Rocket Force University of Engineering


The Rocket Force University of Engineering (RFUE) is designated very high risk due for its role in China’s missile program.

RFUE is the PLA strategic missile force’s leading institution for training technical and scientific talent. Students entering the university tend to be university graduates and career members of the PLA Rocket Force.

Defence research conducted by the RFUE focuses on building resilience and capabilities for conventional and nuclear missile strikes. RFUE hosts the Missile Testing and Control Virtual Simulation Experimental Teaching Center (导弹测试与控制虚拟仿真实验教学中心).

The university’s key areas of research include:

  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering and automation
  • Electronic information engineering
  • Communications engineering
  • Construction engineering
  • Flight vehicle propulsion engineering
  • Weapons launch engineering
  • Specialised energy engineering and technology
  • Nuclear engineering and technology
  • Radiation protection and nuclear safety
  • Guidance systems engineering
  • Missile strike command and control engineering
  • Information command systems engineering
  • Early-warning engineering
  • Missile engineering
  • Satellite observation and control engineering

RFUE scientists frequently claim to be from the Xi’an Research Institute of High Technology, a non-existent cover institution. Several scientists have travelled abroad using this cover, including one who was later expelled by the Norwegian government because of the military applications of his research on hypersonic weapons. Over 2,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published by individuals claiming to be from the Xi’an Research Institute of High Technology.

RFUE maintains a variety of partnerships with other institutions in China. In 2004, RFUE and Tsinghua University signed an agreement under which RFUE students train at Tsinghua University. Since then, the two institutions have engaged in regular scientific exchanges and ‘deepened strategic co-operation’. In March 2015, RFUE entered into a cooperative agreement with the Fourth Medical University of the PLA Air Force to collaborate in the provision of psychological services. The agreement covers psychological assessment, testing and education.

Economic espionage and misconduct

The ASPI International Cyber Policy Centre’s 2018 report ‘Picking flowers, making honeySubsequent material is from Alex Joske, ‘Picking Flowers, Making Honey: The Chinese military’s collaboration with foreign universities,’ Policy Brief No. 10/2018, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, accessed from detailed RFUE’s use of cover. For example, in 2008 the director of Missile Testing and Control Virtual Simulation Experimental Teaching Center, Major General Hu Changhua, was a visiting scholar at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. In his publications, he claims to be from the Xi’an Research Institute of High Technology.

‘Picking flowers’ also documented the case of Hu Xiaoxiang, a RFUE scientist who was expelled from Norway:

‘Hu wrote five papers with his supervisor at the University of Agder, all of which listed the Xi’an Research Institute as his affiliation. The papers focused on air-breathing hypersonic vehicles, which travel at over five times the speed of sound and “can carry more payload than ordinary flight vehicles”. Hu’s work was supported by a Norwegian Government grant for offshore wind energy research.

‘Besides his affiliation with the Xi’an Research Institute, there’s a large body of evidence tying Hu to RFEU. The website of RFEU’s missile research centre states that Hu Xiaoxiang won an award in 2014 for his PhD thesis on hypersonic aircraft, supervised by General Hu Changhua. The website also says that in 2014 he received 250,000 renminbi (A$50,000) from the Chinese Government for a three-year research project on hypersonic aircraft. In 2016, he was described as a lecturer at the centre, which received 14 awards for missile research between 2010 and 2014. In some publications, Hu also listed the Harbin Institute of Technology, a civilian university heavily engaged in military research, as a second affiliation.

‘Relations between China and Norway were put on ice when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010, and the Chinese Government was quick to attack Norway for Hu’s expulsion. Only in December 2016 did the two countries “normalise” diplomatic relations. Public statements by Norwegian authorities didn’t explain the Chinese scientist’s military affiliation or mention the Xi’an Research Institute, as the information was likely classified.

‘A few months later, in September 2015, a court overturned the expulsions. Hu’s lawyer stated after the trial that “there is no evidence in the case that my client is part of research collaboration on missiles and weapons with China.” The University of Agder lauded the decision as a win for academic freedom.

‘The Norwegian Government later successfully appealed the overturning of Hu’s supervisor’s expulsion. However, it’s unclear whether any appeal was made in Hu’s own case, which hasn’t been made publicly available. Neither the Xi’an Research Institute, Hu Changhua nor RFEU was mentioned in the judge’s ruling on the German-Iranian supervisor’s case or any coverage of the expulsions.’

Noteworthy international collaborations

RFUE scientists have collaborated with researchers in countries including Australia, Norway, the United States, Singapore, Germany and the United Kingdom. The collaboration has produced over 100 papers on areas including flight control and hypersonic missiles.

Last updated 12 November 2019. Unclear about any wording? Visit the terminology page.