China’s ‘Army Of Spies’ Horrifies Germany; Report Cautions Against Massive Influx Of Chinese Students

The Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu underscored the importance of spies in his aphorism: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

About 2,500 later, Germany fears that the People’s Republic of China has raised an army of spies to keep an eye on its expatriates and glean sensitive information regarding technologies from different countries.

In 2017, China put a secret service statute in place that called for “any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with state intelligence work, according to the law.”

In other words, it gave the Chinese government the authority to mandate any Chinese national or business to assist the intelligence agencies. In essence, it is an unrestricted permit to spy.

The Chinese spy network is augmented by thousands of Chinese expatriates, guest researchers, students, and businesspeople sending information back to their homeland.

Giving out the usual caveat that “not every student from China, of course, is a spy,” a report in Der Spiegel notes about security officials in Bavaria advising to be wary of the large influx of Chinese students.

They are particularly concerned about the grants awarded by the state-run China Scholarship Council (CSC). Around 5,000 undergrad and graduate Chinese students have been sent to Germany under the program. As part of the conditions, the participants “must declare their allegiance to China and the Communist Party in writing, stay in regular contact with the embassy, and follow any instructions they receive.”

“They can also be required to provide information about the Chinese community in exile, dissidents, and minorities like the Uighurs,” Körner recommends that universities be careful when admitting CSC grant recipients. “The risk is real,” he says.

In 2023, the reports about China establishing dozens of police stations abroad, including many in Europe, set the alarm bells ringing. Beijing, as expected, downplayed it as a misunderstanding.

The Chinese insisted that the facilities were established to assist Chinese expatriates with bureaucratic necessities. But German security officials have warned that they could be used for “spying on and influencing the Chinese diaspora.”

Chinese spies are reportedly working relentlessly to get access to cutting-edge technologies, including biotechnology, artificial intelligence, quantum technology, and hypersonic technology, according to the German security service. They are dual-purpose technologies and can be used for military ends.

According to the agency, company takeovers in Germany are part of a larger strategic plan to give China an edge in the worldwide fight for expertise.

China’s Sophisticated Spy Attacks

China’s spy attacks are increasing in sophistication and frequency. The businesses are not the only victims of Chinese cyber-spies; they are increasingly attempting to influence German politics while closely monitoring minorities and dissidents.

Diplomats and agents in Chinese embassies and consulates are allegedly establishing broad networks of contacts to secure the services of active and former German politicians.

Ranking the Chinese cyber hackers at par with the Russians, German security agencies say that the Chinese employ less brute force, lest they attract unwarranted attention. Instead of splashy moves, Chinese cyber spies would stealthily enter the systems and stay put for several years, gleaning sensitive information. As per Speigel, numerous companies listed on Germany’s blue-chip stock index, the DAX, have been targeted by Chinese cyberattacks, such as BASF and Daimler.

For representational purpose only.

According to a recent poll, 730 out of over 1,000 organizations said they were the target of cyberattacks in the previous year. Forty-two percent have confirmed that at least one assault had its origins in China. Many of the international objectives align with the “strategic goals of China’s government,” according to the MERICS report. The research tank concluded that there is “a risk to Europe’s long-term prosperity” from the hacks.

The conflict between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine could be the worst issue confronting Europe right now. However, China poses the greatest threat in the long term. Thomas Haldenwang, chief of Germany’s internal security agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, warns, “Russia is a storm. China is climate change.”

Reports by Speigel make it abundantly evident how Chinese spies have enlisted European politicians. Since assuming office in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has devoted all of his attention to expanding an already vast security apparatus. Furthermore, when it comes to monitoring, new rules have given carte blanche to government agents when it comes to surveillance.

In October 2023, British MI5 warned that more than 20,000 people in the UK had been approached covertly online by Chinese spies. The agency further warned that tens of thousands of British businesses are at risk of having their innovation stolen.

Even the US has not been immune to Chinese cyber-attacks. The US authorities have been concerned that the Chinese military is scaling up its capability to disrupt critical American infrastructure, including power, water, communications, and transportation systems, through hacking into its computer network system.

According to a report in the Washington Post, hackers affiliated with China’s People’s Liberation Army have successfully breached the firewalls of about two dozen critical entities in the last year. These hacking of the vital systems are aimed at sowing “panic and chaos or snarl logistics” in case a US-China conflict breaks out in the Pacific.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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