China Matching U.S. in Cyber Warfare Capabilities: Harvard

China Matching U.S. in Cyber Warfare Capabilities: Harvard

A new report from Harvard says that China is matching the U.S. in terms of its cyber warfare capabilities, stating that China has managed to close the cyberwarfare gap. 

The report comes from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, who recently published its “National Cyber Power Index 2020” report 

The report states that China has matched the US in terms of its surveillance, cyber defense and commercial cyber security sector, with co-director of the Belfer Center stating that China has accelerated its cyber capabilities to match the U.S. 

In terms of its top-ten rankings for technical ability and cyber security sophistication, the US took out the top spot, followed by China, the U.K., Russia and the Netherlands. Frace, Germany, Canada, Japan and Australia accounted for the rest of the list. 

The NCPI says that there are seven key objectives that nations aim to achieve with advancements in their technological abilities, which it used to rank nation-states accordingly. These include:

  • Surveilling and Monitoring Domestic Groups
  • Strengthening and Enhancing National Cyber Defenses 
  • Controlling and Manipulating the Information Environment
  • Foreign Intelligence Collection for National Security 
  • Commercial Gain or Enhancing Domestic Industry Growth
  • Destroying or Disabling Adversary’s Infrastructure and Capabilities
  • Defining International Cyber Norms and Technical Standards. 

The U.S. remains top of the list in terms of the power of its cyber capabilities, topping five of the seven categories listed above. It took out the top spot for shaping international cyber norms, intelligence, offensive and destructive cyber operations, as well as control of the information environment. 

“A lot of people, Americans in particular, will think that the U.S., the U.K, France, Israel and more advanced than China when it comes to cyber power,” Eric Rosenbach told Cyber Scoop. He continued to explain that “our study shows it’s just not the case and that China is very sophisticated and almost at peer level with the U.S.” 

“Too often, both in academia and the policy world, people would go with the conventional wisdom… in the U.S. government, everyone talks about the ‘big four,’ they say well, first you’ve got Russia and China, then you’ve got North Korea and Iran,” Rosenbach continued to explain. 

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“But that thinking is really simplistic and they don’t think about cyber power more holistically which can then result in bad policy decisions and poor strategic outcomes. We wanted to have a much more rigorous way to assess cyber power at a national level,” Rosenbach, who previously acted as Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Department of Defense said. 

The authors mention, however, that nations like Singapore, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates are increasing their technical status at a rapid rate. Rosenbach has told CyberScoop that “they’re all developing talent, expertise, capabilities… when you think about cyber strategy, you may want to engage them now.” 

China’s rise to prominence on the list was the result of increased monitoring of close neighbours Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as potential need to monitor the Uighur population in Northern China. 

China’s Strategic Support Forces – SSF – is responsible for leading China’s cyber intelligence surge. A report from the U.S. Department of Defense says that “among the impetuses of the SSF’s establishment was the PLA’s apparent concern about the disparity between its cyber capabilities and those of the United States.” 

The report added that “China believes its cyber capabilities and cyber personnel lag behind the United States, and it is working to improve training and bolster domestic innovation to overcome these perceived deficiencies and advance cyberspace operations.”

Co-author of the report and member of the U.K. cybersecurity policy team, Irfan Hemani has said that “there’s more than the military that have interest in cyber and cyber power.” 

“Actually to be a cyber power – it’s not just for destroying energy grids, if that’s even possible. It’s much more than that. It’s all these comprehensive qualities.” 

China Matching U.S. in Cyber Warfare Capabilities: Harvard


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