Beijing's Top Universities Take Radical Step: Spy-Catching Crash Course Raises Concerns

Beijings Top Universities Take Radical Step: Spy-Catching Crash Course Raises Concerns

Beijing's top universities have taken an alarming step in their education system by introducing a crash course on catching spies. This move follows a National Security Council meeting chaired by China's president Xi Jinping in May, where he emphasized the importance of extreme-case scenario thinking. As a result, China has implemented a new anti-spy law and warned about foreign forces infiltrating the country's energy sector. At Tsinghua University, videos were shown to teachers and students, instructing them to become a "defense line against foreign forces."

Similarly, Beijing University of Technology hosted a national-security themed garden party, and students at Beihang University engaged in an interactive training game called "Who's The Spy." These activities aim to raise awareness and prepare individuals to counter potential threats. Experts have expressed concerns over China's plan. Katja Drinhausen, head of the politics and society program at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, warns that using collective fear to build political and social cohesion is a dangerous game. Sheena Greitens, associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin, believes that encouraging citizens to spy on each other can lead to false reporting and damaging consequences for internal security agencies.

China has also taken additional measures to combat espionage. The government offers up to 500,000 yuan ($68,160) to citizens who successfully report spies, and they have launched an app to help enhance the knowledge and skills of Communist Party members and government employees in secret-keeping. President Xi's security controls reflect an ideological battle with the US, which has put pressure on China's economy. With the country entering a slowdown that risks social unrest, China is implementing measures to secure national security.

The ministry of state security, previously a secretive organization, has joined China's social media app WeChat to provide regular updates and guidance on safeguarding national security. While China's efforts to counter espionage are understandable, experts warn of the potential dangers that come with encouraging citizens to spy on each other. Balancing national security with individual privacy and the risk of false reporting will be crucial for the success of these initiatives.

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