China is denying U.S. accusations that its military has backed cyber attacks against U.S. government institutions and businesses. A U.S. Defense Department report published Monday says the cyber attacks appear to be directly attributable to China’s government.
The report by the Pentagon is the first direct accusation by the U.S. government that China’s military is guilty of cyber espionage. According to the report, China’s People’s Liberation Army has used cyber attacks on U.S. defense networks to map vulnerabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.
But China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying firmly denied the report, saying the U.S. Defense Department has released this type of report year after year to justify a defense buildup and hype the so-called China military threat. And she said the allegations are not helpful to U.S. China relations.
Earlier this year, U.S. computer security firm Mandiant released a detailed study accusing a People’s Liberation Army Unit near Shanghai of attempting to steal information from U.S. corporations and government institutions.
The Pentagon report said China’s primary goal in the cyber attacks is stealing industrial technology. it also reports that China will deploy several aircraft carriers over the next 15 years. China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was commissioned last September. The Pentagon says China is developing stealth aircraft, with the first such aircraft tested in January of 2011.
With China focused on modernizing its military technology, Xiaohe Cheng, professor of international relations at Renmin University, said the government’s cyber research is part of a broader effort aimed at shoring up its defense capabilities.
“The Chinese government has tried to build strong mutual forces that offers kinds of security for its maritime borders as well as land territory borders,” Xiaohe said. “At the same time we see the Chinese government emphasizing capability building in two new areas. One is outer space. The second is cyberspace.”
The United States is also spending billions of dollars developing cyberdefense and cyberweapon capabilities. Earlier this year, U.S. authorities said some 13 cyber warfare teams would be ready by 2015 to focus on offensive responses if the United States is attacked in cyberspace.
In March, China announced an increase of 10.4 percent in its annual defense budget to $114 billion. The Pentagon said China’s total military expenditure is much higher, totaling between $135 billion and $215 billion in 2012.