Chinese Military Analysis of New Features and Trends of US Information Warfare



Information warfare has become an important topic in today’s international politics and security. As the world’s largest military and intelligence agency, the United States has very strong strength and resources in information warfare. It is an important initiator and participant in information warfare, and its information warfare capabilities have attracted much attention. In addition to adjusting the goals of information warfare, comprehensively advancing in various ways, and integrating domestic departments to unify actions, the US government is also actively expanding its information warfare alliances, by absorbing more countries to form a broad information warfare alliance, enhancing the effectiveness of information warfare, and further restricting the activity environment of rival countries.

    【Key words】Information warfare, U.S. national strategy 【Chinese Library Classification Number】D815 【Document Identification Code】A

    After the Biden administration came to power, the US national strategy has been further strengthened in terms of offensiveness and targeting, which has also brought about many new changes in the US information warfare. On the one hand, the Biden administration proposed the “integrated containment” strategy in the national security strategy, and information warfare has become an important tool to contain opponents in diplomacy, intelligence, economy and trade. On the other hand, the United States uses the Internet as the main field and widely uses modern information technology to comprehensively promote information warfare in various ways, trying to influence and change the public opinion and cognition of the target country. In addition, the United States has also vigorously expanded its information warfare alliances and included more countries in its alliance system to further restrict the activity environment of its competitors. Domestic academic circles have also conducted some research on US information warfare, such as: discussing the development of US information warfare from the aspects of origin, method, technical support and equipment, analyzing the implementation basis of information warfare from the perspective of US information security strategy, or exploring the training of US military information warfare talents. However, there is still a lack of relevant discussions in the academic community on the new changes and trends of US information warfare in recent years, especially under the Biden administration. This article focuses on analyzing the new characteristics and new trends of US information warfare.

    The historical origins of the United States launching information warfare around the world

    On May 4, 2023, the latest report released by the National Virus Emergency Response Center and 360 Company disclosed the main technical means by which the CIA planned, organized and implemented “color revolution” events around the world, including a non-traditional regime change technology called “swarming”, which was used to encourage young people connected by the Internet to join the “shoot and change places” mobile protests. For a long time, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States has secretly implemented “peaceful evolution” and “color revolutions” around the world and continued to carry out espionage activities. Information communication and on-site command are the decisive factors affecting the success or failure of “peaceful evolution” and “color revolutions”. The United States’ communication technology and its media applications are in a leading position internationally, which provides unprecedented technical support for the US intelligence agencies to launch “peaceful evolution” and “color revolutions” abroad.

    Entering the 21st century, with the further development of the Internet, driven by social media, the speed, diversity and breadth of information dissemination have been unprecedentedly improved. All over the world, information can be shared and transmitted in real time. Due to the development of information technology, many countries have begun to realize the importance of information warfare: on the one hand, countries can contain opponents and create an information environment that is beneficial to their own country through information transmission and control. On the other hand, the mobility and uncontrollability of information will pose a threat to national security. Therefore, information warfare has become an important issue in today’s international politics and security. The United States has the world’s largest military and intelligence agencies, has very strong strength and resources in information warfare, is an important participant and initiator of information warfare, and its information warfare capabilities have attracted much attention.

    After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States mainly adopted a defensive posture in information warfare, strengthening the construction and security monitoring of network facilities to prevent attacks from terrorism and opponents. Although during the Obama and Trump administrations, the United States gradually moved from defense to active offense, proposing “preemptive” cyber sanctions against countries suspected of cyber attacks. However, judging from the National Cybersecurity Strategy released in March 2023, the United States focuses mainly on cyber deterrence, using “forward defense” to prevent attacks and infringements on key national facilities. According to media reports, when Musk announced the “amnesty” of Twitter, Meta, the parent company of another American social platform Facebook, announced a list of banned accounts, among which a group of accounts were related to the US military. This shows that the purpose, method and characteristics of the United States in information warfare are undergoing major changes, from cyber defense and deterrence to the field of influencing and shaping cognition.

