“China clearly has the people to conduct 'take home battle', a reference to a battle conducted with laptops at home that allow thousands of citizens to hack foreign computer systems when needed,” Thomas said. He pointed to a 1999 'network battle' fought between Chinese and American hackers after the US bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade as an example. After the back-and-forth of site defacings and distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks, the PLA's official newspaper, the Liberation Army Daily, called for training a large number of “network fighters” and using civilian computer hackers to take part in any future information war.
“If the circumstances were right,” Macpherson said, “China might strike, viruses and all. Maybe they would be willing to unplug from the internet if they saw the advantage to their side was great by attacking the web as a whole,” he said.
But although MacPherson noted that China's strategy relies on "how the inferior can challenge the superior", the Communist country needn't strike first to have an impact. "Long-term attacks can work too," he said. "They can get access to intellectual property, and publish it. Or taint data so that one couldn't be sure that backups were reliable."
On Monday, the PRC's Foreign Ministry blasted the DOD report, but the spokeswoman did not mention cyberwarfare specifically. “The US,” said Jiang Yu in a statement posted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' site, “continues to spread myth of the 'China Threat' by exaggerating China's military strength and expenses out of ulterior motives.”
"As a peace-loving country, China steadfastly follows a road of peaceful development, adopting a national defence policy that is defensive in nature," she added.
Jiang also reiterated China's policy on Taiwan. "We will never tolerate the 'Taiwan Independence' or any attempt by anyone to separate Taiwan from China by whatever means," Jiang said and called on the US to stop arms sales to Taiwan and end military ties with the island.