New addition to Chinese college syllabus: Crash course on how to catch spies

As students flooded back into Beijing’s top universities in early September, a propaganda blitz around campuses signalled an ominous addition to their syllabus: a crash course on how to catch spies. At the government-run Tsinghua University videos were beamed onto faculty screens instructing teachers and students to become a ”defence line” against foreign forces, while the Beijing University of Technology threw a national-security themed garden party, according to the nation’s spy agency.
Students at Beihang Universitywere even asked to play an interactive training game, called Who’s The Spy? ”In what special way will the college students around you reinvigorate national security?” the ministry of state security wrote on its new WeChat account.
As President Xi Jinping throws up a forcefield of security controls to repel perceived foreign threats to Communist Party rule, Beijing’s message to the public is spooks are everywhere – not just universities. Police in Henan province have urged citizens to quiz neighbours they mistrust on pop culture to ascertain their patriotism, while Shandong province state media published posters with the tagline ”spies might be all around you.”
The push comes after Xi chaired a National Security Council meeting in May that stressed the importance of ”extreme-case scenario” thinking – a phrase the ruling party had previously reserved for describing natural disaster preparedness. China has since passed a new anti-spy law, accused consulting firms of working for overseas intelligence agencies and warned that foreign forces are infiltrating the energy sector.
China is locked in an ideological battle with the US that’s weighing on its economy, just as the Asian giant enters a slowdown that risks stoking another wave of social unrest.
Since the Communist Party unified its intelligence arms to found the ministry of state security in the 1980s, the organisation has stayed out of public sight. It’s the sole cabinet-level ministry without an official website and, until recently, its only public platforms were hot lines for reporting activities endangering national security. That changed last month when the ministry joined China’s social media app WeChat. Since then, it’s posted almost everyday on its efforts to secure national security, down to telling primary school students what photos they shouldn’t post. Bloomberg

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