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Tadashi Narabayashi

【#1049】Enact Anti-espionage Law to Prevent Technology Leakage

Tadashi Narabayashi / 2023.06.21 (Wed)

June 19, 2023

A Chinese researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), one of Japan's largest national research and development agencies, was arrested by the Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department on a charge of violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Act by disclosing trade secrets.

The researcher named Quan Hengdao had been working at the AIST since April 2002 and engaged in research on fluoride compounds. He graduated from Nanjing University of Technology, one of the seven national defense schools associated with the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and served for a period of time as a teacher at Beijing Institute of Technology, also one of the seven. He also served as chairman of Shaanxi Shenguang Chemical Industry Co., a Chinese fluorine chemical manufacturing company.

Research data on Japan's advanced technologies flow from the seven national defense schools to companies through the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, which oversees the schools. Over two decades, the AIST failed to find that he was making money at the Chinese company.

Chinese infiltrating Japanese research institutions

Beijing Institute of Technology, where Quan once served as a teacher, is on the “End User List” of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) as a foreign entity for which concern cannot be eliminated regarding involvement in military research covering weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons and missiles. Among fluoride compounds, chlorofluorocarbons are used not only for air conditioners, for which Chinese companies hold a large share of the global market, but also for producing advanced semiconductors. Especially dangerous is high-purity uranium hexafluoride that is used for centrifuges for uranium enrichment and is indispensable for producing nuclear weapons.

During my tenure at Hokkaido University, I chaired a committee on internationally controlled substances, giving lectures to all faculty members on products subject to export restrictions and what they should keep in mind when distributing students and researchers at graduate school laboratories and traveling overseas, and collecting their signatures confirming their understanding of the lectures. At the Tokyo Institute of Technology, all faculty members are obliged to take online courses to prevent research misconduct. As indicated by the AIST incident, however, many Chinese researchers belong to universities and national laboratories, making it difficult to effectively find and prevent their misconduct.

There is an example of a laboratory for advanced technology being dominated by Chinese at Tohoku University. The wave engineering laboratory to use electromagnetic wave phenomena has made world-class achievements in the development of antennas and other devices and has led the practical application of those devices. According to a document prepared early this year, Chinese account for 16 persons or 42% of the 38 members of the laboratory. In particular, 10 out of the 12 doctoral students are graduates from Beijing Institute of Technology and other Chinese “national key universities” qualified by the Chinese government. There are many cases like this where Japanese national universities invest government money for China's development.

Japan, a heaven for spies

Japan is disgracefully called a heaven for spies. When the ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers submitted a bill to the House of Representatives for preventing espionage related to state secrets in 1985, the bill failed to pass due to fierce resistance from opposition parties.

The Science Council of Japan, which opposes Japan's military research, has never issued a warning about the outflow of Japanese technologies to China for their potential diversion to military purposes. Many key members of the academic council participate in research exchange meetings in which the seven Chinese national defense schools take part. For what country does the Science Council of Japan exist? If Japan's advanced technologies leak out to China, the lives of the Japanese people will fail to be protected. Japan is still required to enact an anti-espionage law.

Tadashi Narabayashi is a specially appointed professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a director at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.