China’s domestic Internet censorship, sometimes called the Great Firewall of China, is considered the most comprehensive web screening established by a state anywhere in the world. Is there any chance it can be taken down? Yes, but under less-than-ideal circumstances. In the National Interest, National Interest, Chen Pokong imagines a scenario in which the United States has removed China’s Internet screen.
Related reports and discussion show that the cyber operation, codenamed “Airborne Freedom” and launched by the United States, is in fact retaliation for a cyberattack by China. China has for some time been carrying out cyberattacks and cyberespionage against U.S.-based websites, and repeated warnings from Washington to end the attacks have met with only temporary pullbacks by Beijing, followed by renewed onslaughts. Reaching the end of its patience, the United States has finally decided to take action, and a full-scale cyberwar has been launched between China and the United States.
Of course, it wouldn’t be long before China would shut down its Internet and attempt to resurrect the firewall. In the interim, writes Pokong, the United States restores Internet access, again uncensored, via satellite technology. Amidst domestic unrest, the Chinese government’s main media organ announces:
We must point out that cyberinvasion is a war of aggression. … In the face of serious provocation, the full force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will resolutely follow the Party’s command and is prepared to go to war at any time in retaliation against any who dare aggressive action against our country’s sovereign rights and interests.
Anti-American demonstrations are staged and a U.S. consulate is attacked, the consul killed. Soon American antiaircraft carriers are steaming through the China Seas and you can guess the rest.
Despite the lack of immediate fatalities, cyberwar has just as much as or more potential to lure two states into a hot war than proxy wars, terrorist attacks, and border incursions.