The year 2049 will signal the end of Mao's vision of China known as the Hundred Year Marathon
— the country's strategy to become a global hegemon. The Thousand Grains of Sand
approach to intelligence collection forms a part of this strategy. The "grains of sand" approach refers to the practice of accumulating information from various quarters till a clearer image appears. In addition to human intelligence (HUMINT), technology plays a significant role in China's Thousand Grains of Sand
strategy. The strategy also blurs the lines between military and non-military intelligence.
In addition to human intelligence (HUMINT), technology plays a significant role in China's Thousand Grains of Sand strategy.
China is aware that other states are also looking to leverage advantages through a similar intelligence strategy. In order to secure themselves, China is in the process of creating a super-secure communications network. To this effect, the state launched the world's first quantum satellite on 16 August 2016 called the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS). The satellite was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China at an altitude of 500 kilometres.
Another prong of China's defensive strategy is to block foreign technologies that could pose national security risks. A games panel of the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association (CADPA), a strictly controlled state-military-machinery association, recently designated augmented-reality location-based mobile game, Pokemon Go
as a "threat to geographical information security." This instance along with China fortifying its Great Firewall with the crackdown on VPNs cements its defensive strategy in cyberspace.
A games panel of the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association (CADPA), a strictly controlled state-military-machinery association, recently designated augmented-reality location-based mobile game, Pokemon Go as a "threat to geographical information security."
China's offensive strategy has a two pronged approach.
, to create successful cyber attack vectors across all connected devices including mobiles, computers, and nascent non-IT elements forming Internet of Things across the globe. This would open the Pandora's Box to reveal insecurities in geo/spatial/mobile information.
, to invest in companies which can provide "grains of sand" for a more comprehensive view of the local geospatial information network. China's state council recently approved a $30.19 billion venture capital fund to invest in innovative technology and industrial upgrading projects. China is also encouraging its venture capitalists to invest globally to create competitive conglomerates. The fund is financed by China Reform Holdings Corp Ltd., China Postal Savings Bank, China Construction Bank Corp, and Shenzhen Investment Holdings. The notice announcing the investment read that the fund has been instituted to implement national strategies.
Thousand Grains of Sands
approach can be seen in practice in the following examples. Alibaba is one of the biggest venture capitalists of China. When Alibaba released and filed its prospectus with Securities and Exchange Commission for their IPO, it didn't name the partners. It does enough to complement the opaque nature of the Chinese Politburo — closed yet calculating to raise its hood by or before 2049 and strike.
In October 2016, for an undisclosed amount, Alibaba invested in PlaceIQ. Its previous investment of $25 million (in series D) in PlaceIQ was in January 2016. PlaceIQ headquartered in US build mobile analytics from location intelligence. PlaceIQ identifies the behaviour, demographics, and other unique characteristics of mobile audience by analysing the movements of over 100 million devices through their patented platform.
PlaceIQ's location intelligence platform connects mobile signals to the physical world to help understand how people move through the real world. With a highly sophisticated and dynamic representation of the physical world, their mapping technology identifies and organises locations into thousands of categories. Opted-in location signals from over 100 million devices are then processed to create sophisticated audiences based on real world behaviour. This is a goldmine of geospatial intelligence which can contribute to China's Thousand Grains of Sand
A second example is of Magic Leap. In February 2016, Alibaba had invested $793.5 million in Series C and is now considering investing for a majority stake in the company. Magic Leap is headquartered in the US. As Forbes puts it:
"Magic Leap has operated in extreme secrecy since it was founded in 2011. Only a few people got to see its technology, even fewer knew how it worked, and all of them were buried under so many nondisclosure agreements that they could barely admit the company existed."
It is a proprietary wearable technology using mysterious photonic lightfield chips that enable users to interact with digital devices in a completely visually cinematic way with far more sophistication than the synthetic virtual or mixed reality other devices provide. Magic Leap can collect Big Data about surroundings and apply analytics' algorithms to generate geospatial intelligence of unprecedented nature for both military and non-military purposes.
A third example is of ThetaRay. In December 2015, Alibaba invested $15M/Series C funding. ThetaRay is a cybersecurity and Big Data company — to put it mildly — headquartered in Hod HaSharon (Israel), New York and Singapore. Its core IP patented analytics capabilities are wrapped and integrated into a shared core infrastructure. ThetaRay can simultaneously analyse Big Data across multiple environments, operations, devices and protocols of core IT Infrastructure. ThetaRay's hyper dimensional multi domain Big Data analytics has the ability to fuse and analyse massive amounts of heterogeneous data from diverse sources like network and ICS/SCADA traffic, machine data, financial transactions and database records. In case the need arises, its technology has the power to snoop and interfere with critical IT and SCADA networks powering large, automated non-air-gapped electricity, communication, and nuclear grids.
ThetaRay can simultaneously analyse Big Data across multiple environments, operations, devices and protocols of Core IT Infrastructure.
And such is the opacity that this entire intelligence can be fed to the Chinese Politburo for all we know and we won’t even know it. If British and American companies in the 20th
century lent their governments strategic leverage through their monopoly over oil markets, it appears Chinese businesses are set to provide Beijing the same advantage in digital spaces.
This reminds one of Sun Tzu's principle in Art of War: "The skilful tactician may be likened to the Shuai-jan: strike at its head, and it will attack you by its tail; strike at its tail, and it will attack you by its head; strike at its middle, and it will attack you by head and tail both." (Shuai-jan was a snake that was apparently found in the Chung/Heng mountains of China).
Cometh the year of the snake in 2049, the snake will attack you whether you plan to strike it on its head, tail, or body.
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