A Chinese Internet company has taken over management of the Brest Business School in the civilian and military port city of Brest, France, on the western end of the English Channel.
French authorities are closely considering China’s possible intentions, especially given that the Brest naval port serves as a base for nuclear submarines.
In 2016, China’s Weidong Cloud Education Group invested 7 million euros (US$7.85 million at the current exchange rate) in the school and gained a controlling interest. CEO Shen Dai (沈岱) is a native of Beijing who lived in France for 31 years and is a French citizen.
The school has since joined the Alliance of Silk Road Business Schools, which cultivates talent for China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The Weidong Group has branches in a dozen other countries such as Pakistan and it has also acquired the Demos Group — a major French company in the field of professional education and training — which helps students prepare for military-related recruitment exams.
Brest is on the coast of the northwestern region of Brittany. In April last year, French journalist Antoine Izambard published a book titled France-Chine: Les Liasons Dangereuses, in which he observes that female Chinese students in Brest try to get close to people connected with the military, and many of them have gotten married.
These developments are of big concern for France’s intelligence agencies.
There are about 400 military-related companies in Brest, so China’s participation in the school is clearly meant to act as a base for infiltration.
The city’s 140,000 residents include about 23,000 students, so attracting overseas students can make a major contribution to invigorating the local economy.
Western Brittany Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry director-general Meriadec Le Mouillour has said that taking advantage of the Weidong Group’s online education network is a good way of internationalizing, and that the military is responsible for safeguarding its own secrets and preventing espionage.
There is nothing wrong with attracting investors and making money. It is a good thing in itself, but if military secrets are exposed, it can threaten a nation’s survival.
The stated purpose of the Anti-infiltration Act (反滲透法) is precisely to prevent Brest’s painful experience of infiltration from being repeated in Taiwan.
Paul Liu is a retired engineer.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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