It did not involve the U.S. or another rival of China, but Russia, whose security services accused a prominent scientist of selling classified data on technologies for detecting submarines.
Meanwhile a court in Kazakhstan in October convicted the Central Asia nation’s pre-eminent China specialist of espionage, a move widely interpreted at the time as a warning against increased meddling by the superpower next door.
Both men maintain their innocence and if China is spying on Russia, Moscow is surely doing the same. Even so, the fact the two cases were made public suggests a more assertive China has become a concern for nations considered its partners, too.
Countries such as Russia, Iran and Kazakhstan need to still get the investment, trade and in some cases diplomatic support they want from Beijing, while preserving some economic independence and pursuing foreign policy goals that at times conflict.