On June 4, 2020, The Institute of World Politics hosted a virtual lecture event as a part of the Cyber Intelligence Initiative Series. Dr. Ji-Jen Hwang shared his research on Taiwan’s cybersecurity environment versus China’s cyber strategy.
In July 2019, China released a report describing the reform in its National Defense and Armed Forces in the form of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSF). According to Dr. Hwang, this new type of combat force is “an important driver for the growth of new combat capabilities.”
Dr. Hwang shared his belief that China views cyberspace as a potential battlefield. He went on to provide an example in recent U.S. history of the dangers of this threat, citing the 2010 event in Wyoming when officers lost control of nuclear-tipped missiles for over 45 minutes. Dr. Hwang also cited a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that claims, in 2018, almost all of the United States weapons systems were vulnerable to attack.
Dr. Hwang provided a better look at the inner workings of China and its cyber program, identifying their network, capabilities, and the major cities connected to the cyber program. He also presented a map of China’s underwater data cable system and how it runs through ports in the Asian Pacific region, illuminating the extent of China’s cyber program.
Shifting focus to Taiwan’s cybersecurity environment, Dr. Hwang explained that the National Information & Communication Security Taskforce (NICST) has a joint defensive mechanism that consists of 8 pieces of critical information communications technology infrastructure. These sections are: (1) governmental sector, (2) hi-tech science parks, (3) energy supply system, (4) water supply system, (5) telecommunication system, (6) transportation system, (7) banking & finance system, and (8) hospital & emergency rescue system.
In concluding his presentation, Dr. Hwang provided the audience with four key assumptions: (1) China claims its sovereignty over the cyberspace through cyber territorialization, (2) cyber sovereignty becomes a strategic guideline of establishing the battleground in cyberspace, (3) claiming cyber sovereignty may become a justification to cyber warfare for China, and (4) Taiwan must build and maintain robust strategic partnerships in cyberspace to deter shared threats and increase international security and stability.