06 November 2007

Defense comes to forefront at China's Communist Party Congres

Defense comes to forefront at China's Communist Party Congress
IDG News Service 11/1/07

Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service, Beijing Bureau
For China technology watchers seeking a road map through the Olympics and into the next decade, the 17th Communist Party Congress in October was a disappointment. China's current president, Hu Jintao, has positioned himself as more of a grassroots, folksy leader than his technocratic predecessor, Jiang Zemin, or China's great reformer, Deng Xiaoping. Hu became president following the end of Jiang's term in 2002.

On the technology stage, Jiang is a tough act to follow. During his 10 years as China's president, Jiang oversaw perhaps the greatest telecommunications infrastructure build-out in history, where China went from having an insufficient number of fixed line telephones to the world's largest mobile market in a decade.

However, Hu was specific in his references to one area of IT guaranteed to raise eyebrows outside the country: defense. "We must build strong armed forces through science and technology. To attain the strategic objective of building computerized armed forces and winning IT-based warfare, we will accelerate composite development of mechanization and computerization, carry out military training under IT-based conditions, modernize every aspect of logistics, intensify our efforts to train a new type of high-caliber military personnel in large numbers and change the mode of generating combat capabilities."

For Germany and other nations that feel they have already been targeted by Chinese cyberattacks, Hu's words are likely to make defense officials in Europe, North America and Japan even more nervous.

"Both military and civilian sectors in China are actively exploring the information warfare concept, which could be gradually developed into a corps of 'network warriors' able to defend China's telecommunications, command, and information networks, while uncovering vulnerabilities in foreign networks," according to Sinodefence.com, an independent China military-monitoring Web site based in the U.K.

Add to this the report that every one of China's local police stations has special officers patrolling the Internet, and suddenly the happy face that Beijing is painting on itself for the 2008 Olympic Games seems more than a bit smeared.

The Chinese leader also devoted a section of his keynote speech to innovation. "We will speed up forming a national innovation system and support basic research, research in frontier technology and technological research for public welfare."

He also said China will "improve the legal guarantee, policy system, incentive mechanism and market conditions to encourage technological innovation and the application of scientific and technological achievements in production," which should be music to the years of intellectual-property rights activists.

Steven Schwankert is Asia desk editor for the IDG News Service.

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