China seeks cyber alliance to counter the US, expert says

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Sep. 21, 2023 6:25PM GMT+9

China is intensifying its push to forge a cyber alliance with non-Western nations as a strategic countermeasure against the United States, stated an expert on China’s cybersecurity strategy this Wednesday.

Cha Jung-mi, a director of the Center for International Strategies at the National Assembly Futures Institute, on the left, is delivering her speech at the fourth National Strategy Forum organized by the Korean Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS) on Wednesday. Photo by Kuksung Nam, The Readable

Cha Jung-mi, a director of the Center for International Strategies at the National Assembly Futures Institute, emphasized the critical role of “cyber sovereignty” in understanding China’s approach to shaping cyberspace. “In the Chinese perspective, cyber sovereignty equates to non-intervention,” Cha explained. “China is deeply convinced that Western nations aim to infiltrate and destabilize their systems.” She offered these insights during the fourth National Strategy Forum hosted by the Korean Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS).

According to Cha, China has singled out the U.S. as a significant cyber threat, accusing it of launching attacks against its partners and allies. In 2020, China claimed to have detected over 42 million malicious software programs, attributing 53.1% of those to U.S. origins. Additionally, China pointed fingers at the Five Eyes alliance—a coalition of intelligence-sharing countries that includes the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—as a global network engaged in cyberespionage.

While pushing back against U.S. assertions that they’re a leading adversary in cyberspace, China is actively fostering alliances with non-Western nations. Cha highlighted several diplomatic initiatives, such as the reorientation of the BRICS bloc—comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—to include cybersecurity in their collective agenda. She also noted China’s active role in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a nine-member state collective that counts China, Iran, India, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan among its participants.

China is also doubling down on its investments in communications and network infrastructure in developing nations, with a particular focus on African and Arabic countries, as a countermeasure to U.S.-centered alliances. While Cha noted that more research is needed to ascertain the extent to which these recipient nations will align with China’s viewpoints, she suggested that these initiatives could have a favorable impact on cultivating alliances.

“In the long term, there could be a cybersecurity bloc led by China,” noted Cha, “When the cybersecurity bloc led by Russia and China strengthens, it will be difficult for South Korea to sanction North Korea for their illicit cyber activities as it would be tough to build a joint response.”

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.