China is identified as posing a key challenge to US national security interests in cyberspace. These threats are incurred across the spectrum of conflict, ranging from low-level crime, to network penetration, to cyberattacks that have the potential to cause major physical destruction. Thus far, the majority of strategic assessments of China’s cyber capabilities have focused on the role of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is officially tasked with undertaking offensive operations in cyberspace.[1] However, China does not employ its cyber capabilities in isolation. Rather, it considers cyber to be part of the “Information Domain.” In Chinese doctrine, controlling the information environment entails the combined use of network, electromagnetic, intelligence, and propaganda assets in both the civilian and military spheres in conjunction with the other elements of national power to achieve strategic objectives. Consequently, over the past two decades, China has adopted a policy of augmenting its information warfare (IW) capabilities by leveraging the civilian sector (notably private institutions, academia, and civilian government institutions). This paper provides a broad survey of China’s cyber auxiliary capabilities and assesses how China uses its civilian economy as a “strategic reserve” in all four areas of the Information Domain.

[1] US Naval War College, “China and Cybersecurity: Political, Economic, and Strategic Dimensions,” USNWC Study of Innovation and Technology in China [2012] pg. 4-8