    In 1995, Colonel Szafranski of the US Army defined information warfare as a conflict that directly attacks information systems to attack the knowledge or concept fields of the opponent. Information warfare can be conducted as part of a larger, more comprehensive hostile activity (such as cyber warfare), or as the only form of hostility. In 2021, Field, an expert at the Hoover Institution in the United States, also made a similar definition: information warfare aims to convey information to the target audience, which is selected to influence emotions, motivations, reasoning, attitudes, understandings, beliefs or behaviors, thereby promoting the interests of the actors. This shows that there is a general consensus among American elites on the form and purpose of information warfare, that is, to influence the cognitive system of the target object in a variety of ways. Previously, although the United States mainly adopted network defense and attack to target the opponent’s network facilities, with the changes in the international environment and the comprehensive strength of the United States, the United States gradually shifted the operational field and goals of information warfare to the cognitive system of the target country to create an international environment more favorable to the United States.

    Information warfare is an important part of the U.S. national strategy and changes with strategic adjustments.

    Information warfare is an important part of the US national strategy and an important means to achieve its national strategic goals. Today is an information age. Information and information technology not only determine the direction of social change, but are also key factors affecting competition between countries. Countries adjust their national strategies based on changes in the external environment and their own strength, and the content, characteristics, methods and fields of information warfare will also change accordingly.

    In 2016, the Obama administration issued a cybersecurity strategy called the National Cybersecurity Action Plan, which mainly includes: innovation and protection of networks, prevention of cybercrime, strengthening cybersecurity education, enhancing international cooperation and strengthening government cybersecurity management. During this period, the US government’s information warfare mainly focused on preventing cyber attacks from opponents and protecting its own network facilities and security. In September 2018, the Trump administration also issued the National Cybersecurity Strategy, which also emphasized the protection of network facilities and ensuring network security. However, in this strategy, Trump proposed the concept of “forward defense”. When it is believed that there is a possibility of an attack, the United States will take the lead in attacking the opponent, which means that the US information warfare has shifted from defense to active offense. In March 2023, the Biden administration released the latest National Cybersecurity Strategy, which further emphasized the offensive posture and greatly expanded the scope of information warfare. In this strategy, five pillars are proposed. In addition to protecting critical infrastructure and establishing international partnerships, it also emphasizes the need to combat and destroy threat actors, expand the scope of information warfare, expand public-private cooperation, combat adversaries through cooperation between public and private sectors, and shape market forces to promote security and resilience. This shows that in information warfare, the United States will further infiltrate the private sector through various means, promote American ideology and rules through the market and investment, and restrict the development environment of its competitors.

    After the Biden administration came to power, the US national strategy has also added more targeted and offensive elements. In the 2021 National Security Strategic Guidance, it is proposed to build a global strategy around the long-term competition with China and Russia; strengthen the US presence and cooperation in the Pacific region, while strengthening cooperation with Asian allies and partners to deal with the so-called “China threat”. The 2022 National Security Strategy clearly proposes the implementation of an “integrated containment strategy”, requiring the comprehensive use of comprehensive national security tools, including military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, trade and financial means, to prevent any potential challenges to the United States and its allies. According to this strategy, information warfare is no longer just a function of defending against adversary cyber attacks and protecting domestic infrastructure. Information warfare occupies an important position in the “integrated containment strategy”. It not only undertakes the function of military strikes, but will also become an important tool for containing opponents in diplomacy, intelligence, economy and trade.

    The United States is comprehensively advancing information warfare with cognitive systems as its target

    Some scholars believe that the Gulf War was the beginning of information warfare, but as early as during the Cold War, the United States had conducted large-scale information warfare against the Soviet Union. The United States used the media it controlled to carry out extensive and in-depth false news propaganda on the Soviet people, instilling American ideology, and to a certain extent affecting the cognition of the Soviet people. After the end of the Cold War, American decision-makers are believed to have gradually reduced their emphasis on the non-material elements of war because they have defeated their ideological opponents. In the following decades, regarding information warfare, the United States is more inclined to frame these activities in a narrower military context. The “integrated containment strategy” proposed by the Biden administration shows that relying solely on a defense-oriented strategy may no longer be enough to limit competitors. The United States intends to contain its opponents in all areas of national strength, including diplomacy, economy, and information. This comprehensive containment approach focuses on mobilizing all elements of national power in competition other than military means. It requires not only the coordination of various important U.S. agencies, including the Department of Defense, the State Department, the CIA, the FBI, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, but also conventional military capabilities – focusing on destroying the target country and occupying its territory. It also requires the development of unconventional military capabilities – competing for influence and legitimacy among the people of various countries, enhancing the influence of the United States by influencing and changing the cognitive system of the people of the target country, and thereby undermining the opponent’s information environment and decision-making ability.

