Hugh writes about cyberspace, digital currencies, economics, foreign affairs, and technology.
The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) pursuance of information warfare (IW) to disrupt its enemies is well-documented military doctrine dating back to as early as 1995 from writing by Major General Wang Pufeng, who many consider the founder of modern PRC IW.
The current age of Great Power Competition (GPC) has accelerated the PRC’s use of IW with a digital emphasis, utilizing these principles to understand its competitors’ information systems while simultaneously creating their own.
The use of IW encompasses and facilitates many specific operations on the battlefield, ranging from psychological warfare to physical kinetic engagements. Additionally, there is a specific emphasis by the PRC to target the United States, long been seen as a frontrunner in logistics and supply chain innovation, specifically on the digital front.
One unique way that the PRC is seeking to increase its competitive advantage over the United States and throughout the rest of the globe is by disrupting supply chain and logistics systems. PRC-backed companies, sometimes in the form of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), have had successes in entering global supply chains, with one example being Alibaba's Cainiao hub in Belgium. However, the entry of SOEs and other affiliated organizations into global supply chains simply does not allow the PRC true insights into how foreign companies continue innovate in the logistics realm. This article will examine how the PRC has created a logistics-focused software and corresponding network for the purposes of supporting its data collection efforts in accordance with PRC IW principles.
Over the past several years, major database breaches compromising the personal data and information of millions of individuals have been directly attributed to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (PLA) elements, with these actions being in-line with PRC IW concepts. Some of these incidents include the 2018 Marriott Starwood cyber-attack, the 2015 United Airlines hack, and the 2014 Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach, among others. As part of its information collection efforts, the PRC has been creating immense databases of information, with this data being used to purportedly “identify, target, and recruit US informants” with the underlying goals of wrecking potential havoc on American information systems while simultaneously creating their own.
In this respect, logistics data collection (primarily through digital means) is particularly critical in the framework of GPC, with this data being vital for the PRC in understanding American and global strengths in its supply chain innovation. Additionally, a large source of data would be vital for the PRC to identify the best way forward for collecting data on other countries’ logistical happenings, particularly as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) becomes more and more prevalent in developing nations.
Therefore, the PRC’s implementation of its National Transport and Logistics Public Information Platform (LOGINK) network is a tool that must be viewed with caution. LOGINK acts as a platform for information aggregation and sharing between China and its trade partners. Despite LOGINK having significant traction in recent years, to include receiving mentions by the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA) and authorization to operate in several countries with the intent on driving the PRC’s global ambitions, countries must be cautious in utilizing LOGINK despite its purported benefits.
Launched by the PRC in the early 2010s, LOGINK falls under the specific purview of the PRC’s Ministry of Transport section, with the LOGINK project specifically finding a home with the China Transport Telecommunications and Information Center (CTTIC). The CTTIC is the centralized bureau for the intersection of all information technologies and logistics within China. The CTTIC possesses specific mandates to manage all special communications, formulate policy standards, and promote international cooperation and foreign exchanges. In this regard, the CTTIC’s use of LOGINK has been highly effective, bringing national and global sea, air, and land transportation systems tracking under a singular domestic PRC roof.
LOGINK’s goal is to ostensibly promote logistics information flow between China and its numerous partners. As a data-sharing software, LOGINK has attracted hundreds of thousands of users, facilitating millions of information exchanges on a daily basis. LOGINK software enables multiple organizations within and outside the logistics community to communicate and interact under one platform, to include retailers, carriers, banks, and even enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. LOGINK’s system also bridges the divide between government and private logistics systems, enabling the dual-use of both technologies under its umbrella.
The blend of information technology with logistics is one that is particularly
impressive, highlighting the PRC’s awareness of the importance of understanding national and global logistics movements in real-time. The CTTIC’s, and accordingly, LOGINK’s, significant technology focus encompasses everything from dedicated high-speed fiber optical networks, numerous satellites, and a myriad of geospatial tools, among others. With such significant oversight over transportation and logistics within China, it is no wonder that LOGINK is a powerful tool for the CTTIC in tracking global logistics movements.
LOGINK has been extremely influential in tying together different national-level logistics systems on an international basis thus far. Around the time of its announced inception in the early 2010s, LOGINK found itself as one of three partners for the North East Logistics Information Service Network (NEAL-NET), establishing this cooperative mechanism to promote logistics information sharing between China, Japan, and South Korea. Since 2017, LOGINK has also connected China with ports in Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and Germany through a strategic partnership with the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA). This unprecedented access and placement into economically significant areas of focus, namely ports, highlights LOGINK’s success in data aggregation on behalf of the Chinese government.
Understanding logistical trade patterns, supply chain information systems, and supply chain innovation are all particularly crucial as the PRC grows the BRI, with LOGINK itself being a tool of soft power projection through its ultimate control under the Ministry of Transport’s CTTIC. This makes LOGINK extremely crucial to GPC, with LOGINK being a tool that not only collects data, but also potentially can manipulate it.
The dependence on LOGINK as a software should cause concern in nations that utilize it for trade. Though smoothing out international trade standards is something that can certainly be approved by all, the over-reliance on a singular platform, much less one solely built and administered by the PRC, could prove devastating for a country. For example, if LOGINK were to be officially adopted as the international standard for global commerce, the PRC could hamper or sabotage logistics movements throughout that specific country, thus crippling its economy due to an inability to logistically sustain itself through data obtained from LOGINK. Furthermore, significant security and border control measures would be undoubtedly integrated into LOGINK if established as a de-facto or official international program, thus providing the PRC with further data which could be used to compromise a nation-state’s borders and sovereignty.
While these scenarios may be farfetched for some, the point of highlighting LOGINK is to showcase how overreliance on a specific software,
particularly one that is built, maintained, and owned by another country, can bring economic harm to nations intent on growth. Whether providing insights on logistics innovation or simply performing data collection efforts in accordance with PRC IW principles, LOGINK must be viewed with caution by its users. A similar logic can be applied to the BRI and its purportedly admirable mission, with BRI implementation garnering significant controversy in many forms.
Ultimately, growth and innovation within the global logistics market will continue to hold true, particularly as consumers increasingly shy away from brick-and-mortar stores and turn to e-commerce. With this in mind, LOGINK presents itself as a powerful tool for streamlining global logistics
operations. However, with the PRC’s known IW efforts to aggregate data for nefarious causes, individual nation-states must be careful in their whole-hearted approaches to integrate with LOGINK. LOGINK’s continued close ties to the PRC government can be significant causes of concern for
developing nation-states in both the short-term and the long-term.
Create your free account to unlock your custom reading experience.