realistic.

• Today, it is unknown how closely China’s cyber activities will follow paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s advice from the 1990s, that is, whether they are designed to develop a preemptive cyber strategic advantage to counter another nation’s potential offensive moves.

Several items from this list are valuable for understanding China’s cyber deterrence concept. First is China’s focus on the use of strategy and psychology in its application of deterrence theory. This focus reflects China’s long held interest in these two topical areas. Other nations must assess this contextual perspective as they attempt to understand the Chinese approach to cyber deterrence, to include what terms mean and how they will affect China’s risk calculus. Second, it appears China views the contemporary deterrence situation as dependent on the integration of various types and modes of deterrence such as space, conventional, and information, eventually resulting in the achievement of strategic deterrence. This integration of concepts has been advanced as early as 1999, albeit with other ways to fight wars in mind. Third, China believes that deterrence’s strength is enhanced through the measurement of computing power, information reliability, and other factors.

These factors may be considered and computed according to some internal formula in China such as the assessment of comprehensive national power. Fourth, just like with other forms of deterrence, China understands that cyber deterrence must be able to demonstrate an adequate digital show of force that it can use to intimidate or deter others when required. Such a show of force could even be the digital exposure of pirated secrets, such as occurred during the Wiki leaks fiasco. Finally, Chinese authors believe the nation must be able to demonstrate control over information if it is to maintain stability over its digits and manipulate successfully the start and finish of a cyber deterrence-type scenario. While all of these points are well taken, articles in 2011 demonstrated that there is a negative perception of cyber deterrence in China when linked with US cyber strategy. The deterrence concept is palatable to the Chinese, however, when associated with winning local wars under informatized conditions.

Overall, Chinese theorists offered several areas of thought for other nations to consider in the development of a cyber deterrence concept. The essence of China’s deterrence practice appears to be resolving war with non-war measures and applying stratagems such as win without fighting and win victory before the first battle. Chinese style cyber deterrence is of a strategic nature and discussion among Chinese experts indicates that various types of cyber or information deterrence conditions are under consideration. Further, Chinese theorists understand that, due to the fast nature of high-tech wars, a war’s start can have decisive significance. For that reason China “must establish an emergency mobilization combat force” if it is to immediately unleash the deterrent effect of people’s war under high- tech conditions on an opponent. The Chinese add that they must prepare cyber counter-deterrents to any potential opponent’s actions. This might involve using military exercises to demonstrate strength in the use of technologies or perhaps even an announced reconnaissance activity to prove or intimate that an opponent is impotent to stop them.

In summary, China has been discussing a strategic information/cyber deterrence policy that will keep other nations guessing, which deterrence policies are designed to do. This policy is based, as with nuclear issues, on the idea of uncertainty in order to achieve a better deterrent effect. China’s context is different than that of either the US or Russia, and must be taken into consideration when other nations assess China’s final goals and rationale for contemplating the use of the concept. The concept appears to be a way for the PLA to preserve combat power and control over military, sovereignty, and economic issues. The Chinese approach has, however, been helpful in providing other nations a varied perspective or way to consider deterrence. A most important remains to avoid conflict. The PLA apparently hopes that a strong cyber deterrence policy will help assist the country to find the time and budget to achieve the military aspect of the “China Dream” of new President Xi Jinping.


[1] The terms “information deterrence” and “cyber deterrence” are used interchangeably in this article. Both terms seem to be in use in China today.

[2] Kissinger, p.133.

[3] Kissinger, p.364.

[4] Zhao Xijun, “Victory without War and Modern Deterrence Strategy,” China Military Science, 2001, pp. 55-60.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare, Pan American Publishing Company, Panama City, Panama, 2002, p.118.

[10] Peng Guangqian and Yao Youzhi, editors, The Science of Military Strategy, English Edition, The Military Science Publishing House, 2001, p. 213.

[11] Ibid., pp.213-214.

[12] Ibid., p.222.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., pp.214-215.

[15] Ibid., p.222.

[16] Cai Cuihong, Information Networks and International Politics, [publisher unknown], 2003, pp. 163-164.

[17] Ibid., p.173.

[18] Ibid., p.176-177.

[19] Ibid., p.178.

[20] Ibid., p.220. In a glossary at the back of the English language translation of The Science of Military Strategy, a translation the Chinese themselves provided, the term cyber is equated to the term informationization. That is, the same Chinese symbol was translated as “cyber, informationization.” For that reason, this author sees little difference in cyber deterrence and information deterrence. The terms are used interchangeably hereafter.

[21] Ibid., pp.220-221.

[22] Ibid., p.215.

[23] Ibid., p.172.

[24] Zhou Peng and Wen Enbin, “Developing a Strategic Deterrence Theory with Chinese Characteristics,” China Military Science, No. 4 2004, pp.19-26.

[25] Ibid., pp.20-21.

[26] Ibid., pp.22-23.

[27] Ibid., pp.24-25.

[28] Ibid., p.25.

[29] Academy of Military Science Research Group, “Strategic Deterrence,” China Military Science, No. 5 2004, pp.143-156.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Li Deyi, “A Study of the Basic Characteristics of the Modes of Thinking in Informatized Warfare,” China Military Science, No. 4 2007, pp.101-105.

[32] Deng Yifei, “A Revolution in Military Thinking in the Information Age,” China Military Science, No. 6 2007, pp.71-78.

[33] Zhou Fangyin, “The Effect of the Information Revolution on Military Affairs and Security,” Beijing Xiandai Guoji Guanxi, 1 August 2001, pp.28-32.

[34] Yao Yunzhu, “China’s Perspective on Nuclear Deterrence,” Air & Space Power Journal, Spring 2011, p.30.

[35] Tang Lan and Zhang Xin (edited by Andrew Nagorski), “Can Cyber Deterrence Work?” East West Institute Conference, April 2010, p.1.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid., p.2.

[38] Liu Yongming and Jin Zhenxing, “Study on Hu Jintao’s Important Instructions on Enhancing Capabilities of Accomplishing Diversified Military Tasks with Winning Local Wars under Informatized Conditions as the Core,” China Military Science, No. 6 2011, pp.1-9.

[39] Yu Xiaoqiu, “Cyber Deterrence Is a Dangerous Game,” Renmin Ribao Online, 25 July 2011, p.3.

[40] Unattributed article, “Reality of the Virtual World,” China Daily Online (in English), 16 July 2011.

[41] Unattributed article, “Rally Wisdom and Forces to Hold Up the ‘China Dream,’” Jiefangjun Bao Online, 5 March 2013, p.1.

[42] Xu Weidi, “Embracing the Moon in the Sky or Fishing the Moon in the Water?” Air & Space Power Journal, July-August 2012, p.16.

[43] Dean Cheng, “Chinese Views on Deterrence,” Joint Force Quarterly, Issue 60, First Quarter, 2011, p. 92.

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Старший аналитик Управления зарубежных военных исследований (США).

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