Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has a new resource that tracks what is called “military-civil fusion” in Chinese universities. The trend of technically civilian universities in China becoming more involved in research used for military or security purposes has sped up in recent years, just as alarms have been raised about issues like China’s racially discriminatory surveillance networks, and concern about China-originating cyberattacks has not abated.
Researcher Alex Joske describes the extent of the problem this way:
At least 15 civilian universities have been implicated in cyberattacks, illegal exports or espionage.
China’s defence industry conglomerates are supervising agencies of nine universities and have sent thousands of their employees to train abroad.
This raises questions for governments, universities and companies that collaborate with partners in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). There’s a growing risk that collaboration with PRC universities can be leveraged by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or security agencies for surveillance, human rights abuses or military purposes…
While military–civil fusion doesn’t mean that barriers between the military and other parts of PRC society have vanished, it’s breaking down those barriers in many universities. At least 68 universities are officially described as parts of the defence system or are supervised by China’s defence industry agency, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND, 国家国防科技工业局 guójiā guófáng kējì gōngyè jú).
ASPI also updated a public database that maps the global expansion of key Chinese technology companies, including many involved in surveillance.
In related news, many major American companies — including Seagate Technology, Western Digital, Intel, and Hewlett Packard — have been deeply involved in helping to build the Chinese surveillance state, according to a Wall Street Journal report.