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“Those are more sophisticated, though hardly state of the art,” he said. “Frankly, I worry more about attacks we can’t even see, which the Russians are good at. The Chinese are relentless and don’t seem to care about getting caught. And we have seen Chinese network operations inside certain of our electricity grids.”

Mr. Brenner said there are minimal concerns about a Chinese cyberattack to shut down U.S. banking networks because “they have too much money invested here.

“Our electricity grid? No, not now. But if there were a dust-up over Taiwan, these answers might be different,” he said.

Aggressive Chinese computer hacking has been known for years, but the U.S. government in the past was reluctant to detail the activities.

The CIA, for example, sponsored research in the late 1990s that sought to minimize Chinese cyberwarfare capabilities, under the idea that highlighting such activities would hype the threat.

Researcher James Mulvenon, for instance, stated during a 1998 conference that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “does not currently have a coherent [information warfare] doctrine, certainly nothing compared to U.S. doctrinal writings on the subject.”

Mr. Mulvenon stated in one report that “while PLA [information warfare] capabilities are growing, they do not match even the primitive sophistication of their underlying strategies.”

Mr. Mulvenon has since changed his views and has identified Chinese computer-based warfare as a major threat to the Pentagon.

Mr. Coleman said China’s military is equal to U.S. and Russian military cyberwarfare.

“This is a three-horse race, and it is a dead heat,” Mr. Coleman said.

The National University of China is the strategic adviser to the Chinese military on cyberwarfare and the Ministry of Science and Technology, he said.

Several computer security specialists recently sounded public alarm about the growing number of cyberattacks from China and Russia.

China, based on state-approved writings, thinks the United States is “already is carrying out offensive cyberespionage and exploitation against China,” Mr. Coleman said.

In response, China is taking steps to protect its own computer and information networks so that it can “go on the offensive,” he said.

Mr. Coleman said one indication of the problem was identified by Solutionary, a computer security company that in March detected 128 “acts of cyberagression” per minute tied to Internet addresses in China.

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