China's Information Warfare Discourse: Implications for Asymmetric Conflict in the Taiwan Strait

Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, University of Richmond


This paper discusses the emerging discourse on, and capability of the PRC in, information warfare (IW)--as well as the implications of such developments for cross-Strait and U.S.-PRC relations. Chinese discourse shows that informed PLA officers realize that IW constitutes the war of the future and plays a critical role in the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) --a key step necessary for China's military modernization. One allure of this type of warfare is the potential for China to wage an "asymmetric war" -i.e., the use of surprise force b.v a weaker party against a stronger but vulnerable adversary-by applying traditional stratagems. The Chinese argue that using such traditional maxims as Sun Tzu's "overcoming the superior with the inferior" and Mao Zedong's ''people's war" in modern warfare would both counter overall American strengths by focusing on certain ''pockets of excellence" and present China with a credible military option for achieving its political objective of unification with Taiwan (on Beijing's terms). These strategic considerations could, however, introduce instability into the Taiwan Strait; they also challenge conventional wisdom in international relations. This paper critically evaluates the doctrinal-capability gap in China's IW development-the double-edged nature of technology, the low connectivity of Chinese society, and Taiwan's responses-and concludes with a cautionary note on an emergent digital "mutual assured destruction" (MAD) dynamic across the Taiwan Strait.