Common Misconceptions About China's Corporate Espionage Tactics

Jun 18, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

China is home to the largest aero-engine maintenance base in Asia.

An aircraft engine undergoes maintenance at the aero-engine bonded maintenance base of Sichuan Services Aero-engine Maintenance Co., Ltd. (SSAMC) in Chengdu, China. 

(Zhang Lang/Getty Images)


  • Several common misconceptions assume Chinese corporate espionage efforts are much more confined and predictable than they really are. 
  • This includes the dangerous belief that Beijing's intelligence agencies only recruit ethnic Chinese agents, or that they only recruit agents on their home turf in China.
  • The Chinese government and state-owned entities also frequently benefit from walk-in agents who offer stolen information of their own accord.
  • Thus, whether employees are at risk of providing trade secrets to Chinese intelligence actors should be evaluated purely on their behavior, and not on their ethnicity or location. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the dangers of setting different security standards for information stored in "riskier" areas (such as Beijing) versus "safer" areas (such as Brussels). I argued that the threat posed by sophisticated corporate espionage actors, such as Chinese intelligence agencies, is global in nature, which is why security programs to defend against them must also have a global scope. As I have discussed this topic in more depth with clients, readers, the media and my Stratfor colleague Fred Burton in a recent podcast, it occurred to me that the belief that the espionage threat is limited to certain locations only scratched the surface of several other dangerous misperceptions -- especially when it comes to considering the threat posed by Chinese human intelligence operations....

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