Since Ukraine rejected China’s bid to acquire a majority stake in Ukrainian aviation company Motor Sich and imposed sanctions on Chinese individuals and entities involved in the transaction, Beijing has reportedly used covert tactics to acquire Ukrainian military technology.
In one of his blogs for the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), political analyst Valerio Fabbri discusses how Chinese intelligence is veiled in mystery. Even security experts are frequently in the dark about how it works.
Unlike the common method of deploying professional spies, Beijing employs the “Thousand Grains of Sand” technique to use Chinese students, scholars studying and working overseas, tourists, and even businesses for intelligence collection.
According to Fabbri, Chinese intelligence relies on a vast global social system, a non-professional and informal intelligence network. This huge network would collect intelligence in areas of Beijing’s military, economic, and sociopolitical priorities.
Last year, the Ukrainian intelligence service (SBU) detained a foreign citizen operating under the guise of a public organization in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
The man was accused of engaging in espionage to obtain classified information in the field of material science for military goals.
“Although the SBU never disclosed the nationality of the foreign citizen, photos taken during the search and later released by the SBU show ID cards with the words ‘Sino-Ukrainian Centre’ in the Russian language. All bring to believe that the arrested person is a Chinese citizen, who reportedly worked under the cover of the public organisation ‘China-Ukraine Centre’ for Economic and Cultural Cooperation, operating in the city since 2007”.
ANI News said Kharkiv is important to Ukrainian enterprises dealing with defense technology such as tank engines and other hardware. Noticeably, China supplies Ukrainian T-80UD engines to Pakistan, which are then used in this country’s manufactured Al-Khalid-series tanks.
Furthermore, Chinese-Pakistani VT-1A tanks use 6TD-2 engines which are also produced by companies in Kharkiv.
With this background, Fabbri said that Ukraine should perhaps be aware of Chinese mechanisations and reinforce its counter-intelligence apparatus accordingly.