Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng hosts the ministry's second regular press conference in Beijing, May 25, 2011. [Photo/China Daily, mod.gov.cn]
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) confirmed in May 2011 that it has established an "Online Blue Army" to improve China's defense capability and ensure the security of the country's military network. The announcement drew close attention from military watchers and experts worldwide.
Zhang Shaozhong, a military expert and a professor from PLA National Defense University, told the People's Daily that China is increasingly dependent on the Internet, but makes no domestic root servers, and various other types of software and Internet hardware are U.S. made. In this sense, China can be described as merely a computer user with a fairly fragile Internet security system. These are circumstances that cry out for the build up of Internet security forces.
Throughout 2010, 480,000 Trojans viruses and 13,782 Zombie viruses were detected, with 221,000 Trojan and 6,531 Zombie remote control clients found to originate in foreign countries.
Websites of Chinese governmental departments, including the Ministries of National Defense (MND)， Water Resources, Land and Resources, and Supreme People's Procuratorate, have been attacked 4,635 times.
Moreover, of the 505 million Internet users in China (a figure reported by Xinhua News Agency citing the China Internet Network Information Center or CNNIC as of November 2011)， 217 million or 44.7 percent of them were attacked by malware in the first half of 2011. The assaults included viruses or Trojan horses, but the accounts of 121 million specifically had their accounts hacked and passwords stolen, causing a direct economic loss of tens of billion yuan.
The case raised concerns about web security and triggered widespread panic. "China faces a grim situation in maintaining web security," pointed out the Southern Weekend.
Li Li, a military expert at the National Defense University, told the People's Daily that compared with the online military units of Western countries, China's "Online Blue Army" is currently at its fledging stage, and applied more in online maneuver mode than as an organic, large-scale online army.
China is a defender in the cyber war battlefield, fending off the 'information warfare' and 'media warfare' of others added the Southern Weekend.
According to the People's Daily, online military units were established in other countries some time ago. The U.S. destroyed Iraq's air defense system using PC viruses during the Gulf War in 1991. Its online army also played a major role in the war in Kosovo and the second Iraq conflict. The UK, Russia, Japan and India all have established online military units.
The Pentagon pointed out in its report Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2011, that "Cyber warfare capabilities could serve PRC military operations in three key areas. First and foremost, they allow data collection through exfiltration. Second, they can be employed to constrain an adversary's actions or slow response time by targeting network-based logistics, communications, and commercial activities. Third, they can serve as a force multiplier when coupled with kinetic attacks during times of crisis or conflict."
Some Western media suspect that China's "Online Blue Army" is actually "hackers" aiming to carry out attacks on other countries' Internet systems.
At this, Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng explained during the ministry's news conference in Beijing on May 25, 2011 that launching the "Online Blue Army" was based on the PLA's needs, and enforcing Internet security protection is critical to military programs.
Though western countries habitually call attack forces the "red side," and in military drills, the opposing sides are often designated as "red side" and "blue side," Teng Jianqun, a research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies asserts that the MND name for the force - Online Blue Army--has no special meaning, and thus nothing should be read into the "color" selected for China's online military unit.
"Besides fighting skills of the soldiers in the battlefield, the modern war focuses more on technology and the Internet. Strengthening the national defense Internet construction is another new requirement of the national security. Therefore, the government should attach great importance to the Internet national defense," the People's Daily quoted a fan's comment on hngov.cn.
"Although we do not want war, we always need to be ready for it, "another military fan said.