Are you worried that nice guys finish last, or that all your hard work exposing clandestine operations is a waste of time?
Worry no more.
The Beijing government announced Monday it is offering cash rewards of up to half a million yuan (more than $72,000) for anyone who helps expose a spy, state media reported.
An animated video, published by the Beijing State Security Bureau on website thepaper.cn, offers an illustrated guide of what to look out for and how to claim your reward – complete with the motivating message cited above: Handy if you’re not sure what a spy might look like or what they might be after.
The measures are part of a growing campaign to reinforce China’s national security against what the Communist Party sees as rising internal and external threats.
The aim: to motivate citizens to “gradually build up a steel Great Wall against spies and espionage,” according to a statement from the Beijing state security bureau.
“Beijing is the top choice for overseas spy agencies and other hostile forces to conduct activities of infiltration, subversion, division, destruction and information theft,” the statement said.
Two years ago, China set up a national hotline to report spying. Last year, it marked its inaugural National Security Education Day on April 15 with a series of warnings about spying, including a comic-book poster warning young female government workers about dating handsome foreigners, who could turn out to have sinister motives.
On Monday, the Beijing City National Security Bureau said its rewards range from 10,000 to 500,000 yuan ($1,500 to $72,000) for information on spies.
The official Beijing Daily newspaper said the “pressing” need for new measures was a consequence of the country’s reform and opening up.
“Foreign intelligence organs and other hostile forces have also seized the opportunity to sabotage our country through political infiltration, division and subversion, stealing secrets and collusion,” the newspaper added.
However, since the reform process began nearly four decades ago, that explanation might not appear entirely convincing.
Li Fan, founder of World and China Institute, a private think-tank, noted the new rules had been issued just days after President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping had vowed to strengthen social and cultural exchanges between the two countries.
“This is absolutely inexplicable and absurd,” he said. “I don’t know what the government is thinking about.”
Under Xi’s presidency, China has passed a series of laws designed to strengthen national security and cybersecurity, combat terrorism and regulate foreign non-governmental organizations.
The government has also cracked down hard on domestic civil society groups, lawyers and journalists, and is engaged in a war what it sees as dangerous “Western values” such as free speech and democracy, promoted by “hostile foreign forces” aiming to subvert Communist Party rule.
Li said the new rules could fuel mistrust towards foreigners in Beijing, including journalists.
“How can foreign media report here?” he asked. “If you take a photo on the street, somebody will report you as a hostile foreign spy. People will be more cautious to talk to foreign media.”
Li said the instructions reminded him of the Cultural Revolution, a tumultuous decade in the history of Communist China when husbands, wives and children were encouraged to denounce each other.
The Beijing government warned spies might be working with employees of state organizations to harm China’s national interests, encouraging people to defect or buying state secrets.
Discovering equipment such as recording or monitoring devices could bring additional rewards, it said.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Simon Denyer