by Constantine von Hoffman

US, China Try to Ease Tension with Cyber War Games

Apr 18, 20123 mins
CybercrimeData and Information SecurityIntrusion Detection Software

The United States and China are performing a set of cyber war "games" to examine how each side would respond to a Stuxnet-type attack, as well as attacks on each other, in an effort to ease ongoing tension between the two sides.

U.S. and Chinese military officials performed a set of cyber war exercises last year designed to help prevent sudden military escalation between the two countries if either side felt it was being targeted. Another similar exercise is planned for next month.

U.S. state department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, participated in the “games,” according to The Guardian. Two thinktanks, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, are organizing the exercise, which means the the two sides have been able to talk without all the protocols and pressures that come with formal discussions between nations.

The newspaper says:

During the first exercise, both sides had to describe what they would do if they were attacked by a sophisticated computer virus, such as Stuxnet, which disabled centrifuges in Iran’s nuclear programme. In the second, they had to describe their reaction if the attack was known to have been launched from the other side.

It’s difficult to say what exactly will come of the exercises.

The United States has been furious for some time over China’s state-sponsored cyber espionage and theft. The Chinese, on the other hand, may see these acts as no more than payback for centuries of being trampled and occupied by Western powers. My favorite example: The British fought (and won) two wars with China which, for some reason, objected to the Brits selling huge amounts of opium to the Chinese. The U.S. also sent Marines to China on several occasions to protect American business interests acquired in fairly dubious ways. Although most of these events took place at least a century ago, when your nation is three thousand years old 100 years probably feels like just a day or two.

Jim Lewis, a senior fellow and director at the CSIS said the Chinese “sense that they have been treated unfairly. … The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is very hostile. They see the U.S. as a target. They feel they have justification for their actions. They think the U.S. is in decline.”

Lewis added, “The Chinese have a deep distrust of the U.S. They are concerned about U.S. military capabilities. They tend to think we have a grand strategy to preserve U.S. hegemony and they see a direct challenge.”

What an odd notion.

Earlier this month, U.S. Marines were deployed to Australia for training exercises with the Aussie defense forces. They are there as the result of an agreement signed in November between the two nations. That pact is part of President Obama’s publicly-stated strategy of shifting the American military’s long-term focus toward the Pacific and an increasingly assertive China–and possibly protecting us from rabid kangaroos.