US declares cyber war on China

US attacks on China on the issue of cyberwar have been raised to a new level as reported in FT on 19 July 2021:

‘The White House and its western allies have accused the Chinese government of teaming up with criminal gangs to commit widespread cyber attacks, including one on Microsoft this year that affected tens of thousands of organisations

The US move to condemn China on Monday was supported by a coalition of allies, including those in Europe and Nato who have historically been wary of publicly criticising Beijing. Diplomats hope that by exposing the MSS’ links with criminal hackers, they will persuade the Chinese government to sever its links with these groups. ‘

It is essential  to decode these statements correctly, understanding the ‘mirror language’ of US diplomacy..  In the Cold War the US defence interests created ‘a missile gap’, which proved illusory, to justify enormous increase in military spending. A ‘theory of dominoes’ was invented to justify extending US military invasions from S Korea to Vietnam which also proved illusory when the fall of Vietnam did not see any widespread extension fo communist rule. In reality, the ‘domino theory’ was a mirror image of the US ‘roll back ‘ strategy of the Cold War. In general US diplomatic speak goes as follows: to justify certain actions it is necessary to explain to the public that the beastly otherside are already doing even worse. Therefore it is essential to US security to stoop to the level of its adversaries. This tactic was cleverly used in WW2, as revealed by Daniel Ellsberg, to spur the coalition of the world’s top scientists to produce an atom bomb while the US  military were aware that Hitler had no such plans and rejected the use of nuclear weapons.

So what do these announcements portend? If the past is any indicator then the US is declaring total cyberware against China and roping in all its allies. Clearly, the role of US allies will always be ambivalent. It is in the US interest for all its allies to burn their bridges with China. At some later point, the  US can make peace with China but the relationship between China and US’ allies will be forever soured making the US the front runner in any relationship with China. Presumably, the strategy tinkerers in the think tanks of US allies were not born yesterday. To that extent the inclusion of US allies in the recent announcement is more psychological warfare and showboating than anything else.

It is of course notable that there was no mention of aggressive action by US cyberwarriors as if they did not exist, despite President Obama’s boast that the US reigned supreme in this area.

China has obviously seen the writing on the wall , seeing these statements as declarations of cyberwar. It has responded:

‘Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, stressed that the claims of

a small number of countries did not represent the international community and

called on the US to stop its own cyber attacks against his country.

“China will take necessary measures to firmly protect its cyber security and its own

interests,” he said’

Most embarrassing for the US is the matter of timing, as shortly after these announcements on 17 July,  it was reported on 18 July  that its close ally, Israel, had been engaging in far more serious cyberwar. It is alleged that NSO had assisted spying on journalists , human rights activists, political opposition parties and even  the phones of European Heads of State.

Silence from the US State Department on these  NSO related allegations is of course deafening. It is almost as embarrassing as the major meeting called by the US with China on China cyber snooping that took place just days after Snowden’s revelations streamed across the world.


Ellsberg, D. (2017). The Doomsday Machine. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Rueckert, P. (2021, July 18). Pegasus: The new global weapon for silencing journalists | Forbidden Stories. Forbidden Stories.

Srivastava, M. (2021, July 21). How Israel used NSO spyware as diplomatic calling card. Financial Times.

Stacey, K., Warrell, H., & Murphy, H. (2021, July 19). US accuses China of masterminding cyber attacks worldwide. Financial Times.

Strobel, W. (2016, August 5). Obama prepares to boost U.S. military’s cyber role: Sources. Reuters.

White, E., & Shepherd, C. (2021, July 20). China hits back at US-led accusations over cyber attacks. Financial Times.