China’s private companies have state-spying role thrust upon them

China’s private companies have state-spying role thrust upon them. (Photo courtesy: EFF)

(, Sep19’20) – China requires its private companies to not only act as state agents but also to spy for the country’s intelligence agencies and have party cells embedded in them, which is one reason why TikTok and WeChat are in trouble in India and the USA as has been Huawei.

For example, although China vehemently denies US assertions that technology giant Huawei is effectively a part of the PRC surveillance state, recent directives issued by CCP Chairman Xi Jinping reinforce the notion that companies may be pressured to act at the party’s direction in a crisis, noted a report Sep 19.

The report said that addressing private sector employees at a conference this week, Xi called on companies to create “a backbone team of private business people that is dependable and usable in key moments”.

His calls for companies to be patriotic and “share the worries for the country” suggested a sense of urgency and veteran China watcher Bill Bishop has described it as “ominous”.

The report noted that the suggestion about the potential intelligence collection role of Chinese companies wasn’t new; that in 2014 and again in 2017, the Communist Party had declared that all Chinese companies must assist the government in gathering intelligence.

What is more, this exhortation was codified in law in Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law, which stipulates that “Any organisation or citizen shall support, assist with, and collaborate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and keep the secrets of the national intelligence work known to the public.”

And so, while TikTok, the Chinese app that was banned in India along with dozens of others, expectedly denies that it helped the Chinese government, India has made it clear that theft and unauthorised, surreptitious transmission of users’ data from these apps “impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India”.

TikTok claimed that it had “never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.” But the company owning the app was in no position to make any such assertion.

The report said that in a forthcoming book, former Trump national security adviser HR McMaster had stated that the Chinese government encouraged state owned and private enterprises to acquire foreign companies with advanced technologies, or take strong minority stake in those companies, “so that the technologies can be applied for not only economic but also military and intelligence advantage”.

The report noted that Chinese attempts to obtain advanced technologies and industrial secrets through underhand or illegal means had reached levels that force the FBI to work overtime. “We’ve now reached the point where the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours,” the FBI director was stated to have revealed in July.

“Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China.”

Not surprisingly, federal agents have arrested several Chinese and American nationals for engaging in industrial espionage for their Chinese clients.

The report said the PRC economic espionage activities had been supplemented by the ramped up operations of the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, a body that encompasses a network of Communist Party-backed agencies and organisations striving to expand an informal coalition of groups and individuals working towards the party’s goal of realising the “China dream”.

Since taking power, Xi has vastly expanded its operation – from provincial levels in China to obscure places in foreign countries. He promised to support overseas Chinese to help the motherland by “various means”.

The report cited a recent Jamestown Foundation’s report synthesising Chinese budget reports as concluding that various United Front organisations had spent more than $2.6 billion in 2019, including nearly $600 million to influence foreigners and overseas Chinese communities.


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