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China’s Cyber Future: Strategy, Innovations, and Global Influence


The digital age is shaping global power, and China’s National Cyberspace Security Strategy reflects this. The strategy aims to strengthen China’s digital defenses and technological independence, with the ultimate goal of becoming a cyber superpower by 2030. But is China truly on track to achieve this ambition? Or is its cybersecurity strategy all talk and no action?  

To assess China’s progress in cybersecurity, we need to examine its unique approach to the internet. While the internet was envisioned as a tool for global democratization, China views it differently.  China’s strategy, often described as “firm governance,” balances openness with control through measures like cyber exercises and regulations designed to protect both national security and citizen interests.

China’s commitment to cybersecurity is evident by its early adoption of control measures. The introduction of cybersecurity efforts in 1987, followed by the Great Firewall in 1998 within just over a decade, demonstrates China’s swift action in this domain.

China’s strategy goes beyond basic control. They’ve established specialized cyber units and implemented robust regulations for digital forensics, audits, and compliance. This comprehensive system allows for swift responses to cyber incidents, aiding investigations and legal actions.

Furthermore, China’s embrace of cutting-edge technologies strengthens its cybersecurity posture. The deployment of 6G networks and its integration with the Digital Yuan and blockchain technology showcase this commitment. 6G offers ultra-fast internet speeds, critical for real-time data transmission, a vital component of cybersecurity operations and surveillance. Additionally, blockchain technology, used by major Chinese companies like Tencent and Ant Group, ensures secure transactions and reduces the risk of cyberattacks and fraud. 

China’s evolving security measures and advanced cyber capabilities

Following the release of China’s cybersecurity strategy, new technologies such as Skynet, Digital Yuan, and Tianhe computers, along with initiatives like the Data Security Law (2021) and the revised Counter-Espionage Law (July 2023), have demonstrated China’s commitment to becoming a cyber-power. The Digital China Development Report (2022) states that China’s cybersecurity industry reached CNY 217 billion in 2022, marking a growth of 13.9%. This growth shows that China is investing heavily in developing its cybersecurity sector, aiming to enhance national security online and establish itself as a top cyber-power worldwide. 

In 2024, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) launched China’s Action Plan for 5G Lightweight (RedCap) Interoperability, focusing on advancing technologies like 5G RedCap and the deployment of  Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).

5G RedCap, a simpler version of 5G for the Internet of Things, prioritizes lower data rates and reduced power consumption. It offers less complexity for low-speed applications. Combined with IPv6, it simplifies network configuration, supports IoT growth, and enhances security. These advancements underscore China’s efforts to secure a prominent position in cybersecurity.

In addition, China is developing quantum technology, big data anti-fraud systems, and AI-enabled forgery detection. By integrating cybersecurity with AI and advancing ICT governance, China aims to become a global leader in quantum computing. These efforts are crucial for its technical advancement. 

Based on PRC administrative punishment laws, Articles 27 and 63 prohibit any intrusion or unauthorized access to critical network infrastructure, with violations resulting in detention and financial penalties. Additionally, laws against network intrusion, electronic theft, and the development of the three pillar laws (DSL, PIPL, and CSL) demonstrate China’s serious approach to cybersecurity. These pillars are central to China’s cybersecurity framework, securing national security through various regulatory bodies and the MIIT strategy. 

China has also significantly advanced its cyberspace and military capabilities through sophisticated AI and quantum technology collaborations, effectively achieving the goals of its national cyberspace security strategy. This progress is evident in China’s successful and efficient efforts to strengthen its cybersecurity posture. 

China’s use of AI in cyber operations, like Q-GPT robots and Volt Typhoon activities, highlights their growing cyber capabilities. This spurs development in other states like the US, Japan, India, and the EU, potentially escalating global cyber competition. Furthermore, AI-powered cyber espionage challenges international intellectual property protection. 

The U.S. Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland have underscored the U.S. commitment to addressing malicious cyber activities, while FBI Director Christopher Wray has highlighted the advancements in China’s cyber capabilities. This recognition emphasizes the sophistication of PRC cyber actors and has received international attention. China’s ongoing efforts to secure and enhance its critical infrastructure against cyber threats have significantly contributed to the global cyber race, particularly among developed nations. Indeed, China’s national cybersecurity strategy goals are being met and are likely to continue progressing in the future.

As cyberspace evolves, national security threats to information systems remain a concern. The concept of hybrid warfare is already in play, with China being a key player, making significant advancements in cyber capabilities. As China continues to develop its technical and cyber infrastructure, there is a possibility that developed and developing countries may become more reliant on its technology, potentially influencing global political dynamics. 

Thus, for the accomplishment of a more secure and integrated future, China must articulate its stance in adopting a collaborative international approach to mitigate cyber threats. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has already issued regulations to enhance data security measures for international data flow, ensuring that security is not compromised. This effort has fostered further dialogues, including with African states, on cyber and AI governance. As part of these multinational discussions, supported by entities like OUP, CJIL, and Lawfare Media in Western states, China’s initiative has emphasized the theme of International Strategy Cooperation on Cyberspace.

China’s strategic focus on cyber legislation, policy, and critical digital infrastructure underscores its commitment to cybersecurity and technological innovation. Emphasizing international best practices, China aims to create a safer digital environment, promoting regulated cross-border data flows and upholding the CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability) triad. 

China’s proactive cyberspace security strategy and robust cyber laws have profound global implications, emphasizing stringent data protection, secure digital infrastructure, and the concept of cyber sovereignty. By innovating in AI, Quantum, and 6G technologies, China not only enhances its own cyber capabilities but also drives global cybersecurity standards. Through international cooperation and dialogue, China contributes to a more secure digital future, although continuous innovation will be crucial to maintaining and advancing its cybersecurity leadership in the evolving cyberspace landscape. 

**The opinions in this article are the author’s own and may not represent the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization does not endorse or assume responsibility for the content.

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