Beijing accuses U.S. of cyberwarfare

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China’s government and state-run media stepped up criticism of the United States on Monday over the issue of computer network cyber-attacks.

The Chinese accused the Pentagon of boosting cyberwarfare efforts, and suggested Washington both covertly used electronic social networks to foment recent protests in Iran and was behind recent computer attacks on the Chinese Internet-search engine Baidu.

An unusually harsh commentary published in the People’s Daily, official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, stated that the Pentagon is increasing the U.S. military’s cyberwarfare capabilities and has created the world’s first “hacker Web force.”

The report said U.S. information warfare efforts include using the promotion of democracy and free access to the Internet as an ideological battleground against nondemocratic states.

“In the present Internet era, international politics have extended from the geographical space and outer space to the cyberspace, and national sovereignty extended from the territorial space and airspace to the ‘information frontiers,’” the report said.

“As the birthplace of the Internet and network application, the United States has resorted to the ‘Internet diplomacy’ and found it to be the most favorable and useful battleground.”

The comments, along with at least two other state-run Chinese media reports over the weekend on cyber-issues, are rare because China generally directs its tightly controlled media to avoid strident criticism of the United States, except on a few issues, such as arms sales to Taiwan.

Pentagon, State Department and Chinese Embassy spokesmen had no immediate comment.

One U.S. official said the commentary was unusual for China.

The People’s Daily commentary quoted Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates as boosters of U.S. cyberwarfare capabilities.

The report, headlined “Internet Freedom and Double Standards” appeared to be prompted by mild criticism of China’s restrictions on the Internet voiced last week by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton said in a speech Thursday that “countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century.”

Larry Wortzel, a former U.S. military attache once posted in Beijing, said the Chinese comments appear to be “part of an information counteroffensive.”

The forceful public response to recent U.S. criticism of China’s Internet controls and hacker activities indicates Beijing’s leaders “are no longer quietly accepting U.S. criticism,” he said.

China’s military and intelligence organizations have known for years that the U.S. military is working actively on developing cyberwarfare weapons. For example, the Chinese military knows that U.S. forces used cyber-operations during the conflict in the Balkans and in both Iraq wars, he said, noting that Chinese cyberwarfare doctrine was initially modeled after U.S. programs.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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