"OPEN SESAME": IDENTIFYING CHINA'S CYBERSPACE VULNERABILITIES
Stevens, Michael R., Jr.
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As its closest challenger and greatest strategic rival, China poses a significant threat to the national security and global supremacy of the United States. The United States must exploit vulnerabilities across all elements of China’s national power, including cyberspace, to preserve U.S. strategic advantage as the global hegemon. To avoid escalating responses and brinkmanship between the two countries, it is essential to consider the economic, military, political, and technological interdependencies between the two states. China's reliance on and control of cyberspace to promote domestic stability through the social credit system and the Great Firewall, as well as less advanced cyber security protocols and policies, present potential vulnerabilities. This thesis explores the feasibility of U.S. cyber operations, which are a non-kinetic and non-escalatory measure, to exploit these vulnerabilities, promote popular dissent in China, and undermine regime stability essential to China’s rise. Using cyber-kill chain theory and academic research on China’s cybersecurity system, this thesis explains conceptually the vulnerabilities identified by respective case studies of the social credit system and the Great Firewall; identifies targets of opportunity to exploit in tandem with traditional statecraft; and analyzes the respective vulnerability assessments via a heuristic thought experiment.
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