Chinese intelligence agencies have spent years cultivating relationships in Western universities and think-tanks, partly with the aim of winning friends over to the CCP’s point of view.
One of the most important organisations for this work is the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, whose 400 members include Chinese intelligence officers. Its stock-in-trade is academic exchanges and conferences, which are used as a way of gaining entry to the most closed circles of a host country.
It holds an annual dialogue with the EU’s Institute for Security Studies in Paris, and has met regularly with influential Washington think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to discuss cyber security.
These dialogues provide opportunities not only to create networks for intelligence gathering, but also shape the thinking of American and European experts, by, for example, presenting China as the victim of cyber intrusions and casting doubt on the U.S.’s ability to attribute hacking to China.
The authors also note that Chinese intelligence agents have posed as think tank staff in order to befriend people overseas and lure them to China for supposedly nefarious purposes.