Beijing may have better surveillance access to Africa than anywhere else in the world. Chinese companies have constructed or renovated (or both) at least 186 sensitive African government buildings; Chinese telecommunications firms have built at least 14 intra-governmental, “secure” telecommunications networks; and the Chinese government has gifted computers to at least 35 African governments. As the world leader in economic espionage and foreign influence operations, Beijing almost certainly uses its engagements in Africa to surveil American and African officials and business leaders. The Chinese government could use the information it harvests to advantage its companies competing against American and other firms, glean insights into U.S. security assistance and counterterrorism programs, and recruit or influence senior African government officials. The U.S. should, among other efforts, work to understand the nature of Chinese surveillance and how it contributes to Beijing’s influence operations, educate U.S. companies on the risks, and train its officials on techniques to complicate Beijing’s information gathering in Africa.
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