Only two days after it was revealed that China's cyber-espionage efforts resulted in stolen designs for dozens of U.S. military projects, we now know that the Chinese will soon be conducting digital war games for the first time in the country's history.
The war games will take place within northern China's Inner Mongolia next week, and will surely escalate tensions with the United States in a relationship already fraught with mistrust.
According to China's official Xinhua news agency (via Reuters), the war games will "test new types of combat forces including units using digital technology amid efforts to adjust to informationalized war."
"It will be the first time a People's Liberation Army exercise has focused on combat forces including digitalized units, special operations forces, army aviation and electronic counter forces," the Xinhua report continued.
The timing of the digital war games is also interesting, since it will coincide with a meeting between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two world leaders will be meeting in California around the same time, where it's expected that Obama will bring up the sensitive issue of cyber-espionage.
A new report by the Defense Science Board, prepared specifically for the Pentagon, detailed that China has successfully stolen design blueprints for a number of important military projects, including the U.S. missile defense system, the extremely expensive F-35 Joint Strike fighter jet, and the Navy's brand new Littoral combat ship.
These thefts are not only alarming because they speed up China's ability to match the United States' military capabilities, but also because of how easily they go unnoticed. Much of the time, defense contractors don't even realize their systems have been breached until the government gets involved.
"In many cases, they don't know they've been hacked until the FBI comes knocking on their door," a senior military official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said to the Washington Post. "This is billions of dollars of combat advantage for China. They've just saved themselves 25 years of research and development. It's nuts."
As it usually does, China has aggressively denied any and every allegation of wrongdoing, often saying that it is regularly subjected to thousands of cyber-attacks from the United States and other nations. The country was recently blamed for stealing the floorplans to Australia's new spy headquarters, but rejected the accusation.
"China pays high attention to cybersecurity issues, and is firmly apposed to all forms of hacker attacks," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said to the Guardian. "Groundless accusations will not help solve this issue."