    The information market assumes that people will process information rationally, but psychological research shows that people often do not do so. Instead, the information environment in which people live affects their cognition, decision-making, and behavior, and the information environment is the operational environment of information warfare. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Defense has adopted an increasingly comprehensive understanding of the information environment. In the updated definition of the information environment, it points out that it “contains and aggregates many social, cultural, cognitive, technological, and physical attributes that affect the knowledge, understanding, beliefs, worldview, and ultimate actions of individuals, groups, systems, communities, or organizations.” Information warfare acts on the opponent’s information environment, by analyzing the opponent’s decision-making methods, psychological advantages and weaknesses, changing the information environment, and then affecting the “key factor” of the cognitive system, changing its national behavior to achieve the goal of winning.

    In the networked era, the transmission, aggregation and processing of information are mostly carried out through the network. The network constitutes the most important information environment, and the combat field of information warfare is also concentrated on the network. The United States not only uses its global media and cultural communication power to spread American culture and values ​​to the world through television, movies, music, games, etc., to strengthen its international influence and soft power. In addition, the US government and military also make extensive use of social media, search engines, artificial intelligence, the Internet and other information means, and through professional and systematic information operation agencies and cross-border cooperation between different agencies and departments, they carry out various forms of information warfare, such as posting political propaganda on social media, launching cyber attacks, conducting network monitoring and surveillance, and organizing network sabotage activities. It should be noted that social media is increasingly becoming an important medium for the United States to launch information warfare. This is because social media platforms can have a huge impact on a large number of people with their speed and breadth of information dissemination. At the same time, because people are irrational in cognition, large-scale simple repetition on social media has become a reliable way for people to believe in fallacies. The United States is deploying a large number of fake accounts on social media platforms to widely spread false information, manipulate information, incite emotions, create public opinion, mislead opponents’ decision-making behavior, and formulate and disseminate strategic narratives to prompt national behavior to change in a direction that is beneficial to the United States.

    Expanding the information warfare alliance and further constraining the environment for competitors

    In addition to adjusting the goals of information warfare, advancing it comprehensively in a variety of ways, and integrating domestic departments into unified actions, the U.S. government is also actively expanding its information warfare alliances by absorbing more countries to form a broad information warfare alliance, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of information warfare and further restricting the environment in which rival countries can operate.

    In Europe, the United States has been strengthening its cooperation with its NATO allies on information warfare. In November 2010, NATO updated the “Lisbon Strategic Concept”, emphasizing the need to more thoroughly respond to the rapidly evolving security challenges of the 21st century, including cyber attacks. The policy focuses not only on protecting NATO’s own networks, but also on establishing agreed benchmarks to protect the national networks of allies. The 2014 Wales Summit proposed a policy to strengthen cyber defense, making the cyber field one of its key political and strategic priorities, emphasizing the cooperation and unified action of member states, and linking the cyberspace with the collective defense of the alliance. At the 2016 Warsaw Summit, NATO recognized cyberspace as a new field of military operations. In February 2018, NATO member states established a cyber operations center within the NATO military command structure, which aims to strengthen the defense and response capabilities of NATO member states in cyberspace and improve the overall level of cyber security. These measures show that under the leadership of the United States, NATO has gradually established a strong cyber cooperation platform for information warfare. On the basis of this platform, the United States will implement information warfare more comprehensively and across fields. During the Ukrainian crisis, the United States and its allies used this platform to provide cyber defense for Ukraine and launch a large number of cyber attacks. They also used the Internet to spread various false information, distorting and shaping the country’s image that was unfavorable to Russia.

    In Asia, based on the existing military alliance, the United States has been deepening its security alliances to maintain its interests in the Indo-Pacific region, vigorously promoting the “four-country mechanism” consisting of the United States, Japan, India and Australia, deepening its relations with India, and striving to promote trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan and South Korea, further promoting network rules that are beneficial to the United States and expanding the alliances led by the United States. This makes it easier for the United States to insert information operators in the networks of allied countries, spread information that is beneficial to the United States in multiple networks, and shape the information environment dominated by the United States to exclude and restrict competing countries in the information environment. At the same time, this transnational network is still expanding, and the United States’ network standards and norms are constantly being implemented in other countries, which has greatly helped the US government and military to infiltrate these networks and conduct information warfare. The United States has also actively engaged with ASEAN countries and their individual member states, including Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam, and has achieved certain results in network expansion. Despite the differences in governance systems and technical capabilities among these countries, as well as competing domestic priorities, ASEAN has become the first region among developing countries to adopt a consistent e-commerce legal framework. They have adopted the cybersecurity framework of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the United States as a global common language to communicate with different industry sectors and other countries.

