China’s National Cyber Security Powerhouse Strategy

China has a strategy to become a cyber security powerhouse. Since 2017, it has been building a National Cybersecurity Center (NCC) - a 15-square-mile campus in Wuhan that will serve as school, research lab, incubator, and talent cultivator. 

The site includes seven centers for research, talent cultivation, and entrepreneurship; two government-focused laboratories; and a National Cybersecurity School. 

In particular,  China aims to reduce its reliance on foreign cyber technology and new report by Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), examines the NCC.

Currently China’s military faces a shortage of cyber operators as the country has a deficit of at least 1.4 million cyber security professionals which is a problem for the military’s ability to recruit qualified candidates. The NCC will help address the shortage by cultivating talent. The center’s “leading mission” is the National Cybersecurity School, whose first class of 1,300 students will graduate in 2022. Ultimately, China's policymakers hope to see 2,500 graduates each year, though by when remains unclear. 

Combined, both components of the NCC could train more than a half-million professionals in a decade. Even half that number would still help overcome the talent gap. However, currently China’s current system for innovation in the cyber domain will not meet its strategic goals. Chinese strategists say that disrupting communications within these systems is key to deterring military engagement. No single tool will establish an asymmetric advantage. Instead, China must reliably produce attack types for each system targeted. There are no silver bullets, but a workforce capable of significant innovation is critical to implementing the strategy. Students and startups can solicit business guidance and investment funds at the NCC’s Incubator. Besides supporting private-sector innovation, two other components of the NCC support government-focused research. 

Leaked documents revealed occasional close cooperation between the US government and technology companies and China wants have effective local replacements for foreign software to protect its military and critical infrastructure from foreign interference. 

If the NCC is successful at spurring innovation, the pipeline may ease adoption of locally made products and facilitate the replacement of foreign technology. 

Over the long run, the NCC’s talent cultivation efforts will likely impact the dynamics of nation-state cyber competition. China’s competitors should be prepared to respond to, but not to mimic, these developments. US policymakers could turn toward machine-learning to identify intrusions and defend network defenses. But it must determine a course of action quickly. 

Georgetown University CSET:      Perma:      Perma:       DefenseOne:        Wired

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