Today’s Anti-Spy Campaign in China is Nothing New

A nationwide anti-espionage campaign, started in secret in China during 2014, came out into the open in 2016.  Among other things, it spawned an English language article on that expresses some of the thinking behind the campaign, which now seems to be moving into the well-worn territory of “mass line” politics.  What does this mean for foreigners living and working in China?

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China’s Counterintelligence “Trinity” and Foreign Business

As a serious anti-spy campaign continues in China, there are signs that foreign businesses may become targets.

As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pursues a domestic anti-spy campaign and new espionage laws, PRC national security concerns and greater suspicion of foreigners may trump foreign business complaints about unfavorable treatment, rising trade barriers, and feeling unwelcomed. Foreign firms in China should not ignore these warning signs but instead plan for a period of higher business risk and harsher conditions, especially since strong historical parallels indicate that this period may not pass quickly.

New Anti-Spy Laws and Regulations Reflect Real Problems

Since CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping convened the first meeting of the Central State Security Commission in 2014, a spate of new security measures has emerged including the National Security Law, the Counterterrorism Law, the Intelligence Law, the Cyber Security Law, the Counterespionage Law, as well as additional regulations meant to guide implementation (, May 18, 2017; China Brief, May 11, 2016;, April 15, 2014).

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Below: in a cartoon short feature aimed at primary and middle school students, grandpa tells dad that he must confess his illicit foreign internet contacts to State Security.

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