Spies who want to work remotely and the Chinese anti-spy offensive

Do the Germans have problems with recruiting spies? According to Bruno Kahl, head of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), potential recruits complain about the inability to work remotely and take a mobile phone. There are missing, among others, recruits for positions in the science and technology department, experts in cyberspace and Arabic-speaking experts. Meanwhile, Britain’s three central intelligence agencies – MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – have announced, to broaden their pool of potential employees, that it is enough for the job applicant to have British citizenship. So far, applicants must have at least one British parent.

Chinese authorities are intensifying efforts to limit information leaks from the country by hitting a so-called network of experts in an anti-spy campaign launched in May 2023. Expert networks are an essential news channel for foreign companies in China – whether hedge funds, banks or multinationals – to gain access to intelligence on everything from industry trends to government policy.

Tightening control over the flow of information is a priority for the Chinese authorities due to the growing competition with the United States and its allies. This is evident in government agencies, universities and state-owned enterprises, where training to protect state secrets is increasingly organised. China’s shift in priorities blows international investors and corporations, but the message is clear: national security is more important than economic growth.

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