June 12, 2021

Why are Chinese fishermen finding so many ‘submarine spies’?

At first it seems like a quirky, what-are-the-chances-of-that headline: “China rewards fishers who netted foreign spy devices.”

But behind that headline in Chinese state media, there is a different – and more intriguing – story.

Firstly, this wasn’t two or three fishermen receiving awards. It was 11 – one woman, the rest men – who found seven devices in total.

Secondly, this wasn’t the first time fishermen from Jiangsu had found “spy drones”. In 2018, some 18 were rewarded for finding nine devices. There was also a ceremony a year earlier.

And thirdly, the rewards were huge – up to 500,000 yuan ($72,000; £55,000) – around 17 times the average disposable income in China.

So where do the “submarine spies” come from? What do they do? Why are they valuable?

And why are Chinese fishermen finding so many?

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