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Hypothetical Cyber Warfare Scenario between China and The Philippines
With the suspected presence of oil in the disputed Spratly Islands, China has been positioning itself in readiness for potential clashes with other interested parties such as the Philippines, a state that claims ownership of the disputed islands, and the United States, the world’s superpower keen on ensuring that China does not mistreat smaller nations involved in the conflict. But as shown below, China and the Philippines engage in a cyber war that destroys so much on both sides and attracts the involvement of other nations only for the disputed islands to be declared devoid of oil. Like morning mist on a sunny day, the chaos disappears with the dispute unsettled.
The cyber war between China and the Philippines starts with; China attacks the manila stock exchange, the central bank monitoring systems, and military defense system and government computers with a bombardment of malware containing the map of the contested Scarborough shoal islands. With the help of other specialists working closely with other international cyber specialists who are sympathetic to the Philippines, the Philippines launches retaliatory attacks at the Chinese government websites using worms and other forms of malware aimed at shutting down all functions run by the Chinese government. Despite the well-planned and executed nature of the counter-attack by the Philippines, China’s alert cyber warriors raise firewalls that stop all malware from the Philippines. They also identify the origin; issue a public statement accusing the U.S of helping the Philippines attack China, and promises to present the case to the United Nations Security Council. But even with all the noise, China launches a heavy attack on all websites in the Philippines. The outcome expected is that the Philippines will grind to a standstill. But having experienced a first attack and asked for help, the Philippines manage to ward off the Chinese attack.
China is aware of the possibility that the Philippines are responsible but it has no proof. Legal action is therefore not possible and military strike on the Philippines is not acceptable by the international community. China decides to move a step higher in the cyber war by secretly infecting computers used by the government so that all the computers can shut down at one time in a way that cannot allow these computers to be cleaned of the viruses. With the Philippines enjoying the success of its last cyber attack on the Chinese military website, their guard is down and by the time China launches its viruses on the Philippines, there is no adequate protection. The result is that all computers shut down and the Philippines government cannot carry out its functions.
In an apparent escalation, China dispatches fighter jets and naval ships to the disputed island. This is followed by a clandestine attack of the Chinese military website by the Philippines, an attack that turns out to be very successful. For thirty six hours, the Chinese army operates without a website. China then plans another strike on the Philippines military and by the time a warning is issued by the US; Chinese operatives have already destroyed sea floor surveillance vessels as well as other naval ships belonging to the Philippines. This is done with the help of malware that corrupts the ships’ computers causing malfunctioning. The Chinese launch more attacks and are able to shut down manila`s power grid leaving the whole country in darkness.
In the face of China’s apparent upper hand in the cyber war, the United States Secretary of State makes a public statement declaring that by attacking the Philippines, China is threatening its national security interests. The United States secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, issues a public statement accusing China of aggression towards the Philippines, spells out policy related to national security and national interest. There is a promise to the Philippines that all necessary support will be availed. On its part, China states that the Islands in question are owned by the People’s Republic of China and will not cede even a single step.
It is at this point that four warships and a nuclear submarine are dispatched to the disputed island. By this time, China’s only functional warship is already at the disputed waters with the Philippines also sending its naval forces to protect its interests. The US sends a team of cyber experts to help the Philippines government reorganize its networks. At the same time, a stern warning is sent from the US to China that dire consequences await the country if it keeps on using secretive, unnecessary, and unjustified means to attack the Philippines.
The naval stand off continues with both the American war ships and the Chinese standing on high alert but no shots are fired. On the other hand cyber warfare continues causing considerable damages on both sides. Both countries remain adamant and refuse to cede ground, even a single inch. International pressure builds against China and the U.S’s bid to stop its strong arm tactics in resolving conflicts with its smaller neighbors gets a major boost when Britain, France, and Germany criticize China’s moves as aggressive and in bad faith. China seems to be giving in to the pressure; its attacks slow down dramatically. It turns its rhetoric to criticizing the U.S for using Stuxnet against Iran while at the same time pointing fingers at other nations and blaming them for using viruses and other problematic computer programs.
As the military stand off continues an independent international committee is formed to investigate the amount of oil that can be obtained from the area in question and the possibility of sharing that resource among the warring states. The international team made up of experts from China, the Philippines, the United States, Russia, and Germany do their work carefully, and after three weeks, the results are made public. After a long introduction concerning their work, the experts shock a watching world by disclosing that the area in dispute does not have even the smallest amount of oil. It is a reality that this is contrary to what everyone considered to be true, the fact that nations were determined to go to war to defend their oil. China confirms this with its own experts and in three days time, the Philippines confirm the same. All the destruction and fighting was in vain.
The United States and china finally withdraw their naval destroyers from the disputed island. China and the Philippines do not resolve their conflict over the disputed land that has no oil. Both china and the Philippines go back to other concerns now that the much anticipated oil is not there. It is not clear how China missed out on the fact that the region it has claimed to own has no oil. The Philippines thought that by pushing for sole ownership, China had already fund oil. But as it turns out, it had not. The warships in the disputed region are assigned a permanent role to supply regional security in this region, a move that China protests. But unfortunately, nothing can happen. The world turns its attention to other issue such as a civil war in Mali and a presidential election in the United States.