Not from me, but instead authoritatively from two classified Central Committee documents published in 2013. There is no need to speculate on the origin and intent of Cyber Great Power anymore. Instead, read the documents that laid it out for China’s leadership (civilian and military) and were probably part of the package that hit Xi’s desk for decision in 2014.
April 4, 2013: Central Committee Hears Recommendation on Cyber Great Power. The Central Committee published a classified summary of a proposal on “Cyber Great Power” made by the brilliant Marxist theorist Zheng Bijian. (Zheng and I sat in a graduate seminar together so I can say “brilliant” with some authority.) Zheng argued to central authorities that China must build itself into a world class Cyber Great Power within 10 years. Zheng’s timeline and recommendation were based on his assessment that U.S. policy to contain China had expanded from physical space to cyberspace, and China needed a strategy to respond. For Zheng, “cyber warfare is no longer a matter of whether China wants to fight, but instead how long before it will be forced to act.”
July 28, 2013: Central Committee Approves Cyber Great Power Recommendation. Zheng Bijian’s proposal for China to become a world-class cyber great power within ten years was considered, accepted, and forwarded for further review by four members of Politburo (one of them a Standing Committee member and two of them Central Military Commission vice chairs). The notice specified that China must catch up (with the U.S.) and build itself into a cyber great power with a clear strategy, advanced technology, industrial leadership, and a well-equipped government
Note: The Central Committee Notice was signed by senior party leaders, both military and civilian. In China, cyberspace was a “fused” domain from the start. A lot more to come on that, and what it means for Digital China.
February 27, 2014: Xi Jinping Announces Cyber Great Power. Zheng’s proposal is publicly accepted by Xi Jinping when he called for China to achieve Cyber Great Power status during the first meeting of the newly formed Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization.
Interestingly, there is some evidence that Zheng Bijian’s 10-year timeline still stands. Party discourse on the status of China’s transition from a Cyber (Major) Power to a Cyber Great Power has appeared more regularly in party discourse over the past year, just as Zheng’s 2023 deadline has arrived.