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  • Fred Cohen
    INFORMATION WAR: A NEW FORM OF PEOPLE S WAR Wei Jincheng This article was excerpted from the Military Forum column, Liberation Army Daily A future war, which
    Message 1 of 12 , Sep 3, 2001
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      Wei Jincheng

      This article was excerpted from the Military Forum column, Liberation Army

      A future war, which may be triggered by a disruption to the network of the
      financial sector, may be combat between digitized units or a two-man show,
      with the spaceman (or robot) on the stage and the think tank behind the
      scenes. It may also be an interaction in the military, political, and
      economic domains, making it hard to define as a trial of military strength,
      a political argument, or an economic dispute. All this has something to do
      with the leap forward of modern technology and the rise of the revolution in
      the military domain.

      The technological revolution provides only a stage for confrontations. Only
      when this revolution is married with military operations can it take on the
      characteristics of confrontation. Some believe that the information
      superhighway, the Internet, computers, and multimedia are synonymous with
      commerce, profit, and communications. In fact, this is far from true.

      Thanks to modern technology, revolutionary changes in the information
      domain, such as the development of information carriers and the Internet,
      are enabling many to take part in fighting without even having to step out
      of the door. The rapid development of networks has turned each automated
      system into a potential target of invasion. The fact that information
      technology is increasingly relevant to people's lives determines that those
      who take part in information war are not all soldiers and that anybody who
      understands computers may become a "fighter" on the network. Think tanks
      composed of nongovernmental experts may take part in decisionmaking; rapid
      mobilization will not just be directed to young people; information-related
      industries and domains will be the first to be mobilized and enter the war;
      traditional modes of operations will undergo major changes; operational
      plans designed for information warfare will be given priority in formulation
      and adoption; and so on and so forth. Because other technologies are
      understood by people only after they are married with information technology
      and because information technology is becoming increasingly socialized,
      information warfare is not the business of armed forces alone. Conditions
      exist that effectively facilitate the participation of the public in
      information warfare.

      Ideas Guide Action

      In the information age, an all-new concept of operations should be
      established. Information is a "double-edged sword." In the information age,
      information is not only a weapon of combat but also the object sought after
      by the warring parties. The quantity, quality, and speed of transmission of
      information resources are key elements in information supremacy. That is why
      information is not just a piece of news and information weapons do not refer
      only to such information-based weapons as precision-guided weapons and
      electronic warfare weapons. The most effective weapon is information itself.
      Information can be used to attack the enemy's recognition system and
      information system either proactively or reactively, can remain effective
      either within a short time or over an extended period, and can be used to
      attack the enemy right away or after a period of incubation. Therefore, good
      information protection and launching a counterattack with information
      weapons when attacked will become the main subjects of preparation against
      war during the information age.
      Information is intercommunicative and therefore must not be categorized by
      sector or industry. It is very wrong to think that information in only the
      military field is worth keeping secret and that information for civil
      purposes does not belong to the category of secrecy. In fact, if no security
      measures are taken to protect computers and networks, information may be
      lost. Similarly, if we think it is the business of intelligence and security
      departments to obtain the enemy's information and that it has nothing to do
      with anyone else, we would miss a good opportunity to win an information

      In March 1995, Beijing's Jingshan School installed a campus network with 400
      PCs, an "intelligent building" design, and multimedia technology. The school
      runs 10 percent of its courses through computers; students borrow books from
      the library through a computerized retrieval system; and experiments are
      conducted with demonstrations based on multimedia simulation systems. This
      illustrates in microcosm the many information networks that our country has
      built with its own resources. More than one million PCs were sold in China
      in 1995, and the figure is expected to reach 2.7 million in 1996. Faced with
      the tendencies of a networking age, if we looked upon these changes merely
      from a civil perspective and made no military preparations, we would
      undoubtedly find ourselves biased and shortsighted.

      Information War Depends on the Integrity of the Information System

      Information warfare is entirely different from the conventional concept of
      aiming at a target and annihilating it with bullets, or of commanders
      relying on images and pictures obtained by visual detection and with
      remote-sensing equipment to conduct operations from a map or sand table. The
      multidimensional, interconnected networks on the ground, in the air (or
      outer space), and under water, as well as terminals, modems, and software,
      are not only instruments, but also weapons. A people's war under such
      conditions would be complicated, broad-spectrum, and changeable, with higher
      degrees of uncertainty and probability, which requires full preparation and
      circumspect organization.
      An information war is inexpensive, as the enemy country can receive a
      paralyzing blow through the Internet, and the party on the receiving end
      will not be able to tell whether it is a child's prank or an attack from its
      enemy. This characteristic of information warfare determines that each
      participant in the war has a higher sense of independence and greater
      initiative. However, if organization is inadequate, they may each fight
      their own battles and cannot form joint forces. Additionally, the Internet
      may generate a large amount of useless information that takes up limited
      channels and space and blocks the action of one's own side. Therefore, only
      by bringing relevant systems into play and combining human intelligence with
      artificial intelligence under effective organization and coordination can we
      drown our enemies in the ocean of an information offensive.

      A people's war in the context of information warfare is carried out by
      hundreds of millions of people using open-type modern information systems.
      Because the traditional mode of industrial production has changed from
      centralization to dispersion and commercial activities have expanded from
      urban areas to rural areas, the working method and mode of interaction in
      the original sense are increasingly information-based. Political
      mobilization for war must rely on information technology to become
      effective, for example by generating and distributing political mobilization
      software via the Internet, sending patriotic e-mail messages, and setting up
      databases for traditional education. This way, modern technical media can be
      fully utilized and the openness and diffusion effect of the Internet can be
      expanded, to help political mobilization exert its subtle influence.

      In short, the meaning and implications of a people's war have profoundly
      changed in the information age, and the chance of people taking the
      initiative and randomly participating in the war has increased. The ethnic
      signature and geographic mark on an information war are more pronounced and
      the application of strategies is more secretive and unpredictable.

      Information-based confrontations will aim at reaching tangible peace through
      intangible war, maintaining the peace of hardware through software
      confrontations, and deterring and blackmailing the enemy with dominance in
      the possession of information. The bloody type of war will increasingly be
      replaced by contention for, and confrontations of, information.

      The concept of people's war of the old days is bound to continue to be
      enriched, improved, and updated in the information age to take on a new
      form. We believe any wise military expert would come to the same conclusion.


      Chinese Views of Future Warfare
      [National Defense University Press]
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