Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Paranoia Or Good Sense? Official 'How To Spot A Spy' Folk Manual Circulates In China

Foreign espionage plots are targeting Chinese college students, says China state media.

(Photo : Reuters) Foreign espionage plots are targeting Chinese college students, says China state media.

Once considered a bit over the top, even in state-run circles, a "how to spot a spy" manual was gaining traction this week in China.

Officially titled the "China Folk Counterespionage Manual," this how-to tome offers tips to Chinese citizens on how to detect spies in their midst. It's emerged again on Chinese social media sites with some saying what seemed absurd when it first circulated now seems more accurate. While it has no official author, most believe it to have been created by official state-run sources.

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Its increasing popularity after several sub rosa years in circulation may be attributable to current political thinking on the Communist state. The government recently has emphasized internal security, with a new emphasis on rooting out foreign spies.

Chinese media ran exposes of Taiwan supposedly recruiting mainland students to spy when they returned home. President Xi Jinping just signed an updated national security law.

The state-run Global Times recently cited the counterespionage manual during coverage in August of a Canadian couple, Julia and Kevin Garratt, who were detained in Dandong, on the North Korea border, on suspicion of stealing military secrets.

Global Times said the Canadians were a perfect example of spies walking around pretending to be regular citizens. They have been released from prison, but remain under investigation.

According to the China Folk Counterespionage Manual, "On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog. Or a hostile foreign force."

The manual deals a lot with university settings saying people should be suspicious of socially active students who suddenly have more money. "Illogical science majors" who are overly involved in politics are suspicious as are folk who say the word "people's" should be removed from any official Chinese organization, entity or holiday name.

Spies try to provoke or lull people on military websites in an effort to trick them into revealing information, according to the guide. They share poor quality information to see of somebody corrects them with updated information. They lure people into their own fake sites.

All in all, the manual urges citizens to look out for spies and report them immediately to authorities should someone engage in suspicious behavior.

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