Chinese authorities use 5G-powered equipment to crack down on smuggling

China is ramping up crackdowns on smuggling across the Sino-North Korean border, Daily NK has learned. 

“A Chinese smuggler was caught by Chinese border guards last month while attempting to move goods from Sinuiju [North Pyongan Province] to Dalian in Liaoning Province, and everything was seized,” a source told Daily NK on July 2. “In the past, smugglers were able to bribe [guards] to set them free even if they were caught, but now all cases are being transferred to Chinese police.”

The source explained that in early June a Chinese ship received a shipment of items including clothing, handicraft and industrial goods produced in North Korea from a North Korean smuggling boat in open waters. The Chinese vessel was caught by border guards when attempting to dock at a small port near Dalian.

The Chinese border guards handed over the local smugglers to Chinese police, and all of the illegal goods were seized. 

The source noted that in this case, the smuggling was detected by surveillance equipment set up near the border that uses a 5G network. 

“The 5G surveillance equipment is installed along almost the entire border in Liaoning Province and Jilin Province,” the source stated. “If any suspicious activity that resembles smuggling is detected, soldiers are immediately dispatched to the scene.” 

Last year, Daily NK quoted a source who stated China was cracking down on illegal trade through the use of 5G technology.

With a much higher processing speed than 4G networks (LTE), 5G brought about new communications technologies including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and smart CCTV. It is believed that such technologies have been adopted to build a far-reaching, high-precision surveillance system. 

In light of the stronger measures to counter smuggling near the border, North Korean smugglers think they might reflect troubles in the Sino-North Korean relationship. 

“North Korean smugglers believe that China conducts severe crackdowns like this when relations [between the two countries] are poor,” the source said, adding, “Seized goods are being taken by the Chinese military these days, so [smugglers] think that [China] is trying to take all smugglers down, whether they are Chinese or North Korean.”

China’s firmer stance on smuggling may also be aimed at countering the spread of COVID-19 into the country. 

City officials in Dandong held a virtual meeting last month through a Chinese police WeChat account with the head of the local police bureau and officials from the anti-smuggling branches of the border guards and the Dandong customs office. One issue raised at this meeting was the importance of cracking down on smuggling and the necessity of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from outside the region.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to