There are growing concerns of Chinese espionage with the mainland opening up its eight National Intelligence College on the campus of Hunan University last week. Since January a string of similar training schools opened in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Qingdao and Harbin.
The West is worried at the scale and ability of Chinese intelligence-gathering, with Britain's MI5 saying the Chinese government "represents one of the most significant espionage threats to the UK".
The fears may have some truth to it, as there are allegations China penetrated the British Foreign Office's internal communications network. Until now it was previously thought most of China's espionage activities were limited to academics and students sent to host countries for a short period of time.
It's believed these new spy schools will modernize China's intelligence gathering techniques and recruit 30 to 50 carefully selected undergraduates each year.
The first of the new espionage schools was founded in 2008 with Intelligence College in Nanjing University, while the second one was set up at the end of last year in Guangdong.
"The establishment of an intelligence college at Fudan is in response to the urgent need for special skills to conduct intelligence work in the modern era," said a spokesman for Shanghai's Fudan University. "The college will use Fudan's existing computer science, law, management, journalism and sociology resources and then carry out special intelligence training."
What's interesting is that the university would not disclose where exactly the school is on campus and the students there don't even know about its existence. Now that's top secret.
"China does not have the talents and skills it needs in its intelligence departments," said Cao Shujin, deputy dean of the Zhongshan National Intelligence College. "We needed to set up specific degree courses to fill those requirements."
Cao played down the emergence of the espionage schools, saying the were "nothing for the West to worry about," adding, "This is nothing like the changes going on in the People's Liberation Army. We are just trying to provide the right sort of skills for our requirements."
Sounds like Cao is being cryptic in his comments, but the opening of these schools are definitely something we should watch out for. However, if the spy school administrators do intend to take on existing courses such as journalism, they won't be going far. Many journalism courses are about theory than actual practice.
And when practicing journalists are told to serve the Party first before reporting the news, then you know where priorities lie. Also, young people in China these days are not encouraged to develop critical thinking skills, so how are they to discern good intelligence from bad?
Perhaps its the fundamentals that need more work than the details.