China and the US Are Racing to Turn Poor, Naive Millennials into Spies

Surveillance cameras are set up at a lamp post against a China national emblem at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. Surveillance cameras are set up at a lamp post against a China national emblem at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. Andy Wong/AP File Photo

Chinese state media are accusing an “unnamed foreign country” of recruiting spies at Chinese universities and through popular blogs and social media. This week, a series of news reports claim that unsuspecting Chinese, some of them as young as 16 years old, are being lured into working for foreign intelligence agents.

The reports seem to be a response to a short documentary posted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations last month, telling the story of a 28-year-old Michigan native, Glenn Duffie Shriver who says he was was recruited to spy for the Chinese while living in Shanghai, and was eventually caught by US authorities. The FBI video describes Chinese intelligence officers plying the young American with cash and luxury liquor, and appealing to his fascination with China.

The fact that this kind of covert recruitment occurs isn’t as surprising as each government’s attempts to paint the other as emotionally manipulative and ruthless. It may be a sign that US and Chinese intelligence agencies are waging a war for public opinion, as well as critical information.

China’s state-run People’s Daily reported on May 5 that an unnamed foreign country had recruited at least 40 people in 20 provinces to give military secrets to an agent whose online alias was Feige or “Flying Brother.” On May 7, China’s state-owned Global Times (link in Chinese) accused this unnamed overseas intelligence agency of  “repeatedly seducing” Chinese students into working for them.

The Global Times describes a recruitment process uncannily similar to Shriver’s account, with the foreign intelligence agents seeking sensitive information from within the other government’s operations, and exploiting the naiveté and financial needs of the young recruits. (CCTV also featured an interview with one imprisoned Chinese informant, much like an interview Shriver that the FBI posted online.) One Chinese student said he was given an allowance of $500 a month so he could study full-time for his country’s civil service exam. In another account, a former student at a naval science college in Guangdong said he was asking online for advice on tuition subsidies when he was contacted by someone with the alias of Miss Q, who offered to pay him for photos of nearby military installations.

“Once the students are addicted to the money,” a Chinese security official told the Global Times, “the foreign intelligence agency starts to plan and control the student’s career choices and path.”

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.