Chinese citizens are ordered to spy on the spies

‘Anti-espionage requires the mobilization of the whole society,’ the Ministry of Security warns

Welcome to the 12th edition of Between The Lines. This week we look at the ultimate game of “I Spy” with Chinese characteristics. It is for your eyes only.  Also, we focus on a smartphone crackdown aimed at Chinese kids and a flare-up in the solar panel industry. Let’s get started.

It is an age-old conundrum, who spies on the spies? In China, the Communist Party has ordered every citizen to be on alert after rolling out a country-wide counterespionage law.

A WeChat post from the Ministry of Security illustrated the Orwellian edict. “Anti-espionage requires the mobilization of the whole society!”, it stated on the Twitter-like social media site.

Yet in keeping with the secrecy that swirls around the Party, the law is vague in details. It resembles a “catch-all” piece of legislation that allows “Beijing more power than ever to punish what it deems threats to national security.”

Naturally, the United States and an array of foreign governments are alarmed by the latest move by the CCP. Cue US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller:

Certainly encouraging citizens to spy on each other is something that’s of great concern.

“We are closely monitoring the implementation of China’s new counterespionage law, as we have been, which greatly expands the scope of what activities are considered espionage,” he said.

Major multinational companies appear to be the main target of the oblique law. Last month, the US State Department warned Americans about traveling to China because of “the risk of wrongful detention.” Watch this space. 

Children targeted in smartphone regulations. Photo: Chinese social media

Now Big Brother is watching children

Kids, Big Brother has your number.

Earlier this week, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced plans to limit children under the age of 18 to a “maximum of two hours a day on their smartphones.”

The decision is seen as another ploy to extend the Party’s control on young minds amid President Xi Jinping’s propaganda push. News agency Reuters delved deeper into this latest development:          

The Cyberspace [police] said it wanted providers of smart devices to introduce so-called minor mode programs that would bar users under 18 from accessing the internet on mobile devices from 10 pm to 6 am.

“Providers would also have to set time limits under the proposed reforms. Users aged 16 to 18 would be allowed two hours a day, children aged eight to 16 would get one hour while children under eight would be allowed just eight minutes,” Reuters reported.

The big losers will be in the technology sector. Shares in tech titans, such as Tencent, Bilibili, and Kuaishou, all took a hit after the policy was announced. 

China’s solar sector has come under pressure. Image: File

Flare-up in China’s solar panel sector

Is the sun setting on China’s stranglehold on the solar panel sector? Not yet, it appears. Untangling global supply lines became a priority after Washington “banned products” from the Xinjiang region.

The decision followed accusations by the United States and the United Nations that the Chinese government was committing “human rights violations, including forced labor.”

But a new report revealed that “a vast majority of solar panels made globally continue to have significant ties to China and Xinjiang,” according to The New York Times. It added:

The report said the world’s five biggest solar manufacturers – all with headquarters in China – had ‘high’ or ‘very high’ potential exposure to Xinjiang. 

“Even within ‘clean’ supply chains set up to serve the US or Europe, many companies still appear to be getting raw materials from suppliers that have exposure to Xinjiang,” the NYT said.

Expect another flare-up in the solar panel row.