University of International Relations


The Beijing-based University of International Relations (UIR) is designated very high risk for its affiliation with the MSS, China’s civilian intelligence agency.

UIR claims was established in 1949 under the direction of then Premier Zhou Enlai. In 1964 it was designated as a ‘national key university’, and this appears to be the evidence it uses to claim it is a Ministry of Education university. ; National Key Universities are administered directly by the MoE, However, the university does not appear on the Ministry of Education’s list of subordinate universities.

Individuals formerly and presently affiliated with the university have also held affiliations with the MSS or the MSS-linked think tank the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (中国现代国际关系研究院). They include Geng Huichang (耿惠昌), a former Minister of State Security (2007-2016) and vice minister of State Security (1998-2007). Prior to this he was the head of  China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations from 1992 to 1998. From 1990 to 1992, he was the director of UIR’s American Research Department and from 1985-1990 he was deputy director of the American Research department.  Notably, current UIR President Tao Jian is also a former CICIR vice-president and a UIR graduate.

UIR gives the MSS a way to work with foreign universities and academics to shape and learn about perceptions of the PRC’s views on security. It also provides a platform for the MSS to identify talent, recruit officers and collect intelligence.

The university’s Hangzhou campus, also known as the Zhejiang Second People’s Police School, may carry out more practical training of MSS officers and has been described on a local government website as ‘specialising in training special talent’. Some graduates of the Hangzhou campus have moved straight into MSS positions. The Hangzhou campus works closely with Zhejiang University on teaching and research. ;

Economic espionage and misconduct

UIR trains intelligence officers and may support intelligence operations through targeting and open-source research.

Noteworthy international collaborations

UIR exchanges students with Aalborg University in Denmark, Marietta College in the United States, Université Toulouse 1 Capitole in France, and Hiroshima University, Hiroshima City University and Ibaraki University in Japan. On its website, UIR also lists the University of Massachusetts Boston, as well as universities in Israel, Portugal, Argentina and South Africa as partners. Author Dan Golden detailed UIR’s relationship with Marietta College and the University of Massachusetts Boston in his book Spy Schools.

It is likely that many of these universities are unaware of UIR’s ties to the MSS. A 2018 report revealed that Aalborg University only learned of UIR’s intelligence links in 2014, four years after it signed an exchange agreement with the university. Aalborg University has not terminated its agreement with UIR and decided in 2014 that it was unnecessary to warm students about the risks associated with studying at UIR.

Last updated 25 November 2019. Unclear about any wording? Visit the terminology page.