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Space, Cyber, and Electronic Warfare Kevin Pollpeter is Deputy Director for the East Asia Program at Defense Group Inc. He can be reached at . The author would like to thank Anton Wishik for his research assistance. Controlling the Information Domain: Space, Cyber, and Electronic Warfare Kevin Pollpeter Since the late 1990s, China’s military has been rapidly modernizing its forces. The increasing role of information in warfare has focused the attention of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on using information and denying its use to enemies. In particular, the role of space-based assets, the ubiquity of electronic systems, and their linkage to computers and computer networks to create systems and “systems of systems” have led to the identification of space operations, electronic warfare, and computer network operations as playing critical roles in information warfare. Chinese advances in these technologies reflect a military that is less focused on conducting a traditional “people’s war” campaign and more focused on using networked information systems to locate, track, and target an enemy while at the same time striking at enemy information systems to deny that enemy these same capabilities. This chapter discusses Chinese advances in space, cyber, and electronic warfare technologies. It argues that the PLA views space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum as distinct domains that must be seized and defended, and is thus developing technologies and strategies to achieve information superiority. In each technology area China has made significant progress, and in at least two areas—space and cyberspace—the PLA has reached advanced technology levels. The chapter also finds that Chinese strategists advocate using these technologies in decisive first strikes in order to seize the 164 • Strategic Asia 2012–13 initiative early in a conflict. For less advanced militaries, China’s advances in information warfare portend a PLA that is able to achieve rapid information dominance by using precision strikes against an enemy’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities. For the most advanced militaries, China’s improvements in information warfare pose an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) threat. Specifically, China could target critical systems to overcome U.S. defenses, disrupt offensive operations, and delay the entry of U.S. forces. Continued austerity measures in the United States will only exacerbate this threat. This chapter first discusses Chinese writings on information warfare and the PLA’s “new historic missions” to gain an understanding of China’s information warfare strategy and its place within PLA operational planning. The chapter then discusses the PLA’s advancements in space, cyber, and electronic warfare technologies, as well as its strategies for their employment. This analysis is followed by a discussion of the likely consequences of such progress for potential contingencies in the western Pacific. Finally, the chapter offers conclusions on the overarching implications of the PLA’s advances in information warfare, based on the likelihood of the use of force by China and its consequences for the U.S. military and China’s neighbors. Information Warfare The PLA’s belief that space, cyber, and electronic warfare technologies do not just enable operations but are also separate domains that must be seized and denied to an adversary is rooted in the military’s view of modern warfare. The PLA has nearly shed its doctrine of people’s war and now focuses on fighting and winning “local wars under informationized conditions.” According to this concept, information operations are the most important operational method of modern wars. Chinese writings regard information collection, processing, and transmission, as well as the denial of those capabilities to an adversary, as vital to the successful prosecution of a modern high-tech war and the precondition for achieving supremacy in the air, at sea, and on the ground.1 The PLA bases its emphasis on the role of information in warfare on the performance of the U.S. military in multiple wars since the early 1990s. Conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia demonstrated the utility of networked forces using advanced information technology. Over the past twenty years, the U.S. military has become increasingly adept at the collection, 1 Peng Guangqian and Yao Youzhi, Zhanluexue [The Science of Strategy] (Beijing: Military Science Press, 2001), 358. Pollpeter – Space, Cyber, and Electronic Warfare • 165 transmittal, processing, fusion, and dissemination of information. It has been able to use this advantage to improve battlefield situational awareness to achieve rapid dominance over its opponents, which resulted in quick resolutions of the initial, more conventional stages of these conflicts.2 The...


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