Tuesday, November 30, 2021

‘Country Of Spies’: Why China Runs The Risk Of Being Called The Hub Of Espionage After ‘Data Leak’?

The US has often accused China of espionage — something Beijing has denied on many occasions. But things might turn for the worse for the communist state if the latest “data leak” of 2 million Chinese citizens is anything to go by.

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The Australian, a leading publication from Australia, has obtained the database of around 2 million China Communist Party (CCP) members. The leak is unprecedented by any standard as it tends to reveal how CCP members have allegedly been “embedded” in the biggest companies of the world, including banks, defense contractors, and pharmaceutical companies.

The information leaked has it all — CCP members’ party position, birth-date, national ID number, and ethnicity – and 79,000 branches, many of them inside companies, universities, and even government agencies.

Among the companies identified as having CCP members as their employees are manufacturers like Boeing and Volkswagen, drug giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and financial institutions including ANZ and HSBC, according to the report.

The membership records also show that the CCP has infiltrated the Australian, British, and US consulates in Shanghai, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade using a Chinese government agency, the Shanghai Foreign Agency Service Department, to hire local staff.

“It is believed to be the first leak of its kind in the world,” The Australian journalist and Sky News host Sharri Markson said. “What’s amazing about this database is not just that it exposes people who are members of the Communist Party, and who are now living and working all over the world, from Australia to the US to the UK, but it’s amazing because it lifts the lid on how the party operates under President and Chairman Xi Jinping.”  

The data is said to have been retrieved from a server in Shanghai in 2016 purportedly used by Chinese dissidents, for their counterintelligence purposes.

The leak of this data can have very serious consequences for China. Beijing has neither as yet verified nor denied it. But, a rigorous campaign to isolate China is definitely to come very soon as, during the initial COVID-19 phase, China has had ‘unfavorable sentiments’ reportedly from around 70% of citizens from many countries like the UK, the US, Sweden, Spain, Canada, etc, according to the PewResearch report of October 2020.

What is most surprising is that until yesterday the world did not even have a clue as to who were even the members of CCP but after this ‘lid-off’, China’s wherewithal of espionage is on the streets.

The leak will make the entire world look at the Chinese with suspicion and no wonder very soon, Chinese citizens may be given ‘marching-orders’ by their respective companies.

The fate of these citizens is hanging in balance as nobody knows what they would face if they return to China. Nonetheless, these 2 million profiles are enough to generalize that probably every Chinese citizen is a hidden-spy and allegedly involved in an act of espionage.

In 2019, US National Security Adviser John Bolton had accused China of stealing American technology used in ‘F-35 stealth fighter’. The US MQ9 Reaper is also said to have been copied by China and sold to Pakistan. After this latest turn of events, when it is alleged that Chinese members are embedded in defense sectors all across the world, such allegations will fuel more suspicion, which would invite more tightening of the noose around the Chinese establishment.

Every Chinese student or a professor thereafter would be under the scanner, be it in any university in the UK/the US or an employee in a multinational bank, or even in a medical company like Pfizer. 

This is therefore going to be the step to finally say ‘no’ to everything Chinese, particularly, by the West led by the US.  

The rate at which Chinese goods were growing in European markets where Chinese people have now bought entire markets and properties, learned local languages and cultures — all will have to have a serious backlash. This might lead to a similar situation as was noticed after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic when Chinese restaurants wore a deserted look, people would try to evade Chinese presence on the streets among others as the virus was believed to have originated in China.   

The latest news, however, may be music to India’s ears as the country has been at loggerheads with China and Pakistan. Certainly, the heat generated around China will also have implications for Pakistan too, and maybe US President-elect Joseph Biden starts by imposing sanctions on China!

How China reacts to this is yet to be seen as it runs the risk of being isolated worldwide.

The writer is a former State Information Commissioner, India. He is a media analyst and writes on international politics.

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