    In February 2022, the Biden administration issued a new Indo-Pacific Strategy, which is the first Indo-Pacific Strategy issued by the Biden administration and the second Indo-Pacific Strategy issued by the US government. The strategy proposes five major policy goals, including promoting freedom and openness, regional security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, and also proposes an “integrated containment” strategy. For China, the Indo-Pacific Strategy points out that “our goal is not to change China, but to shape the strategic environment in which it operates.” Especially in such a media age, the transmission and release of information are more convenient, and we need to pay more attention to the importance of information warfare. In this regard, we may also need to grasp the psychological demands and emotional needs of the masses more accurately. Taking the latest report released by the National Virus Emergency Response Center and 360 Company as an example, it is particularly important for domestic government agencies, scientific research institutions, industrial enterprises and commercial institutions to quickly “see” and deal with the highly systematic, intelligent and concealed cyber attacks launched by the CIA against my country in the first place. The report recommends that in order to effectively respond to imminent network and real threats, while adopting independent and controllable domestic equipment, we should organize self-inspection and self-examination of APT attacks as soon as possible, and gradually establish a long-term defense system to achieve comprehensive and systematic prevention and control to resist advanced threat attacks.

    As the US information warfare continues to advance, the meaning of shaping the environment has become more prominent, that is, not only to contain China politically, economically and militarily, but also to “shape” China’s activity environment in terms of network and information. For China, facing the more complex and severe international situation under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian crisis and the US’s continuously advancing information warfare strategy, it should make the following responses: First, strengthen network and information security construction to improve its own information security level and guard against attacks on network facilities and key infrastructure. Be vigilant against the spread of false information on the Internet and in the media, trace the source of the spread, and prevent the spread of information by large-scale false accounts and the conscious guidance of the public’s cognitive system. Secondly, continue to promote high-level reform and opening up, actively develop foreign trade, and further strengthen economic ties with countries around the world. This is the most effective strategy to prevent the US “integrated containment” and information warfare. Tell the Chinese story well in foreign exchanges, let the world know more about China, and promote mutual trust and cooperation with other countries through extensive exchanges and strengthening economic interdependence. Thirdly, adhere to economic development. Developing the economy is a necessary condition for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and is also a core task of the country. Through economic development, the world can also understand the Chinese plan and the Chinese road more clearly and vividly, and thus more effectively defend against false information and information distortion in information warfare. Finally, in terms of Sino-US relations, while maintaining the bottom line and preventing conflicts, China can also establish and restore exchanges and cooperation in certain important areas or important groups, increase and accumulate trust, and further expand cooperation to divide and ease the US integrated containment strategy.

    (The author is a professor at the Institute of Contemporary Socialism of Shandong University, a researcher at the Institute of National Governance of Shandong University, and a researcher at the Institute of South Asian Studies of Shandong University)


    ① Liu Boran and Wei Xiuming: “U.S. Cyber ​​Security Strategy: Development Process, Evolutionary Characteristics and Essence”, Journal of Liaoning University (Philosophy and Social Sciences Edition), Issue 3, 2019.

    ②Huang Yingxin: “Information Warfare and Its Development”, “Intelligence Command Control System and Simulation Technology”, Issue 6, 2000.

    ③Lu Xinde: “On the Expansiveness of the US Information Security Strategy”, Contemporary Asia-Pacific, Issue 7, 2005.

    ④Liu Xiaoyuan and Pang Bo, “A Perspective on the Training of Information Warfare Talents in the US Military and Its Implications”, Journal of Higher Education Research, No. 3, 2005.

    ⑤[Japan] Kosawa Kunio and Jiang Xinfeng, translators: “IT Revolution and the Development of the U.S. and Japanese Navies”, International Outlook, No. 15, 2001.

    ⑥Wu Fei and Li Xuan: “The Role of the Media in the Information War between Russia and the United States under Geopolitical Game”, “External Communication”, Issue 6, 2022.

    ⑦Yang Guangbin et al.: “Characteristics of the Era of Turbulent Change”, “World Economy and Politics”, Issue 2, 2023.


