China Preparing to Unify Cyber Warfare Capabilities – Report

China’s leaders could be about to unify the nation’s cyber warfare capabilities under a single command structure, in a move which may stoke further tensions with the US, according to a new report.

Unnamed “people familiar with the matter” told Bloomberg that the plans will be discussed at the Communist Party Fifth Plenum gathering—an event this week where the next five-year economic plan will be thrashed out.

Centralizing cyber warfare capabilities under the Central Military Commission (CMC) would create clearer lines of communication and better organize the nation’s enormous but diffuse hacking apparatus.

At present this is spread out across various PLA units, as well as the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Public Security, according to the report.

Reorganizing the state’s cyber capabilities would make sense, as it’s believed some state actors could currently be acting on their own accord or with minimal oversight from their superiors.

But in so doing it could also create waves in Washington, which is already suspicious of its rival superpower bolstering its hacking teams yet further.

Although the two nations shook hands on an agreement not to engage in economically motivated state-sponsored cyber espionage against one another, Chinese hackers have shown no signs of moderating their activity, according to one threat intelligence firm.

The agreement also didn’t cover cyber activity carried out for traditional intelligence gathering and national security/nation state purposes.

If true, the move fits with president Xi Jinping’s wider move to remold the People’s Liberation Army into a 21st century fighting force.

Xi, who chairs the CMC, last month announced a reduction of 300,000 troops. He is also down on record as saying at a Politburo meeting last year that the military had to "change our fixed mindsets of mechanized warfare and establish the ideological concept of information warfare.”

An official Ministry of National Defense white paper from May argues that building improved cyber capabilities is a “critical security development domain.”

Some have argued, however, that a better organized Chinese cyber military could make it easier for the US to open lines of communication for the establishment of cyber rules of engagement.

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