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With the increasingly strong power of innovative technologies and the propensity toward engaging in economic relations, the importance of choosing a theoretical framework from which the identified issue can be explained has come into sharp focus for many organizations. Moreover, even though actual militant activities remain in the realm of possibility, the threat of unleashing war is a much more probable outcome of the identified confrontation. In a cyber-setting, the dexterity of response often defines an outcome, and the results of the conflict, while not involving any bloodshed, may turn out to be beyond devastating. Therefore, viewing the issue of cyber warfare from the perspective of a specific theoretical framework (particularly, Realism, Liberalism, Marxism, or Constructivism) will allow exploring the links between the behaviors of key actors and determining the systemic outcomes of cyber warfare.
In light of the recent political events, the possibility of cyberwar between the United States and China will have to be considered closely (“Rex Tillerson: Risk of ‘Open Conflict”). Given the political tension between the two states, the threat of open conflict is becoming increasingly more realistic (Doherty). Therefore, a scrutiny of the issue must be deemed as a necessity to isolate key characteristics of the confrontation and generate possible solutions.
Theoretical Approach: Behavior of All the Relevant Actors (1.5)
Approaching the problem from the Realism perspective will help understand the intentions that guide the choices and behaviors of the United States and China in cyber warfare. Since the specified framework implies that the strategies used by state governments are dictated primarily by the interests of the states in question as opposed to the need to be altruistic and compromising, it will be safe to say that the identified philosophy implies the use of the measures that will prevent China from gaining power over the United States and becoming the dominant power. At this point, it should be noted that the adoption of a Realism approach should not cross borders with the phenomenon that Kirshner identified as Offensive Realism (53). According to Kirshner, there is a world of difference between the Realism that implies taking sensible yet harsh measures to reduce the possibility of a threat to a nation, and Offensive Realism, which suggests affecting a state negatively for the sake of being unprecedentedly and unjustifiably egotistic (Kirshner 54). It would be wrong to assume that Kirshner encourages the idea of the United States submitting to the demands of the Chinese government and, thus, allowing China to be at the helm of the contemporary global political landscape: “This does not mean that realists of any stripe can be at all sanguine about the implications of China’s rise” (Kirshner 54).
Nevertheless, to avoid the pitfalls of the Offensive Realism approach, one should view the confrontation between the U.S. and China as the means of establishing a diplomatic contact instead of acting barbarically solely for the sake of its own interests (Mearsheimer 71). Similarly, the framework of the Offensive Realism might also imply that China could focus on pursuing only its own interests and refrain from any attempts of establishing a diplomatic dialogue with the U.S. Given the potential that both states have for cyber warfare, the adoption of Offensive realism as the foundation for decision-making would likely lead to detrimental effects for not only the two states but also the entire world. The Classical Realism approach, in turn, allows the United States and China to retain their dignity while keeping their original willingness to focus on implementing their goals intact (Kirshner 53).
Liberalism, in turn, suggests a much more beneficial, albeit somewhat idealistic, the idea of participants’ behaviors in the context of the cyber environment and the threat of cyber warfare. Liberalism implies that all participants should show tolerance toward each other and be respectful of each other’s cultural, social, and political boundaries. It should be borne in mind, though, that the application of the identified theoretical framework as the means of scrutinizing the choices made by the U.S. and China suggests that both states should be willing to cooperate and create international institutions that will contribute to a change in the political landscape (Wilson 12). The maintenance of consistently high cybersecurity levels demands the presence of an impartial team that will help reduce the threat on both sides, thus, reducing the tension and encouraging both the United States and China to reconcile their political and cultural differences. Although the identified point of view might seem as overly optimistic and barely applicable to the contemporary situation, it does give the participants of the conflict and its observers a slight hope that the confrontation will eventually come to an end and that both the U.S. and China will settle their political and cultural differences. The identified principles align with the postulates of both classical and contemporary liberalism.
Indeed, the concept of a peaceful reconciliation meets the standards set by Immanuel Kant (92). The concept of an international team for resolving political and intercultural confrontations is, in turn, in complete harmony with the ideas that were voiced by Deudney and Ikenberry (183). According to the latter, “Externally, balancing typically takes the form of ad hoc, counter-hegemonic alliances in which states join together with other states that fear for their security from threatening or powerful states” (Deudney and Ikenberry 183). Therefore, the creation of an international and intercultural team that will help reduce the tension between the U.S. and China in the contemporary global political realm is not only natural but also vital to the security of the parties involved, as well as the global community, in general (Howard 14).
