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Learn About the Hypothetical 'War Games' the U.S. & China Have Been Playing


"the closest governments can get in conflict management without full-blown talks."

Some say evidence has been mounting that China has been involved in cyber attacks against U.S. government agencies and companies. In fact, last year a security company linked China to nearly 50 attacks on U.S. chemical and defense companies. More recently, a former counterterrorism official said nearly every U.S. company has in some way been infiltrated by China.

China has denied such attacks.

All this news can be frustrating for both parties involved, and the Guardian has found the U.S. is doing something about it -- and so is China. The two countries, the Guardian reports, have been engaging in "war games" in order to facilitate contact over "hypothetical" situations in a "less formal environment."

Organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think-tank in Washington, D.C., and the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a think-tank in Beijing, the Guardian explains so far two "wars" have taken place with a third planned for May. It states this is considered "Track 1.5" diplomacy, which is "the closest governments can get in conflict management without full-blown talks."

Here's what's gone down thus far according to the Guardian:

"We co-ordinate the war games with the state department and department of defence," said Lewis, who brokered the meetings, which took place in Beijing last June, and in Washington in December.

"The officials start out as observers and become participants … it is very much the same on the Chinese side. Because it is organised between two thinktanks they can speak more freely."

During the first exercise, both sides had to describe what they would do if they were attacked by a sophisticated computer virus, such as Stuxnet, which disabled centrifuges in Iran's nuclear programme. In the second, they had to describe their reaction if the attack was known to have been launched from the other side.

Popular Science describes this as an interesting tactic to try and prevent attacks. It states that it's like saying "we know you won’t do it, China, but just in case, here’s what we’d do to you."

The Guardian reports Lewis saying the first war game went well and the second "not so well." He states the Chinese believe they have been treated unfairly and distrust the U.S. In the games, Lewis said, the U.S. tries to find ways to change the Chinese's behavior, but the Chinese "justify what they are doing."

The Guardian contacted the state department about the war games, which they didn't speak of outright, but a spokesperson did say the U.S is "engaging broadly with the Chinese government on cyber issues so that we can find common ground." The Pentagon also declined to comment on the games.

On the flip side, the Guardian reports China's defense minister Liang Guanglie saying the country is against any sort of cyber attacks, denying they country's involvement in any attacks against the United States or its companies, and claiming China itself has seen its fair share of cyber attacks of late.

(Related: 'Breaching the great firewall': Anonymous hacks hundreds of Chinese government websites)

Read more about the role-playing war games occurring between the two countries here.

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