During World War, women played a vital and often overlooked role in espionage. From gathering intelligence on the front lines to serving as secret agents in enemy territory, women spies in World War were instrumental in helping the Allies win the war. Their bravery and ingenuity paved the way for future generations of women in intelligence and national security. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the fascinating and often daring stories of these incredible women spies. Let’s begin!
Can women make good spies?
In what capacity, if so?
These were the questions that an MI5 officer, Britain’s domestic counterintelligence organisation, Maxwell Knight, kept thinking about. The start of World War II and the blitzkrieg baptism of Europe were happening outside his office. The intelligence community was still exclusively a male realm in England and around the world and an exclusive, upper-class one. Yet, as Knight was going to point out, a female spy might prove helpful.
How did it all begin?
It was a dark moment for Britain and her European allies in the war during the summer of 1941. Britain was at risk because Germany had taken control of most of Europe and was bombing essential cities around the nation in what became known as the Blitz. This increased the significance of the Special Operations Executive’s (SOE) missions and the contributions of three significant women inside it.
This was also when both sides of the war needed tremendous personnel and soldiers. This constant need for labour gave women new opportunities, and the American military created separate branches for women for the first time. A hitherto male-only profession, espionage, became officially open to women in the United States and other countries.
Now let’s come back to SOE…
Special Operations Executive
The SOE was a volunteer organisation founded in London in June 1940 to wage a covert fight behind enemy lines. Winston Churchill, the then British prime minister, is renowned for having instructed SOE agents to “light Europe ablaze” through espionage, sabotage, and establishing a resistance network in occupied Europe.
The SOE employed dozens of women as spies, notably the American operative Virginia Hall and the Indian-British radio operator Noor Inayat Khan. Both these ladies collaborated with Vera Atkins, the intelligence officer in charge of SOE’s F Section, which was in charge of selecting and deploying agents into France.
By the time of the D-Day assaults on June 6, 1944, the SOE, based on Baker Street in the heart of London and also known as “The Baker Street Irregulars,” “Churchill’s Secret Army,” and the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,” had sent 39 women to occupied France. F Section sought after agents who could speak French and fit in with French culture since they needed to avoid being discovered. Each agent received a codename or alias and training in specialised subjects such as wireless operation (as Khan did), keeping a cover narrative going, how to burgle and pick locks, and other related topics.
The United States founded the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1942 as the country’s first autonomous intelligence organisation. The OSS was created to conduct espionage and intelligence gathering, a contemporary of Britain’s SOE. Women were covertly hired to process top-secret transmissions from the field and work on other topics of classified intelligence based on the performance of female intelligence employees in the Special Operations Executives (SOE). Some elite female agents dispatched to serve in the field were trained at SOE intelligence schools. Perhaps you’ve heard of Julia McWilliams – the most well-known female OSS worker who rose from secretary to senior intelligence officer!
The Unsung Women Spies in World War I
Women have always been crucial components of the intelligence community because they might frequently eavesdrop, run messages, or convey information without getting recognised and questioned as men would have been. Spying wasn’t viewed as glamorous until after the Bond myth took hold. The Alice Network, which a woman directed, was the most effective spy ring during World War I. She was called the Queen of Spies and was named Louise de Bettignies.
Queen of Spies – Louise de Bettignies
Louise was born in France to a working-class industrial family. She was intelligent and multilingual, but like many other educated but impoverished women of the time, she chose the Jane Eyre route and supported herself by working as a governess for several aristocratic European households. When war broke out, Louise was in France. Shortly after, while visiting England, she was picked up by British intelligence, who quickly picked up on her sharp wit and her proficiency in French, German, and English.
After her return, Louise established a network of sources in German-occupied northern France. Her sources included men, women, and even children who would gather intelligence about the enemy, including troop counts, train schedules, and artillery positions.
Yet another story is that of Julia McWilliams, better known as Julia Child, the leading chef.
Julia Child – A French Chef & A Spy
In 1941, the 29-year-old Julia McWilliams had just one dream – to fight for her nation, United States, in World War II. Unfortunately, she was rejected from the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES) in the Navy and the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in the Army because of her height of 6-foot-2.
