Friday, December 31, 2010

Review of The Dragon's Quantum Leap Posted

Amazon.com just posted my five star review of The Dragon's Quantum Leap by Timothy L. Thomas. I'm posting the entire review here because it's the sort of content that I believe should get wide exposure.

The Dragon's Quantum Leap (TDQL) is the third in a trilogy by Timothy L Thomas. A colleague introduced me to all three books, and an expert on the Chinese hacker scene was kind enough to secure a copy of the book. I thank all of them for the extraordinary journey presented in TDQL. Published in 2009, TDQL is an historical review of key publications by Chinese information warfare (IW) theorists and thought leaders, as translated by American translators and the Open Source Center, successor to the former Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). The author is an analyst with the Foreign Military Studies Office, and is a West Point graduate, a retired Army Lt Col, and a former Foreign Area Officer focusing on the USSR and Russia. TDQL covers Chinese IW thought from 2007-2009, while the earlier books Dragon Bytes (DB) addressed 1995-2003 and Decoding the Virtual Dragon covered 2004-early 2007.

My reviews of DB and DTVD summarized key Chinese IW themes, all of which extend into TDQL. Therefore I'd like to highlight a few aspects of TDQL that should be of interest to Western digital security specialists.

TDQL opens with an analysis of the one book by Chinese IW experts likely to be known to some US military strategists: Unrestricted Warfare (UW), published by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui in 1999. Thomas includes it here because it foreshadows developments in Chinese IW in later years. It was interesting to learn that initially the Chinese government treated the UW authors critically, but later their ideas became popular. UW is filled with gems that cut to the heart of Chinese IW. For example, "the biggest difference between contemporary wars and the wars of the past is that, in contemporary wars, the overt goal and the covert goal are often two different matters" (p 21). "Military threats are already often no longer the major factors affecting national security... these traditional factors are increasingly becoming more intertwined with grabbing resources, contending for markets, controlling capital, trade sanctions, and other economic factors" (pp 21-2).

The authors offer critical insights that the Chinese have operationalized: "Warfare can be military, or it can be quasi-military, or it can be non-military. It can use violence, or it can be nonviolent. It can be a confrontation between professional soldiers, or one between newly emerging forces consisting primarily of ordinary people or experts" (p 28). In an interview about UW, author Qiao called war with the US "inevitable... because China will grow strong only at the cost of consuming much of the world's resources which will put it in direct competition and eventually conflict with the US" (p 30). They also claim "The battlefield is everywhere and war may be conducted in areas where military actions do not dominate" (pp 33-4). This reminds me of the subtitle of James Adams' 1998 book The Next World War: Computers Are the Weapons and the Front Line Is Everywhere.

Another author, PLA Major Peng Hongqi says "the weaker side [in IW] must adhere to the active offense... especially in peacetime" (p 40). Thomas says "Peng seems to imply that it is the RIGHT [author's emphasis] of an inferior force to attack a superior force first" (p 41). Peng advocates concepts like "protracted control" and using civilians, hackers, or other computers to gain plausible deniability. He says "forces begin engagements and reconnaissance before a conflict emerges. Peacetime collection of key information... is vital" (p 42). One should "treat the peacetime struggle for information supremacy as 'a genuine, perpetual, never-ending battle'... gain as much enemy information as possible and keep the enemy from gaining information on one's own side" (p 42). Also, "the only way the inferior side can compete with a powerful enemy is by taking full advantage of peacetime to energetically elevate its material and technological foundation" (p 42).

Deng Yifei provides what might be the "money quote" in TDQL: "In confrontation on the future battlefield, what is scarier than inferior technology is inferior thinking" (p 56). Evidence of China's IW thinking involves their focus on penetrating Western computers. Thomas notes "it is suspected that Chinese reconnaissance performs two functions: to expose an opposing force's military plans and to study the conditions and vulnerabilities that lead to the successful use of Internet attacks" (p 119). These intrusions bring to life this Chinese strategem: "a victorious army first wins and then seeks battle" (p 174). Chinese thinkers also plan to target foreign commanders, even including "a study of hobbies, weaknesses and flaws" (p 121).

Thomas notes Taiwan's reporting on Chinese IW as well. He also includes suggestions made to strengthen Taiwanese IW defense. For example, Lin Chin-ching recommends that "all officers under the rank of lieutenant general would be tested on their knowledge of IW and computer information, and their test results would be taken into consideration when their files are reviewed for promotion" (p 216). I suggest the same for business managers as well as US military leaders.

I strongly recommend reading TDQL and Thomas' other works if you want to better understand Chinese IW history and thinking.

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