China exploiting Europe ‘complacency and ignorance’ to build up world-class army

European 'ignorance' is helping China build army says expert

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Sandra Petersmann, who is part of DW Investigations, led a renewed look into the practice of Chinese scientists coming to Western universities to effectively steal military research for the benefit of the People’s Liberation Army under Chinese leader Xi Jinping. She said there is a “grey zone” where Chinese scientists are taking legitimate academic research pioneered in the West and manipulating it for military use, such as to “coordinate lethal drone swarms”. 

Ms Petersmann said: “It’s not like European scholars are actively cooperating with their Chinese colleagues to help China build the world’s most modern army. 

“I would say it’s rather a mixture of complacency, naivety and perhaps at times ignorance. 

“As one security source here in Germany has told us, scientists are living in their very own bubble. 

“They think about advancing research and science and that’s where it stops. 

“Especially when you look at basic research, conducted maybe at the beginning without a clear aim in mind. Blue sky research, per say. 

“But of course that could later turn into a military use. Let’s take a researcher, for example, who is logging onto algorithms to coordinate objects. 

“That, at some point of course, could also be used to coordinate lethal drone swarms and that is the grey zone we have been addressing with the China science investigation.”

China has a history of sending thousands of scientists affiliated with their armed forces to western universities.

The counties of particular interest to China have included those that share intelligence with the US. 

It was alleged in 2018 that these scientists were attending these universities to build a web of research collaboration that could boost China’s military technology development. 

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think-tank partly funded by Australia’s department of defence, reported that 2,500 researchers from Chinese military universities spent time abroad.

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The US shares an intelligence relationship with four other nations known as the “Five Eyes” group. 

It includes the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

Between 2013 and 2018, researchers linked to the People’s Liberation Army published more joint papers with scientists from the UK and the US than with those of any other country.

The findings have concerned Western officials trying to adapt to the rapidly growing military presence of China. 

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