Chinese scientists working at ‘western universities’ are allegedly spying for China to get access to the latest technology with special emphasis on United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Recently, an article in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily described the spying act as ‘picking flowers in foreign lands to make honey in China’.
According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), there is a lack of caution among Western governments and universities in the face of an alleged concerted campaign by Beijing to advance the Chinese military using foreign technology.
The report states that “Since 2007, more than 2,500 Chinese scientists with links to the PLA have travelled to work in the so-called Five Eyes group – United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.” It further revealed that scientists work in strategic and emerging technology sectors such as quantum physics, signal processing, cryptography, navigation technology and autonomous vehicles.
ASPI researcher and report author Alex Joske told the CNN that the universities haven’t made the step publicly distinguishing between beneficial collaboration with China and cooperation with the Chinese military which may not be in our interests. In other words, universities and western governments are helping the Chinese boost their technology without being aware of doing so.
The report also states that while most of the scientists sent by the People’s Liberation Army are open about the institutions they come from, some appear to hide their military affiliations by using ‘misleading historical names for their institutions’ or even naming ones that do not exist.
China researcher at the Australian National University, Adam Ni said: “the PLA has been doing this for a long time in a fairly deliberate way to obtain or learn expertise and bring that back into China to advance China’s economic development and its military modernization efforts.”
However, the Chinese government has refuted the report saying ‘ridiculous and groundless and irresponsible’.
Meanwhile, the US has made it a priority to crackdown on the transfer of technology to China. Christopher Ashley Ford, assistant secretary at the US Bureau of International Security said: “We do need to understand China’s technology strategy and its military and potential strategic implications.” He said all engagements must be done with ‘due care’.