China's crash course on how to catch spies because Xi Jinping wants…

Sep 18, 2023 10:07 AM IST

Beijing University of Technology threw a national-security themed garden party.

Beijing’s top universities have a new addition to their syllabus: a crash course on how to catch spies. The push comes after China's president Xi Jinping chaired a National Security Council meeting in May, stressing on the importance of “extreme-case scenario” thinking. China has since passed a new anti-spy law and warned that foreign forces are infiltrating the energy sector of the country.

Chinese president Xi Jinping (Reuters)
Chinese president Xi Jinping (Reuters)

What's going on at China's universities?

At the government-run Tsinghua University videos were shown instructing teachers and students to become a “defense line” against foreign forces. Beijing University of Technology threw a national-security themed garden party while students at Beihang University were asked to play an interactive training game, called ‘Who’s The Spy’. State security minister Chen Yixin in July wrote that national security was about political security, saying, “The core of political security is regime security."

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Read more: China's Wang Yi visits Russia ahead of possible Xi Jinping-Vladimir Putin meet

What have experts said on China's plan?

Katja Drinhausen, head of the politics and society program at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, said, “At the time of economic pressure, there are quite obvious concerns at the top leadership. Using collective fear as a way to build political and social cohesion is a very dangerous game to play.”

Sheena Greitens, associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin, said encouraging citizens to spy on each other would have “damaging consequences” for China as “it can lead to false reporting that can backfire for the internal security agencies themselves, because it means they are working from increasingly bad information.”

Earlier, China offered up to 500,000 yuan ($68,160) to citizens who successfully reported spies. The government also launched an app to help Communist Party members and government employees enhance their knowledge and skills about secret-keeping.

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