Three Faces of the Cyber Dragon

Title:                      Three Faces of the Cyber Dragon

Author:                 Timothy L. Thomas

Thomas, Timothy L. (2012). Three Faces of the Cyber Dragon: Cyber Peace Activist, Spook, Attacker. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Foreign Military Studies Office

OCLC:    821711007

U163 .T566 2012


Date Posted:      October 28, 2015

Reviewed by Hayden Peake[1]

Using Chinese open sources, author Timothy Thomas, a senior analyst with the Foreign Military Studies Office at Ft. Leavenworth, concludes that China is “implicated in the theft of digital information from countries across the globe via a combination of traditional and creative oriental methods,” (p. xi) These thefts, he suggests, are conducted by civilian and military agencies, and are part of a three component threat-cyber soft power, cyber reconnaissance, and cyber attack: the Three Fam of the Cyber Dragon.

The three chapters on soft power variations echo Sun Tzu[2]—“win without fighting; win the victory before the first battle.” (p. xiv) One technique uses the internet to influence public opinion with high tech media—a Chinese CNN in New York—and discusses methods to deter attacks and control information. Cyber deterrence is another soft power technique. Thomas indicates that China considers it in terms comparable to nuclear deterrence and is working to find the best organization to do this, and thus make the cyber option as powerful as the nuclear. While the focus is on Chinese concepts and initiatives, Thomas compares them with US methods and ideas and notes the concerns US cyber officers have with China’s rapid progress.

The next three chapters discuss China’s cyber activist operations against the United States and other Western nations. There is a section on the PLA’s SIGINT and cyber reconnaissance infrastructure and a discussion of two recent cases: Night Dragon and Shady Rat. The former targeted oil, gas, and petrochemical companies. The latter examines stolen national secrets, source codes, e-mail archives, document stores, among other targets. There is also a section on the role of China’s cyber militia and a case study on how Google dealt with a cyber attack.

Part three of the book deals with a series of Chinese books and articles concerning offensive vs. defensive “informatizatlon theory.” (pp. 143ff) One part deals with resources needed to create forces that think and act in terms of the operation of digital weapons against an enemy. The book ends with a chapter comparing Chinese and Russian cyber concepts.

Three Faces of the Cyber Dragon concludes with some alarming thoughts on what this means to the West.

Thomas’ emphasis is on China’s attempts to “persuade other nations of [its] peaceful intent (p. 258) while it continues to refine its capabilities aimed at gaining and maintaining strategic superiority through ‘system sabotage’ and application of means and methods to deceive, bewilder, and control a network control center …. “ (p. 265)

This is an important introductory treatment of a vital subject that provides a comprehensive idea of just how serious the Chinese are when it comes to the future of cyberspace.

[1] Peake, Hayden B. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 1, Spring/Summer 2013, pp. 109-110). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions ofCIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found on line at

[2] Griffith, Samuel B. (1963). Sun Tzu: The Art of War. New York: Oxford University Press

This entry was posted in China and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s