Chinese cyber espionage: a complementary method to aid PLA modernization

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Authors
Ellis, Jamie M.
Subjects
China
Chinese
technology
cyber
espionage
military
modernization
Navy
Air Force
defense
PLA
Advisors
Huntley, Wade L.
Date of Issue
2015-12
Date
Dec-15
Publisher
Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School
Language
Abstract
In 2013, Mandiant published a report linking one People’s Liberation Army (PLA) unit to the virtual exploitation of 11 modern U.S. military platforms. In the last two decades, Chinese cyber espionage has cultivated a significant reputation in cyberspace for its high-volume, illicit exploitation of defense technology. At the same time, the PLA has also rapidly modernized its naval, fighter jet, and air defense technologies. This thesis examines trends in Chinese cyber espionage, PLA modernization, and PLA acquisitions methods to determine—from only open-source information—if the categories are related and, if so, the nature of the relationship. Defense reports suggest there is a strong correlation between China’s virtual exfiltration of modern U.S. technology and the PLA’s rapid advancement; cyber espionage is the principal driver for PLA modernization. This thesis asks: Does cyber espionage really play a central role in PLA modernization, or does it simply complement alternate procurement methods? This thesis draws from case studies of China’s overt acquisitions, indigenous research, and physical espionage operations to demonstrate that the majority of the PLA’s modernized military platforms were developed from non-cyber acquisition methods. These studies support this thesis’s conclusion that cyber espionage is not the critical component driving forward PLA modernization.
Type
Thesis
Description
Series/Report No
Department
National Security Affairs
National Security Affairs
Organization
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NPS Report Number
Sponsors
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Citation
Distribution Statement
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
Rights
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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