China’s military newspaper People’s Liberation Army Daily recently warned that China “must resolutely protect ideological and political security on the invisible battlefield of cyberspace.” The call to arms against “enemy Western forces” online comes amid a broader push for tighter internet controls, including experimentation with offensive cyber capabilities against websites that have been banned in China.
How about India? We, too, are facing similar problems here, and in fact China and Pakistan are constantly conducting cyber attacks on us together. Not only that, Chinese are also heading closer to our sea borders and in the Indo-Pacific to oversee our security scenario. Unfortunately, our democracy does not allow unity among our political parties to jointly promote a robust mechanism. Our enemies know about this weakness of ours.
Here is a lesson for us. The Chinese play begins by repeating a claim China has often made: that internet or cyber sovereignty is a manifestation of national sovereignty. Over the past year, China has drawn attention to this concept in media articles and official speeches, trying to gain international recognition for its conceptualization of how its media says the Internet should be governed. The PLA Daily article makes it clear that China’s “cyber territory” must be defended just as vigorously as physical territory. His warning that unless China occupies and defends its “cyber territory” it will be used by nameless “enemy forces” as a “bridgehead” for an attack on China is quite apt and applies more to India.
The internet has now become a battlefield of various forces against governments. Attacks by the left on right-wing governments around the world are increasingly taking place via the Internet. In fact, social media and the internet are the tools to spread leftist ideologies and beliefs more than any other. Because whoever controls the Internet controls the lifeline of national security and information in this information age. Well, the Chinese can extend the dispute over ideologies to include national security, but India doesn’t.
To protect itself from this threat, the government needs to control the internet in some way. The idea that cyberspace is vital to national security is not new, and the idea that nations need to be prepared for and protected from cyberattacks is by no means unique. The US Department of Defense, for example, recently launched a new cyber strategy aimed at “guiding the development of the US Department of Defense’s cyber forces and strengthening our cyber defense and cyber deterrence.”
Control of cyberspace means to the 21st century what control of the seas meant to the 19th and air and space supremacy to the 20th century. Like a battleship or a fighter jet, cyberspace can be armed. However, cyberspace is much more than a weapon – it is a platform for communication and exchange of all kinds, from financial transactions to the exchange of political ideas.
By portraying the internet as an “ideological battleground,” China claims both the right and the need to defend itself not only against cyberattacks but also against the posting of information. Now that China has admitted to having offensive cyber units in its military, under what circumstances would China deploy its offensive cyber capabilities? China’s government is already accused of using a cyberweapon called the “Big Gun” against websites it believes are ideologically attacking the Communist Party. India doesn’t need to go that far, but needs to be aware of the threat.