But someone recognised her abilities and was offered a position in the Secret Intelligence division at the Office of Strategic Services, which was the predecessor to the CIA. During this time, a Captain Harold J. Coolidge in the Special Projects Division of the Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment (ERE) Section, was looking for a team to create a shark repellent to coat explosives and ensure the pilots’ safety in water. Little did young Julia know then – this ‘recipe’ would be the first recipe she would work on!
My first big recipe was shark repellant that I mixed in a bathtub for the Navy, for the men who might get caught in the water
– Julia in an interview in 2012
Since the beginning of the conflict, American Naval officers have been the target of numerous shark attacks. Moreover, curious sharks frequently detonate bombs meant to harm adversarial groups. The OSS was charged with developing a shark deterrent for military underwater operations. Following a year of field testing and extensive trial-and-error with over 100 different compounds, including poisons, organic acids, and even rotting shark meat, the study team, which included Julia Child, discovered that copper acetate was the most efficient repellant.
Julia also worked for the US Army’s civilian Aviation Warning Service, which was responsible for keeping watch over foreign planes entering American airspace. She made a big impact in at the OSS and served her country with all her might.
The role of women has always been undervalued in the spy world, always undermined in terms of recognition.
It’s a world that needs women.
Throughout the war, women took advantage of the assumption that they were more covert than males and completed duties and missions that men could not finish. According to an SOE dispatch from Holland, women could transmit critical communications covertly in the field since they were rarely questioned and inspected at checkpoints in 1944.
Women Spies in World War – Closing Remark
In some cases, female spies played up to feminine notions of fragility or helplessness to escape difficult situations. According to historian Juliette Pattinson, “many wartime reports show that male agents were less innovative and inventive than their female counterparts,” as she writes in Behind Enemy Lines: Gender, Passing, and the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War.
The Brilliant Landing at Inchon – Retaking Seoul
A crucial occasion during the Korean War was the 1950 landing at Inchon. To retake Seoul which had been lost to North Korean forces earlier in the conflict, the United Nations (UN) forces that were principally headed by the US, carried out the Brilliant Landing at Inchon or Operation Chromite.
Operation Chromite or ‘Inchon Landing’ was a massive amphibious attack on Korea’s western coast, close to the port city of Inchon.
Why was Inchon selected for the military operation?
Because the port city of Inchon was strategically significant on the Korean Peninsula’s western coast and it also offered easy access to Seoul.
A brief glimpse into the September 15, 1950 Landings
The landing at Inchon took place on September 15, 1950.
The Korean War, which started on June 25, 1950, when North Korean forces invaded South Korea, was at a crucial point during this time. The North Koreans had made significant territorial gains in South Korea, and the UN forces aimed to change the course of the conflict.
The main goal of the Inchon landing was to retake Seoul, which had been lost to North Korean forces earlier in the conflict. The landing was purposefully timed to catch the North Koreans off guard and cut off their supply lines to drive them out of South Korea. The goal of the UN forces in retaking Seoul was to change the tide of the conflict and undermine the North Korean regime’s control over the nation.
A combination of military and political considerations led to the landing at Inchon. Regaining Seoul would have a profound psychological impact, raising South Koreans’ spirits and eroding the legitimacy of the North Korean government. Controlling Inchon’s harbour would also give the UN forces a logistical advantage and make resupply and reinforcement more straightforward.
How was the Event planned and executed?
General Douglas MacArthur, the head of the UN troops was in charge of planning operations. MacArthur’s brilliant and daring plan included an unexpected amphibious assault at Inchon.
As the operation was to be coordinated between the Navy, Army and Airforce, the planning stage was the most crucial. General MacArthur and his team had to evaluate the topography, currents, tides, intelligence-gathering efforts, and the most suitable landing areas.
Naval and Air Support – To provide naval gunfire support and air cover, a maritime task force comprised of aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and other support vessels was organized. The naval troops were essential in weakening enemy defences and offering assistance during the landing.
Amphibious Assault – A combined force of US, South Korean, and other UN troops made the landing. The US 7th Infantry Division and other units assisted the US 1st Marine Division as it led the amphibious assault. Landing craft, amphibious vehicles, and helicopters were all used during the landing.
Reason for the Massive Success of the Inchon Landing Operation
The landing at Inchon was seen as being extremely effective for several reasons. Its strategic brilliance, use of surprise, careful planning, efficient deployment of combined arms, and quick seizure of Seoul all played a part in its victory. The operation significantly weakened North Korea’s position while turning the tide of the Korean War in favour of the UN forces and boosting their morale. In terms of successful amphibious assaults in military history, the Inchon landing stands out.
Overcoming Obstacles – The Inchon landing encountered many obstacles, including dangerous tidal currents and shallow waters. But with careful planning and preparation, the UN forces were able to get over these challenges and establish a beachhead at Inchon.
Speed and cooperation – After securing the beachhead, the UN forces moved quickly ashore while exhibiting superb collaboration between ground, naval, and air elements. Their speed and momentum dislodged the North Korean defences, allowing Seoul to be retaken soon.
Psychological Impact – The success of the Inchon landing had a profound psychological effect on the North Korean government and the UN forces. The North Koreans were caught off guard and forced into retreating, lowering their confidence and raising the UN troops’ confidence.
The 1950 landing at Inchon had major significance and considerably influenced how the Korean War developed.
Inchon Landing’s most crucial aspects and effects
Turning Point in Korean War – The Inchon landing was a significant turning point in the conflict. The UN forces were pushed to the Pusan Perimeter in the southeast of the Korean Peninsula by North Korean forces who had made significant progress before the landing, taking Seoul. These gains were undone by the success of the Inchon landing, which also altered the tide of the conflict in the UN forces’ favour.
Recapture Seoul – One of the main goals of the Inchon landing was to retake Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The operation was a success, as it not only inflicted a crushing blow to the North Korean soldiers but also raised the spirits of the people of South Korea and called into question the legitimacy of the North Korean government.
Strategic Disruption – The unexpected invasion at Inchon cut off North Korea’s communication and supply routes. It effectively cut off the southward-moving North Korean forces from their sources of reinforcement and assistance, weakening their position.
Coalition Warfare – The Inchon landing demonstrated the value of coalition warfare and international cooperation. It involved a multinational force, principally led by the United States, consisting of South Korean and other UN soldiers. The operation’s success illustrated the power of integrated processes and the capacity to manage different forces in a way that advances a single goal.
Psychological Victory – The success of the Inchon landing had a profound psychological effect on both sides of the fight. The UN forces’ confidence and morale increased because they viewed the operation as a significant triumph. On the other hand, it demoralized the North Korean soldiers, who were surprised and suffered a severe blow.
Geographical Consequences – The success of the Inchon landing had wider geopolitical consequences. It highlighted the tenacity and strength of the UN forces, mainly the US, in halting the expansion of communism in the early Cold War. Additionally, the operation garnered global attention and altered public impressions of the UN soldiers’ might and will.
Fighting the Chinese Aggression – Repercussions of Landing at Inchon
The Inchon landing was a tactical victory but had unexpected repercussions. As a result of the UN’s subsequent move towards China’s border, the war in China was heavily intervened in, sharply increasing and lengthening its duration.
Despite being generally viewed as successful, the Inchon landing has drawn some criticism. The UN forces were placed in difficult situations and well-reinforced enemy positions, according to critics, who claim that the manoeuvre was high-risk and foolhardy. It has been noted that a lack of coordination and communication among military units and intelligence breakdowns resulted in an underestimation of the North Korean forces’ power. Concerns have been voiced regarding the operation’s overconfidence and arrogance and its neglect of other fighting fronts. Critics have also pointed out the civilian deaths and destruction brought on by the attack and the accompanying combat. Despite these criticisms, the Inchon landing remains among the pivotal moments in the Korean War since it succeeded in retaking Seoul and changed the tide of the war.
Malign India – Hidden Agenda Behind Qatar Arrests
Eight Indian personnel who were working with the private company Dahra Global Technology & Consulting Services, were detained in Doha (Qatar) on 30th August 2022. Though the formal charges against have still not been disclosed by the Qatar authorities, certain national and international media have started presuming the Indians guilty without reason and tainting the country’s image amidst the G20 summit that was happening in India this year!
Dahra Global’s Contract & Dealings with Qatar Navy
Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy services is a private company owned by a former Oman Air Force Officer Khamis al-Ajmi. The Qatar-based defence company was contracted to work with Qatari Emiri Navy to establish a navy base and train its soldiers. Therefore, the company had hired retired Naval specialists from India for the project.
In August 2022, the Qatar State Security detained 8 of these Indian employees. The CEO of the company, Khamis Al Ajmi was also detained but was released within a few days. 10 months since, the reason of the arrest of the employees as well as the release of CEO still remain shrouded in mystery.
Another controversial aspect of this incident is the way it became public. The arrest only came to light when a Twitter user (supposedly a relative of one of the Indians accused) requested assistance of the Indian government.
Disinformation & Agenda-driven Fake News
A few media outlets have claimed that the reason of arrest is the stealing information of Qatar’s secret submarine project. It is alleged that the Gulf nation is working on a super-secret project to develop advanced near-future submarines with Italy-based company Fincantieri. However Fincantieri spokesperson vehemently denies building or planning to build any submarines for the Qatari Navy.
Till now there is neither any proof nor any verdict on the stealing of information, but the allegations have been unduly amplified in the media outlets, especially in Pakistan news outlets. Further, Pakistani news outlets ‘The Express Tribune’ and ‘The News International’ have also reported that the detained Indians have been given the death penalty by Qatar court, which is baseless. There are other news outlets that published clickbait stories in the last two months acting completely on speculations and citing each other on this certain incident.
Though these types of tactics are not new to India, their numbers have increased in past months as India took the presidency for the global G20 summits in 2023.
In contrast to Pakistan’s economic crisis and political chaos, India has been emerging as one of the most powerful players in Asia. Which is why Pakistan through print and digital media (especially social media like YouTube) has increased attacks on India by spreading disinformation and fake news. India’s development has earned appreciation globally. And the successful presidency of the G20 too demonstrates its ability to provide leadership on the global stage and navigate complex challenges. All this no doubt irks the neighbour which is battling financial, social, political and moral crisis at home.
Present Situation on Qatar’s detention of Indians
India’s embassy in Qatar has been in touch with Qatari authorities and has gotten consular access to the detained Indian nationals. The embassy is also providing robust legal support for the eight men. The first hearing of the trial was held on March 29, followed by a second hearing on May 3rd, 2023.
The situation after the second hearing stands at this –
- Second Hearing Adjourned – As the defence attorney was not given access to the required documents, the second hearing that was scheduled on May 3rd (yesterday) has been adjourned. The date for the next hearing is not known yet.
- No formal charges on the Indians yet – It is now almost 10 months since they were first detained, however the Qatar authorities are yet to inform India & their families of the charges under which they have been imprisoned.
- CEO establishes new company and dissolves Dahra Global – As per the investigations done by The Sunday Guardian, the CEO of Dahra Global, Retired Omani Air Force Squadron Leader Khamis Al Ajmi with the help of two French nationals has set up a new company called Advanced Services and Maintenance. This company is in the process of taking over all the assets owned by Dahra, including office buildings, contracts and non-Indian employees.
- All Indian nationals employed with the company have been sacked.
WAR OF NATIONS (II): CHINA’S FORGOTTEN CHALLENGE IN THE EAST
For most Chinese, memory of relations with Japan is a reminder of “Century of Humiliation” (1839 -1939). The two Sino-Japanese wars (1894-95 and 1937-45) in particular are amongst the most mortifying tales for the people of China. The defeat of Japan in WW2 and its subsequent demilitarisation was a big relief for the CCP, as its toughest adversary was silenced.
Japan’s pacifism and downgrading military to ‘Self Defence Force’ provided a sense of security to Chinese planners, but their leadership always regarded Japan as a sleeping demon, which should not be disturbed. Thus, China was never too vocal about territorial issues with Japan (Senkaku Islands) and its military kept misadventures in Japanese waters/ airspace under check. They knew that the military might of Japan is leashed by a frail rope of ‘Article 9 of Japanese Constitution’ – a rope bound to break in due course of time. Deep in their hearts, China’s naval leadership was expecting Japan to emerge as a competitor in the near seas in future, but was hoping that it will not happen in their time. However, the recent misadventures of Shandong Carrier Battle Group near Miyako Islands set the records straight.
Japan Flexing Muscles
Xi Jinping’s leadership marked CCP’s obstinance of Taiwan’s reunification and insatiable desire for expansion. China’s behaviour, declining American supremacy and emerging geopolitical situation seems to have made Japan uncertain about the existing security mechanism.
In December 2022 Japan issued ‘Three Strategic Documents’ to highlight the need for reviewing existing policy of maintaining “only counter attack capabilities”. It also emphasized the need to build realistic expertise to safeguard against the increasing Chinese aggression in Indo-Pacific region. This document was supported by a 26.3% year over year increase in defence budget.
Following this, Japan’s political/military leadership have started discussions on inducting nuclear capabilities and reviewing the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” (TNNP) of the nation. Induction of nuclear submarines is being discussed with greater momentum. Apart from this, extending use of Japanese Bases for USA’s nuclear weapon carrying aircraft and submarines has already commenced.
At sea, Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) is complementing the spirit of the “Three Strategic Documents”. They have started aggressively challenging Chinese Navy and Coast Guard ships operating close to Senkaku Islands and Okinawa. Before the recent Shandong incident, JMSDF had forced a Chinese submarine to surface and raise flag near Senkaku Islands. And operation of F-35 B fighters from the Japanese Ship Izumo could be signalling towards induction of Aircraft Carriers in future.
These incidents are an indication of JMSDF’s commitment to challenge PLA navy’s unlawful actions. The message is clear – Japan will no longer be a spectator to China’s ‘might is right’ tactics.
Why is Chinese Navy Nervous?
Retired Vice Admiral Toshiyaki Ito, former Chief of JMSDF, have highlighted China’s weaknesses in defensive operations like Anti-Submarine and Mine Warfare. As per him, Chinese strategy is based on “Active Defence” or A2AD using shore based ballistic missiles to keep adversary out of first island chain. Japan as an opponent in the ‘decisive’ war has not been catered in their strategy, but now it is emerging as a new challenge.
Another Japanese strategist, Professor Toshi Yoshihara (US Naval War College) feels that the way JMSDF is building its procedures and inventory, using combination of submarines, mines, asymmetric attacks and shore-based antiship missiles/fighters, they can easily tie down Chinese Navy inside the first chain and restrict their freedom of movement in East China Sea.
JMSDF is a world leader in the field of Anti-Submarine and Mine Warfare. It operates some of the best conventional submarines in the world, and has inherited finest war fighting traditions from the Imperial Japanese Navy. JMSDF maintains close relations with the best Navies in the world including that of US, India, South Korea and Australia, all of whom are being challenged by China and therefore are keen to partner with each other. Japan’s geographic location, technological superiority, maritime power and a new political outlook, coupled with strength it derives from capabilities of its partners makes it an extremely dangerous opponent for China.
74th Naval Anniversary Should Be More Than Just Cake Cutting
It is evident that Japan is emerging as a new challenge for China. JMSDF has always been a highly professional and potent Navy, but was reluctant to display its prowess. But geopolitical uncertainty and China’s actions has forced Japan to re-think. China’s overall strategy does not cater for an aggressive Japan and Chinese Navy is unprepared for a powerful opponent in their backyard (possibly with Aircraft Carriers and Nuclear Submarines in the near future). If Japan goes nuclear, the power balance in North Pacific will topple and first to be affected will be China.
In this backdrop, Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or QUAD Alliances also assumes significance. While so far the QUAD has strayed clear of portraying itself as a military coalition, it nevertheless remains an ‘alliance in being’ of like-minded partners facing the China menace. Across the wide Indo-Pacific canvas, there is perceptible discomfort in the manner in which China has chosen to portray its rise. With India increasingly being viewed as a natural ally in the Indian Ocean and Japan shedding its ‘Self Defence Force’ image, China’s freedom of adventure in the Indo-Pacific will certainly be challenged.
On its 74th Anniversary, the Chinese Navy must do more than just ‘Cake Cutting’. It is time to finally display respect for international law and exchange courtesies with other countries as is expected from a world power that it claims to be.
China Information Warfare & The Largest Spy Network
China information warfare capabilities have been a subject of concern and study by various analysts and experts. The Chinese government has recognized the importance of information warfare and has invested significant resources into developing and expanding its capabilities in this domain.
“Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine”
So said Peter Sondergaard, Senior Vice President of Gartner Research…And no country has embraced this reality more fervently than China.
The Chinese government has made it clear that they aspire to be the world leader in technology and data, and its efforts to gather, analyse, and control information have been relentless. They have ensured their stronghold in information gathering through variety of means like surveillance, espionage, businesses & overseas projects and unwarranted data collection both domestically and internationally. But that’s not the only things that’s interesting – the Chinese government has been very successful in using this data (gathered through illicit means) to launch targeted attacks and propaganda campaigns within China and outside.
Domestic Surveillance: Censorship and Social Credit System
China has become notorious for its extensive and highly sophisticated surveillance system, which monitors millions of Chinese citizens in real time. The scale of the system is unprecedented, and the misuse of this technology has raised significant ethical concerns. This discusses the scope of China’s surveillance apparatus, instances of misuse, and how the social credit system works in conjunction with the surveillance system to exert control over the population.
The integration of cutting-edge technology into China’s surveillance system is a key factor in its vast scale. The country has deployed more than 200 million surveillance cameras, making it the most heavily surveilled nation in the world. These cameras are equipped with facial recognition, AI algorithms, and machine learning, which enable them to identify and track individuals in real time. This massive surveillance network is further complemented by the widespread use of mobile devices, which are often pre-installed with government-approved apps that monitor users’ online activities. The Great Firewall of China, the country’s internet censorship system, also filters and controls the flow of information in and out of China, allowing the government to maintain a tight grip on the digital lives of citizens.
The misuse of surveillance in China has led to multiple instances of human rights abuses and privacy violations.
One of the most striking examples of this is the treatment of the minority in the country especially in areas like Tibet and Xinjiang. Chinese authorities have leveraged the surveillance system to identify, track, and detain Uighurs and Tibetans based on their ethnicity and religious practices, resulting in more than one million people being held in internment camps. The surveillance system has transformed Xinjiang into a virtual police state, with pervasive monitoring of Uighurs’ daily lives.
Another instance of misuse is the crackdown on political dissidents and activists. The Chinese government has frequently used surveillance to monitor, harass, and detain individuals who express dissenting opinions or engage in activism. This has led to a chilling effect on free speech and political expression in the country, as citizens are increasingly aware that their every move is being watched and recorded.
But the effects of this surveillance gets worse with the ‘Social Credit System’.
The Chinese government has been developing a Social Credit System (SCS) since 2014, which assigns individuals and businesses a social credit score based on their behaviour. The SCS is designed to encourage good behaviour and punish those who are deemed untrustworthy. The surveillance infrastructure plays a critical role in the implementation of the SCS, as it provides the data used to assess and monitor citizens’ behaviour. It evaluates individuals based on a wide range of criteria, including financial creditworthiness, adherence to laws and regulations, and even personal habits such as smoking and playing video games. A low social credit score can have severe consequences, including restricted access to loans, travel bans, and exclusion from certain jobs. The surveillance system and the SCS work in tandem to create a powerful and pervasive tool for social control. The constant monitoring of citizens feeds into the SCS, enabling the government to identify and penalize those who engage in undesirable behaviours or express dissenting opinions. Critics argue that this combination of surveillance and social credit creates an Orwellian dystopia, where citizens are constantly monitored and evaluated by an all-seeing, all-knowing government.
International Espionage: Spy, phoney Establishments and business deals
Apart from domestic surveillance, China has deployed several espionage tactics to gain dominance over the info-gathering network of the world.
How does China do this?
Three major ways have been come to light are these –
(1) establishing a covert spy team under the guise of ‘Chinese Overseas Police Stations’,
(2) disguising spies/agents as students, scientists and industry workers, and
(3) through IT companies and their entrepreneurs.
Overseas Police Stations
According to reports, China has set up more than 50 overseas police stations in major cities around the world, including New York, London, Amsterdam, Budapest, Kampala, and Tokyo. These stations are staffed by Chinese police officers and are officially touted as providing diplomatic and logistical assistance to Chinese citizens living abroad. However, there is evidence many of these stations are involved in intelligence gathering, especially on Chinese students and dissidents. The police officers at these stations can put pressure on Chinese citizens to become informants for Beijing. They monitor the activities and allegiance of Chinese student groups, businesses, and other diaspora organizations. They have also been accused of harassing and intimidating Chinese dissidents and activists to get them to return to China. In some cases, individuals who refused to cooperate have threatened or detained their families in China.
The overseas police stations are part of China’s broader intelligence strategy to gain more control and oversight of the large numbers of Chinese citizens living and working abroad. It is a way for Beijing to project its power beyond its borders and stifle dissent even outside China’s territory. The stations have become outposts not only for Chinese police but also for Beijing’s intelligence agencies. They add a layer of surveillance for Chinese nationals regardless of where they travel. They act as an extension of China’s techno-authoritarian policies by infringing on civil liberties and facilitating spying at a global level. Many countries are now concerned about the influence and espionage these police stations enable, especially as some cities like Paris have given their Chinese police official office space and diplomatic status. However, China claims they are simply providing lawful services to Chinese citizens in need of assistance. The opaque nature of these stations and their activities remains controversial and suspicious.
China Information Warfare Through International Students and Scientists
There is evidence that China gathers intelligence using Chinese students, scientists, and researchers in foreign countries. They have been accused of conducting surveillance, censorship, and influence operations targeting Chinese student groups and research institutions in democracies like Australia, Canada, and the US. The Chinese government also pressures Chinese citizens abroad to become informants and report on fellow Chinese students or academics.
Technology Companies Exporting Censorship and Surveillance
Chinese companies like Huawei, ZTE, and Dahua have been accused of enabling Chinese government spying by selling telecommunications equipment and smart city surveillance systems to foreign countries that have security vulnerabilities or allow data sharing with Beijing. The US and Australia have banned some Chinese firms over spying concerns. Organisations like NASA and SpaceX refuse to work with Chinese tech firms due to this issue. Tik-Tok was banned in early 2020 and Huawei was also denied the bid for 5G bandwidth in India due to such spying concerns.
The scale of China’s surveillance system is unparalleled, and its misuse has led to numerous human rights abuses and privacy violations. These surveillance apparatuses are a potent tool for social control, discouraging dissent and promoting conformity. As China information warfare refine its surveillance capabilities, the international community must remain vigilant and advocate for the protection of privacy and human rights.
Nakano Takeko : Uncovering Japan’s Legendary Female Samurai
I have been researching the onna-bugeisha, female samurai warriors, and women of the samurai class and that’s when I realised –
History is full of powerful women who have fought, sacrificed and won battles for their lands, however our storytellers have been miser in telling us these stories.
So my curiosity was at its peak when I started reading about Japan’s elite women warriors. Who were these ladies? Which history did they come from? Exactly how did they appear? What functions did they fulfill during the conflicts they engaged in? What tools did they utilize? The men who served beside them, how did they think of them?
One such story that appealed to me was that of Nakano Takeko.
Who was Nakano Takeko?
On 15th January 1847, Nakano was raised during a turbulent period in Japanese history in Edo, Japan (today’s Tokyo). She was the third child of Nakano Heinai, a physician who worked for the northern solid Japanese feudal house known as the Aizu clan.
Takeko was raised in a household of scholars and warriors, and she developed an early interest in combat skills and military planning. Her father urged her to study with the top martial artists in Edo since he was aware of her gifts.
At 16, Takeko was chosen to join the Women’s Army of the Aizu clan, a group of female warriors trained to protect their families and homes during battle. Takeko swiftly rose to become one of the Women’s Army’s most promising recruits, a group of exceptional archers and swordswomen. Takeko mastered the naginata, a long polearm with a curved blade at the end, under her teacher, Akaoka Daisuke. Nakano’s teacher eventually adopted her, and in the 1860s, she collaborated with her as a martial arts instructor. By then, she had also received instruction in martial arts, horseback riding, and archery. Takeko and the other Women’s Army soldiers vowed to defend the Aizu family at all costs, even at the expense of their deaths.
