Terminology

Explanations of key terms and abbreviations.

Defence laboratories

The China Defence Universities Tracker has identified over 160 defence-focused laboratories in civilian universities. It primarily catalogues three types of defence laboratories: national defence science and technology key laboratories (国防科技重点实验室), national defence key discipline laboratories (国防重点学科实验室) and Ministry of Education national defence key laboratories (教育部国防重点实验室).

Many of these defence labs obscure their defence links in official translations of their names. National defence science and technology key laboratories often simply call themselves ‘state key laboratories’ or ‘national key laboratories’. National defence key discipline laboratories are often known as ‘fundamental science’ laboratories. Ministry of Education defence labs are almost always referred to as ‘Ministry of Education Laboratory (B-category)’ (教育部重点实验室(B类)) or simply as Ministry of Education labs.

Designated defence research areas

‘Designated defence research areas’ refers to ‘disciplines with national defence characteristics’ (国防特色学科). Universities supervised by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) can apply to SASTIND to have designated defence research areas approved. These areas reflect the scope of each university’s defence research. Once approved, they are supported by funding from SASTIND and serve as precursors to the establishment of well-funded defence laboratories.

Ministry of Education (MOE)

The Ministry of Education (教育部) oversees China’s education sector and directly administers many of leading universities. It has signed dozens of ‘joint-construction’ agreements with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence to expand universities’ involvement in defence research and training. The ministry also invests in the establishment of ‘Ministry of Education key defence laboratories’ within universities. These laboratories are often simply referred to as Ministry of Education laboratories or ‘B-category’ Ministry of Education laboratories.

Ministry of Public Security (MPS)

The Ministry of Public Security is China’s law enforcement agency. The agency also has intelligence gathering and political security responsibilities, particularly through its Domestic Security Bureau (国内安全保卫局, aka Guobao).https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/18/opinion/murong-xuecun-inside-a-beijing-interrogation-room.html

The MPS is involved in human rights abuses and the suppression of religious freedom.https://bitterwinter.org/jilin-province-launches-program-to-suppress-religious-infiltration-from-abroad/ Its bureaus in Xinjiang were added to the US government’s Entity List in October 2019 for their central role in human rights abuses in the region including the disappearance of an estimated 1.5 million ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities into concentration camps.https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/10/09/2019-22210/addition-of-certain-entities-to-the-entity-list

Ministry of State Security (MSS)

the Ministry of State Security is China’s civilian intelligence and political security agency. The ministry was established in 1983 by merging units responsible for foreign intelligence, economic espionage, counterintelligence, political security and influence work.https://web.archive.org/web/20190826061934/http:/www.chinagwy.org/html/kszc/gj/201309/42_56634.html It has since grown into a well-resourced agency believed to be a prolific perpetrator of cyberattacks and intelligence operations against companies, governments and universities for political influence and economic espionage.https://nationalinterest.org/feature/everything-we-know-about-chinas-secretive-state-security-21459

Security credentials

‘Security credentials’ refers to the ‘weapons and equipment research and production unit secrecy credentials’ (武器装备科研生产单位保密资格) that are awarded to universities and companies. Security credentials are divided into three tiers: first class, second class and third class—roughly equivalent to top secret, secret and confidential clearances, respectively.http://archive.md/RvdZJ The issuing of security credentials is overseen by National Administration of State Secrets Protection (国家保密局), the Central Military Commission Equipment Development Department (中央军委装备发展部) and the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (国防科工局) or their local equivalents.https://web.archive.org/web/20191113010226/http://www.gjbmj.gov.cn/n1/2017/0228/c409082-29113761.html

Security credentials allow their holders to participate in different levels of classified defence and security research and development projects. They indicate a university’s involvement in defence projects, as well as the sensitivity of that work. For example, many procurement notices from the People’s Liberation Army require those submitting tenders to hold security credentials.https://web.archive.org/web/20191113003316/https://www.bidcenter.com.cn/newscontent-78082689-1.html

As of November 2017, over 150 universities had received security credentials.https://web.archive.org/web/20191031002801/http://www.gjbmj.gov.cn/n1/2018/0227/c409091-29837375.html The Tracker has identified eight universities with top-secret security credentials

Seven Sons of National Defence

The Seven Sons of National Defence (国防七子) is a group of universities subordinate to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. They were subordinate to a defence industry agency until 2008 and still count themselves as part of the defence sector. The Seven Sons spend approximately half of their research budgets on defence research. They all hold top-secret security credentials and four of them have been implicated in espionage or violations of export controls. They are Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin Engineering University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beihang University, Northwestern Polytechnical University, Nanjing University of Science and Technology and Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND)

The State Aministration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (国防科技工业局) is an agency subordinate to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). It is a successor to the PLA’s Commission on Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND). SASTIND primarily oversees China’s defence industry, supporting universities, defence conglomerates, nuclear programs and major research projects.https://web.archive.org/web/20191117212747/http://www.gov.cn/fuwu/bumendifangdating/bumendating/guofangkegongju/index.html It plays a central role in implementing military-civil fusion in the university sector by funding defence research and dedicated defence laboratories at universities. In particular, SASTIND has been a supervising agency of at least 61 universities, while its parent agency, MIIT, manages the seven leading civilian universities for defence work—the ‘Seven Sons of National Defence’.

People’s Liberation Army (PLA)

The People’s Liberation Army (中国人民解放军) is the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party. It runs at least 43 military academies, including the National University of Defense Technology (中国人民解放军国防科技大学) and several research institutes.https://web.archive.org/web/20191113013608/http://military.people.com.cn/n1/2017/0629/c1011-29372347.html