China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law
The N.I.L. is no standard security and spying legislation, concerned principally with preventing the leak of state secrets. Its main thrust isn’t protective; it’s proactive. “All organizations and citizens shall support, assist and cooperate with national intelligence efforts according to the Law,” it says.
Another provision is even more explicit: The state institutions tasked with enforcing the N.I.L. — which also oversee all intelligence and espionage activities, civilian and military — “may demand that relevant organizations and citizens provide necessary support, assistance and cooperation.”
Spying for the state is a duty of the citizens and corporations of China under the law, much like paying taxes.
The N.I.L. offers enticements for compliance: “The state gives commendations and rewards to individuals and organizations that make major contributions to national intelligence efforts.”
The N.I.L. leaves little room for opting out. “Obstructing the work” of China’s intelligence institutions is punishable and may be a criminal offense.
China’s objective is global dominance, and major Chinese companies like Huawei — nurtured strategically, richly resourced and now successfully embedded in the West — are commercial concerns on a political mission.
The United States authorities are correct to point out that Huawei can perform critical commercial, military and diplomatic espionage; actually, Chinese law explicitly requires it to. Yet the law is so stunningly blatant that it may be difficult to take in fully, especially for some in the West.