German researchers are cooperating with China’s military
In recent years, a number of German researchers have cooperated with military or military-related partners in China. As early as 2018, an Australian think tank found that Germany cooperates particularly frequently with units of the People’s Liberation Army.
US security expert Jeff Stoff explains that not much has changed in principle in a report, which the Center for Research Security and Integrity, which he founded, published this Thursday. “Scientific cooperation with the People’s Republic of China is increasingly at risk of supporting China’s military modernization – even through basic research,” he says.
Stoff, who has long worked for the US government and most recently for the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has extensively analyzed articles by researchers in Germany and China – and identified hundreds from the years 2016 to May 2022 in which representatives of military organizations participated such as the China Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), which is responsible for developing atomic bombs, or institutes such as the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (CARDC), which conducts research into hypersonic weapons. Scientists are often unaware of the partners’ backgrounds, says Stoff. His report does not specifically address crimes such as espionage.
The Central Military Commission as funder
Almost all major German universities and research organizations as well as many companies and some state institutions are mentioned in the report. According to the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM): Employees have published several articles on the flame and explosion behavior of various mixtures of substances – with researchers from the CARDC and institutions of the People’s Liberation Army.
“BAM does not conduct military research,” it says on request; the federal institute was based on the guidelines of the Leopoldina or the German Research Foundation (DFG). In two out of seven of the articles mentioned in the report, the work of an employee has no direct connection to BAM – five deal with fire and explosion protection in the civil sector. “Due to the political developments in China”, however, cooperation with local institutions is being examined.
In some publications, only Chinese bodies are mentioned as sponsors. This is also the case with an article by an employee of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt: The study was funded by China’s Central Military Commission, co-authors also come from institutions close to the military.
The money did not flow to the Federal Office and there is no cooperation, explains a spokesman for the Federal Institute – the Chinese main author was a guest, she researched the spread of heat in insulating materials that could be used in buildings in the future. “Therefore, the topic was classified as unproblematic.” The study names flight technology as the first area of application. The employee was listed as the author without his consent – but because he was able to share the content of the article, no objection was later made.