《 人民論壇 》( 2023年10月09日 第 04 版)

【關鍵字】資訊戰 美國國家戰略 【中圖分類號】D815 【文獻標識碼】A






美軍上校沙弗蘭斯基(Szafranski)在1995年對資訊戰進行過界定,資訊戰是一種直接攻擊資訊系統以攻擊對手知識或觀念領域的衝突。資訊戰可以作為更大規模、更全面的敵對活動的組成部分(如網路戰),或作為唯一的敵對形式進行。 2021年,美國胡佛研究所專家菲爾德(Field)也做出了類似的定義:資訊戰旨在向目標受眾傳達訊息,這些訊息被挑選出來,以影響情感、動機、推理、態度、理解、信仰或行為,從而促進行動者的利益。這說明在美國菁英中對於資訊戰的形式和目的有大致一致的認識,即透過多種方式影響目標對象的認知系統。此前,美國雖然主要採用網路防禦和攻擊,有針對性地打擊對手的網路設施,但隨著國際環境和美國綜合實力的變化,美國逐步將資訊戰的作戰領域和目標轉移到對象國的認知系統,以營造更有利於美國的國際環境。



歐巴馬政府在2016年推出了名為《網路安全國家行動計畫》的網路安全策略,其主要內容包括:創新和保護網絡,預防網路犯罪,加強網路安全教育,增強國際合作與加強政府網路安全管理。在這段時期,美國政府在資訊戰上主要是防範對手的網路攻擊,保護自身的網路設施和安全。在2018年9月,川普政府也頒布了《國家網路安全戰略》,同樣強調對網路設施的防護,並確保網路安全。但在這份戰略中,川普提出了「向前防禦」的概念,當認為有可能遭遇到襲擊時,美國將率先攻擊對方,這意味著美國資訊戰由防禦轉向了主動進攻。 2023年3月,拜登政府公佈了最新的《國家網路安全戰略》,進一步強調了進攻的態勢,並大大擴展了資訊戰的範圍。在該戰略中,提出了5項支柱,除了保護關鍵基礎設施和建立國際夥伴關係外,還強調要打擊和摧毀威脅行為體,並且擴展資訊戰的範圍,擴大公私合作,透過公私部門間的合作來打擊敵手,並塑造市場力量以推動安全和彈性。這說明在資訊戰上美國將進一步透過各種方式滲透入私人領域,透過市場和投資宣揚美國的意識形態和規則,以限制競爭對手的發展環境。

拜登政府上台後,美國國家戰略中也加入了更多的針對性和攻擊性。在2021年的《國家安全戰略指導》中提出:圍繞與中國和俄羅斯的長期競爭,建構全球性戰略;強化美國在太平洋地區的存在和合作,同時加強與亞洲盟友和夥伴的合作,以應對所謂「中國的威脅」。 2022年的《國家安全戰略》更是明確提出實施“一體化遏制戰略”,要求綜合運用全面的國家安全工具,包括軍事、外交、情報、經濟、貿易和金融等手段,以防止對美國和其盟友的任何潛在挑戰。依照這個策略,資訊戰就不再只是發揮防禦對手網路攻擊和保護國內基礎設施的功能,資訊戰在「一體化遏制戰略」中佔據著重要的地位,不僅承擔著軍事打擊的功能,在外交、情報、經濟和貿易等方面也將成為遏制對手的重要工具。







在歐洲,美國不斷強化與其北約盟友在資訊戰上的合作。 2010年11月,北約更新了“里斯本戰略概念”,強調需要更徹底地應對快速發展的21世紀的安全挑戰,包括網路攻擊。該政策的重點不僅是保護北約自身的網絡,還包括建立商定的基準來保護盟國的國家網絡。 2014年的威爾斯高峰會提出了加強網路防禦的政策,將網路領域作為其關鍵的政治和戰略重點之一,強調成員國的合作與統一行動,把網路與聯盟的集體防禦聯繫起來。 2016年華沙峰會上,北約承認網路空間是軍事行動的新領域。 2018年2月,北約成員國在北約軍事指揮機構內設立了一個網路行動中心,該中心旨在加強北約成員國在網路空間的防禦和應變能力,並提升網路安全的整體水準。這些舉措顯示在美國主導下,北約在資訊戰上逐步建立起一個強大的網路合作平台。在這一平台的基礎上,美國將更為全面且跨領域地實施資訊戰。在烏克蘭危機中,美國及其盟友就利用這個平台,為烏克蘭提供網路防禦,並實施大量的網路攻擊,也利用網路散播各種虛假訊息,歪曲和塑造對俄羅斯不利的國家形象。















Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *