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So…What is the Chinese-Espionage “Thousand Grains of Sand” Theory?

Recently, I was introduced to the “Thousand Grains of Sand” theory. This theory attempts to explain the strategy that has been used by the Chinese-State to steal IP over the last three decades.

Many of my readers (I have no doubt) are already familiar with this theory, but for those who are not, here’s a brief introduction.

The theory goes something like this:

If a beach of sand is the target (the valuable intellectual property that is) Russia would pull up on the coast with a submarine, send a few scuba men onto the beach to collect a few handfuls and escape, the U.S. would use satellites to determine the composition of the sand. The Chinese-State would send in 1,000 Chinese tourists to collect buckets of sand and bring it back to China.

The theory originated from U.S. Intelligence in the 1990s. Although, we all know, the problem is undoubtedly more complicated than that; it does ring true.

America’s Other Espionage Challenge: China, New York Times

The Analytic Challenge of Understanding Chinese Intelligence Services

Global investigators, attorneys, and IP protection specialists need to recognize this reality and respond to it.

Here is a list of posts I’ve written that attempt to capture the complexity of the problem and ways to defend against it:

Blueprint for Screening Candidates / Organizations – Trade Secrets Protection

Know Your Researcher – Academic Espionage – Trade Secrets Theft

Is the Chinese Government-Sanctioned “Thousand Talents Rewards Program” a Vehicle for Trade Secrets Thieves?

Have You Noticed How Trade Secrets Thieves Are Circumventing Their Employer’s Computer Monitoring System…Lately?

Another Apple Employee-Enroute to China – Arrested – Trade Secrets Theft

UK Private Prosecution – Nightmare for One Alleged Trade Secrets Thief

Employee Use of Company Computers and Email Continues to Chronically Facilitate Trade Secrets Theft

U.S. Educated Chinese Students–Abuse U.S. Temporary Work Program

China’s [Continuing] Trade Secrets Theft Initiative

Does China Threaten—Students, Researchers, Scientists—Working or Studying in the U.S. to Bring Back IP or Their Families Are Put in Jeopardy?

China’s Notorious Thousand Talents Program – Equal Opportunity Recruiter

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Ron Alvarez is an IP investigations and protection consultant and writer in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron has since coordinated the private investigation of international fraud and money laundering cases, as well as IP-related investigations and research involving the four pillars of IP: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has written a number of articles for various investigative publications, as well as published "The World of Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Investigations" in November 2021.

1 comment on “So…What is the Chinese-Espionage “Thousand Grains of Sand” Theory?

  1. Thomas Manley


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