‘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?
Jiangsu is a province in eastern China, with a coastline more than 1,000km (620 miles) long.
It faces Japan and South Korea, while Taiwan is around 500 miles south. This geography – and the huge US presence in the region – begins to explain why fishermen keep finding these devices.
China has not revealed where the devices came from, merely saying they were “made in other countries”.
But regional expert and consultant Alexander Neill says they probably came from “the US Navy, the Japan Self-Defense Forces, or potentially Taiwan – this is a big area of rivalry”.
So what are the Americans, the Japanese, or the Taiwanese hoping to learn?’
Read more: Why are Chinese fishermen finding submarine spies?