By: Our Correspondent

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has added a high-tech dimension to
its vaunted tradition of "democratic proletarian dictatorship:"
Cyber-dictatorship. Through the 2000s, the country's labyrinthine
state-security apparatus has smashed thousands of "illegal" websites
and locked up hundreds of Net-based dissidents and editors.

The
much-publicized cyber attacks against Google, Yahoo! and other IT
multinationals, plus redoubled efforts by China-originated hackers to
infiltrate American government agencies and technological firms,
however, have taken Beijing's Internet-based gambit to an international
level.

Whether the fast-emerging power can globalize its
cyber-dictatorship depends in large measure on the outcome of its
aggressive recruitment and training of IT-related experts.

Research
and development in IT, including cyber-espionage and counter-espionage
figure prominently in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015) which is
being drafted by both the central government and the People's
Liberation Army (PLA).

President and Commander-in-Chief Hu
Jintao has put expansion of the PLA's cyber-warfare capacity as a top
priority of the defense and security forces in the coming decade.

Preferential
policies are also being made available for civilian IT and
telecommunications industries, which have since the 1980s been sharing
resources and data with relevant units in the PLA, the paramilitary
People's Armed Police and the Ministry of Public Security.

It
is significant that while visiting Shanghai last week, President Hu
gave a long pep talk to computer and telecom engineers in the
metropolis. "We must win a prominent place in global telecommunications
through acquiring technologies that are based on domestic [Chinese]
research and development," Hu said. "We must assiduously attain
breakthroughs in more critical core technologies."

While Western
governments and companies have accused China-based hackers of pilfering
a wide range of military intelligence, technology and commercial
secrets, the Hu administration has justified its no-holds-barred
development of cyber-warring capacity in the name of "IT sovereignty
and security."

In response to Google's complaints about massive
attacks against its Chinese operations and clients, a spokesman of the
State Council said that "our country is at a crucial stage of reform
and development … and properly guiding internet opinion is a major
measure for protecting internet information security."

According
to Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu, "the Internet has become a
major vehicle through which anti-China forces are perpetrating their
work of infiltration and sabotage."

On a tour of the provinces
in late 2009, Meng even called upon the country's several tens of
thousands of cyber police to boost cooperation with domestic IT
companies.

"We should make good use of the fruits of
[domestic] IT research and development so as to provide our
prevention-and-control system with strong technological support," Meng
said.

In early 2009, party and state authorities significantly
boosted budgets for recruiting the best Chinese graduates in areas
including computers, engineering, mathematics, and foreign languages.

Units
such as the First Research Institute of the Ministry of Public
Security, which has a staff of more than 1,200, have placed
advertisements in official and private websites seeking software
engineers and specialists in IT security.

It is well
understood among the Chinese Internet community that the police as well
as intelligence outfits under the PLA General Staff Department are
paying big bucks to attract what insiders call "accomplished and
patriotic hackers."

A number of such hacker-turned-IT
specialists are believed to have been placed as "moles" inside the
China operations of high-tech multinationals. Moreover, Chinese
missions in the United States and other countries have the past year
taken advantage of the recession in the West to recruit hundreds of
Chinese graduates from the best computer-science departments in Western
universities.

"Chinese IT graduates from top American
universities are offered not only globally competitive salaries but
fast-track promotion prospects," said a Beijing source close to the
cyber-warfare establishment.

Another unique feature of China's
cyber-war venture is the large number of "princelings" – the kin of
senior cadres – who are involved in the fields of telecommunications
and Net-related security.

Dr Jiang Mianheng, Vice-President of
the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences and the eldest son of
ex-president Jiang Zemin, has for more than a decade been a key figure
in China's IT strategy. An electrical-engineering graduate from
Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, Dr Jiang was among senior Shanghai
cadres who accompanied supremo Hu on his recent tour of advanced IT
plants in the East China metropolis.

The participation of
prominent princelings is yet another reason behind the fast-paced
expansion of the country's capacity in IT-related espionage and
counter-espionage.

In internal speeches, President Hu and his
advisers have expressed optimism that in this critical field of IT
warfare, China can close the gap with the U.S. in 10 years or so.