China has warned that foreign spy agencies are targeting its citizens working overseas in a string of “quite deceptive” campaigns to steal hi-tech industrial secrets.

Overseas workers may be vulnerable to foreign espionage, especially when separated from friends and family and sent to a different country, the country’s government has warned.

The Chinese Ministry of State Security says that foreign adversaries are targeting its overseas workers in a three part campaign initiated as a helpful friendship at first, which then transitions to an attempted gain of trust through dinners, conversations and establishing a deeper friendship.

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The ministry warned on social media that overseas workers “should stay on guard about the motivations others may have when they make friends, have a strong awareness to keep secrets and resist temptations.”

Once the friendship is secured, the targets are then threatened or tricked into selling state secrets to their so-called ‘friends’, with the ministry stating that these tactics have been used in a number of “classic examples”. In 2019, China sentenced an overseas worker to death for stealing and selling state secrets over the course of several years.

China has been stepping up its involvement overseas as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in which China seeks to rival the US and establish new trade relationships across Asia, Africa and Europe.

Distributing warnings via social media has become a regular practice for the Ministry of State Security, with warnings on consultants conducting espionage, overseas students being targeted to hand over information and regular reports of underwater spyware being found in water that China claims ownership over.


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