The China Defence Universities Tracker is a database of Chinese institutions engaged in military or security-related science and technology research. It was created by ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre.
The Tracker was first launched in November 2019, along with a policy report. The Tracker was then updated in May 2021. This update – explained in detail here – includes the addition of 15 new civilian universities and updates to existing university entries.
The Tracker now includes entries on nearly 100 civilian universities, 50 People’s Liberation Army institutions, China’s nuclear weapons program, three Ministry of State Security institutions, four Ministry of Public Security universities, and 12 state-owned defence industry conglomerates.
The updated Tracker – and accompanying report – continue to be a tool that enables universities, governments, the business community and scholars to conduct due diligence as they engage with entities from China. It has attracted a global audience, with enormous traffic coming from both the US and China, followed by Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, the UK, Germany, Singapore, France, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Russia and India. With this audience, the Tracker aims to build understanding of the implications of China’s expanding military-civil fusion in the global education sector.
The Tracker should be used to inform due diligence of Chinese institutions, however, the fact that an institution is not included here does not indicate that it should not raise risks or is not involved in defence research. Similarly, entries in the database may not reflect the full range and nature of an institution’s defence and security links.
Research for the Tracker was undertaken over the course of 2019. It focused on identifying key indicators of defence and security links at each university and developing reliable methods for evaluating those links. Institutions were included in the project for their military links, security links or known connection to human rights abuses or espionage. This research primarily used online Chinese-language resources from universities or Chinese government agencies. We have attempted to archive all online sources using Wayback Machine or archive.today.
Areas for further research
While the China Defence Universities Tracker includes entries on roughly 160 universities, companies and research institutes, it is far from comprehensive. We intend to update and expand the Tracker when possible.
In particular, there is room for further research on the Chinese Academy of Sciences and its dozens of subordinate research institutes, many of which are involved in defence research. 12 of China’s defence conglomerates are included in the database, but their hundreds if not thousands of subsidiaries have not been publicly catalogued. Private companies and other major suppliers of equipment to the military and security apparatus have not been included in this project. Further research on the role of universities in supporting state surveillance and companies that develop surveillance technology used in human rights abuses would be valuable.
The Tracker was built by a team of analysts including Alex Joske, Charlie Lyons Jones, Audrey Fritz, Elsa Kania and Dr Samantha Hoffman with fact-checking from analysts including Emily Weinstein, technical support from Jerry Cashman and administrative support from Louisa Bochner.
The China Defence Universities Tracker has been supported by funding from the US Department of State’s Global Engagement Center.
This page updated: May 2021