Overview of Boshin Conflict & Nakano’s role in War
Midway through the 1860s, the Meiji imperial dynasty sought to subjugate the Tokugawa family. The civil war arose because many young nobles and samurai opposed the shogunate’s policy of allowing foreigners into the country. The Aizu clan sided with the pro-shogunate side. Nakano wanted to enlist in the Aizu army and fight for the Tokugawa but was prohibited due to her gender. As a result, she organized the Aizu Joshitai, a group of female fighters.
Takeko immediately gained a reputation as one of the most formidable fighters in the Aizu army thanks to her bravery and combat prowess. Her life, however, was tragically cut short in October 1868 during the Battle of Aizu. Takeko led a Women’s Army charge against the adversary lines as the imperial army drew closer to the Aizu castle. Despite her courageous efforts, a bullet to the chest eventually caused her to lose her life.
When the Tokugawa planned to submit to the imperials in 1868, the residents of Aizu stood their ground. This resulted in the Battle of Aizu, where Nakano led her army into conflict despite orders from the imperials to cease fire.
Nakano Takeko Death- Brave Warrior Bids Goodbye
Nakano is thought to have killed about five troops during the battle before being fatally wounded in the chest.
In her last moments, Takeko begged her sister to bury her body deeply to prevent wild animals from defiling it. Her sister complied with her wish and interred her in a private cemetery on the grounds of Aizu castle.
Nakano Takeko’s Legacy
Nakano Takeko’s memory has significantly impacted how female warriors are portrayed in Japanese culture. Numerous pieces of literature, visual art, and film that show strong, brave women in various roles have been inspired by her narrative. Traditional gender norms and prejudices in Japanese society have been challenged by Takeko’s portrayal as an accomplished and fearless fighter.
Takeko’s bravery and selflessness became legendary, and she is still revered as a representation of the strength and tenacity of women. She is often compared to Tomoe Gozen, whose bravery and tenacity typified a real female samurai.
Despite only being 21 when she passed away in 1868, her short life did not lessen the significance of her historical contributions. Every year, at the Aizu Autumn Festival, young girls join the parade wearing hakama (a pleated skirt) and white headbands as a tribute to the bravery of the Joushitai ladies. The tomb and a memorial to her are situated at the Hokai Temple in the western Fukushima County city of Aizubange.
Japanese Way of War
I have long pondered how much Nakano Takeko’s narrative might be based on historical myth. All women of higher social standing would have carried weapons (if covertly) throughout her era, and young girls would have been educated to use naginata to defend their homes. The Imperial Army’s existential danger to the Aizu was probably why it was permissible for an autonomous female combat army to be formed.
Admiral Dewa Shigeto, an Aizu native, referred to Takeko and her contemporaries as the “Joshitai,” or the “young (unmarried) women’s forces,” in the early 1920s, which was the first time they were publicly acknowledged. During the conflict, Shiget was a member of the “Byakkotai,” a reserve youth organization from the Aizu region that is also remembered. He wasn’t old enough to fight; he was only twelve.
Ironically, the fact that Takeko was merely gunned down is what makes her narrative more meaningful to the Japanese mentality. The Boshin War’s Battle of Aizu is renowned for pitting a force founded on traditional notions of honor and devotion against a power primarily based on numerical and technological advantage. Even today, Nakano Takeko’s tale illustrates the intense conflict many Japanese people have between honorable traditions and contemporary utility.
It’s interesting to note the differences in mindset between the older and younger generations of Japanese people. Takeko might have served as a spokeswoman for the forward movement if she had lived in the present. Although female fighters were uncommon in Japan, some were well-known and respected for their prowess and valor in combat. These women displayed incredible bravery and tenacity. They took up arms and fought for their families, territories, and principles. Several of them were in charge of their armies.
Their accomplishments and the legacies they have left behind, have truly inspired me.
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