Finally, the choices made by the participants of the confrontation in the face of the cyber warfare threat need to be explored from the tenets of the Constructivism Theory. According to the principles of the Classical Constructivism, an impartial approach toward problem-solving must be adopted. A modern interpretation of Constructivism, in turn, takes the specified idea even further and suggests that states should adjust their choices of international strategies, approaches to communication in a political context, and other decisions to the ever-changing context of the virtual realm and the trends that can be observed in it. The specified solution provides the participants of the conflict with an ample amount of flexibility as far as the choice of their further actions and behaviors is concerned. The Constructivism approach, therefore, compels the United States and China to focus on their technological and political development to relieve the tension that has been accumulating due to cultural differences and discrepancies in each state’s vision of the contemporary economic and political landscape.
Theoretical Approach: Systemic Outcomes in Cyber Warfare
Each of the theories mentioned above, in turn, will create premises for specific outcomes in ostensible cyber warfare between the United States and China. When considering the available tools for addressing the existing confrontation, one must take the principles of Constructivism into account as the approach that is likely to lead to the most beneficial outcomes. Shifting the focus from minor squabbles to the introduction of a massive conflict management framework set in the contemporary cyber environment to handle the disparities between the American and Chinese cultures is admittedly hard. However, the Constructivist framework provides a decent and rather solid platform for encouraging the participants to set their differences aside and engage in a productive conversation that will ultimately lead to the promotion of peace within the current global political and economic setting.
It should be noted that the suggested strategy has its limitations. While Constructivism encourages cooperation by means of reaching a compromise and, thus, needs to be interpreted as the most sensible strategy, it also acknowledges that there are limits to its application determined by the specifics of target settings. Because of the gap between the American and Chinese cultures, as well as unique circumstances that may compel either of the participants to refuse form peaceful negotiations, there is always a possibility of failure. Indeed, according to Lebow, state-specific factors that cannot be altered due to their deep integration with the very existence and nature of the state “encourages actors to violate the rules by which honor or wealth is attained” (83). Thus, the proposed approach may make the outcomes of cyberwar that currently jeopardizes the global community positively, yet there are major pitfalls on the way to implementing it successfully. It is crucial to make sure that both states remain mature and responsible enough to take not only their personal interests but also the needs of the global community into consideration during their decision-making. Although the Constructivism theory does not deny the possibility of the identified phenomenon to occur, it also emphasizes the importance of removing the external factors that may inhibit the process.
Nonetheless, the application of the identified framework must be regarded as one of the primary tools for managing cyber warfare that is currently evolving in the realm of cyber reality. The design of an intercultural and interdisciplinary team that will serve as a mediator between the United States and China is likely to become the primary tool for releasing the pressure and, thus, contributing to the enhancement of a constructive dialogue between the two states. Furthermore, the development of the identified team will help avoid some of the problems that the disadvantages of the Constructivist approach may entail, such as the threat of intrinsic and inherent factors preventing the states from finding common grounds for a peaceful discussion and the subsequent reconciliation.
It could be argued, however, that the application of the Contemporary Realism perspective will help set more reasonable expectations for the possible effects of negotiations. Therefore, one can avoid the instances in which unsuspecting participants of the international cyber environment. The identified threat may include the resulting exposure of people’s personal data, the breach of governmental information that will disturb national security, economic growth, political processes, civil issues, etc. Although it is very unlikely that either of the state governments will make an intentional effort to harm the residents of the opponent’s state, with personal and governmental information being disclosed, there is a possibility of cybercriminals locating it and using it to harm innocent people. The specified outcome may become a reality once the principles of Modern Constructivism are not fully realized and a proper dialogue is not established between the participants of the conflict. Given the dire outcomes of the identified choice, it may be reasonable to incorporate the elements of Modern realism into the suggested framework. The specified approach will help set realistic expectations for the decisions that each of the governments will take given the threat to their informational security (Walt 42).
Therefore, to manage the current situation as an opportunity for designing a complex framework for managing intercultural and political issues of cybersecurity and cyber warfare in the realm of the global environment. It is essential to start with Constructivism as the means of inviting the participants for an open discussion and control the conversation with the social network tools that meet the requirements of the Modern constructivism principles for cross-cultural communication. Afterward, a careful introduction of a Realism-based perspective will have to be incorporated to identify the culture-specific concerns of each state, at the same time avoiding the development of moods associated with Offensive Realism. Finally, as soon as both the United States and China acknowledge their cultural and political differences and are ready to respect each other’s opinions, the concepts of Neo-Liberalism and Classical Liberalism will have to be incorporated into the framework. Thus, cyber warfare can be addressed and terminated.
In the environment of the present-day global politics, the issue of cybersecurity defines the choices made by states on a political, economic, and cultural level. Therefore, to handle the confrontation between the United States and China and prevent the development of cyber warfare between the two, one will have to consider the application of Constructivism principles. By creating a team of mediators that will encourage a multicultural dialogue, as well as support each participant, preventing the eruption of global aggression, one will be able to reduce the threat of cyber warfare to a considerable extent.
Deudney, Daniel, and G. John Ikenberry. “The Nature and Sources of liberal International Order.” Review of International Studies, vol. 25, 1999, pp 179-196.
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