China’s spy comic teaches citizens how to catch foreign agents

3 months ago
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China’s spy agency has turned to comics to teach its citizens about catching spies, as the ministry offers rewards for reporting espionage activities.

Ministry of State Security (MSS) released the third installment of its serialized comic series on China’s do-everything app WeChat this Sunday, casting light on the shadowy world of espionage and counter-espionage through the lens of a special investigation division team member going undercover.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has taken a comprehensive view of national security, which includes giving greater authority to spy agencies. The comic series, based on real counter-espionage cases, aims to raise public awareness about the importance of national security.

MSS has launched a public outreach campaign via WeChat in recent months to inform people about the threat posed by foreign intelligence organizations. China considers its bilateral relationship with the U.S. and its allies to be adversarial as Beijing increasingly relies on security agencies to catch spying activity by its adversaries.

MSS is now offering financial rewards to citizens who will inform the police about spies conducting espionage activity in China.

“The national security organs will make a comprehensive assessment to determine the level of the award and will give spiritual or material rewards to those who have played a particularly significant role in preventing, stopping or punishing acts that seriously jeopardize national security and who have made a particularly significant contribution will be given an award of more than RMB 100,000!” said MSS in a WeChat post on February 22. The reward is equivalent to around $14,000.

MSS said in the WeChat post on February 22 that people can be informed by dialing the hotline to the ministry’s offices, reporting the case online via the ministry’s website, saying the case to the ministry’s WeChat account, or reporting the case to local security agencies in their province.

The comic adaptation of a spy thriller by China’s state agency has received extensive attention from Chinese state media. Since the launch of the Ministry of National Security’s official WeChat account in August 2023, it has released 98 articles emphasizing the role of society in national security.

“China’s Ministry of National Security unveiled its first national security-themed comic series on Sunday, adapted from real cases of counter-espionage operations cracked down upon by frontline officers,” Chinese state media outlet Global Times reported on January 7.

“Counter-espionage work requires the mobilization of all parts of society, noting that national security is the foundation of national rejuvenation, while social stability is the prerequisite for national prosperity,” the ministry stated in its first article on WeChat.

The latest episode of the comic, published on Sunday, unfolds with Xiao An, a protagonist from the Secret Special Investigation Division (SPD), taking on the identity of a fresh graduate to infiltrate Sidesheng Information Consultancy, MSS said on WeChat. The comic’s protagonist is tasked with catching spies while acting as an undercover operative working at a consulting agency.

This consulting company becomes a focal point of investigation due to its suspected connections with espionage activities. Xiao An’s foray into the corporate world is fraught with challenges as he navigates through skepticism from his peers and stringent information confidentiality measures that hinder his mission.

Chinese state media have closely followed the comic series while reporting on the twists of Xiao An’s counter-espionage operations.

“The comic, set in the Xishan Mining Area in Jiangzhou, which is a pseudo city, began with a group of suspicious individuals shown conducting exploration and mapping activities while seemingly extracting ore samples secretively,” Global Times reported on February 26.

Chinese experts told Global Times that the focus on mineral resources was to bring attention to the importance of safeguarding the security of key mineral resources.

“The comic aims to illustrate that safeguarding the security of key mineral resources is an integral part of national security and that infiltration, bribery, and espionage activities are involved in the global competition for rare earth minerals,” said one.

“Thank you for the information,” an undercover operative says in the comic by MSS published on Monday, while offering money to an employee at a consulting firm to lure them into sharing information. The employee is later arrested for accepting the cash offer for the information.…Read more by Aadil Brar

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