Hikvision Conducts Military Training For New Employees

By: Charles Rollet, Published on Apr 04, 2019

Hikvision's new employees recently completed a boot camp where they wore Chinese army uniforms and were trained by former army personnel, as shown in the images we obtained from the camp:

hik recruits 2b

While IPVM was able to find this via the camp's social media page, Hikvision itself has not promoted the trainings, amidst concerns about Hikvision's Chinese government ownership and profits from human rights abuses.

Willy edited

Willy Lam, an adjunct history professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told IPVM that such camps "are one of the largest growing industries in China" as the country undergoes a nationalistic/militaristic revival under president Xi Jinping.

Boot Camp Background

The boot camp is called the Zhejiang Military Culture Park and was founded in April 2017, according to its website. It is registered as a private company and states that it "provides military-quality education, national defense education, and good [character] education to youthful citizens across the country." The camp is in Hikvision's home province and spans more than 1,700 acres, according to the camp.

Former Chinese army and police officials conduct the training which lasts up to a week, including the Chief Instructor and 'Ministers' listed in the image below from their own site:

Hikvision Involvement

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At the end of last month, the social media page for Zhejiang Military Culture Park published two posts about Hikvision employees taking part in the boot camps. The first, on March 23, included photos of youths in Chinese army uniforms and introduced them as fresh college graduates part of Hikvision's New Recruit Battalion:

hik recruits 1b

Another shows the hammer and sickle (the symbol of China's ruling Communist Party) and a banner that states "Train as if you are fighting, Fight as if you are training;":

Then, on March 26, a new post was published stating that the "Hikvision team is currently undergoing military research and studies", as shown in the intro. [Update: This post has since been deleted but a screencap of the original can be viewed here.]

That post also included photos of the recruits such as:

Types of Training, Ideological Factors

According to accounts posted on the camp's website for other companies, training typically involve activities like wall climbing, obstacle courses, and battle simulations, but also clearly ideological activities like pledging loyalty to the Communist Party. The ideological aspect is hinted at in the camp's March 23 social media post that featured Hikvision, which includes a photo attributing the camp's founding to China's top leader Xi Jinping:

The text reads:

We establish Zhejiang Military Culture Park in response to President Xi's National Defense concept, to make full use of the veterans' unique advantages, and build a connected organization made up of veterans, in order to strengthen the citizens' defense concept nationwide and to strengthen national defense education among teenagers.

Purpose And Prevalence

As one training noted, the main goal of the camp is to

enhance [employee] self-confidence, improve perseverance, enable them to surpass themselves, improve their ability to solve problems, and enhance their sense of participation and responsibility towards the collective.

In that sense, except for the overt military and political elements, it is similar to other corporate training programs.

Military training is obligatory in China for most students, typically lasting the first two weeks of the academic year in what is considered a 'rite of passage', so the military context is more familiar.

However, IPVM could find no instance of Hikvision's direct Chinese rivals such as Dahua, Uniview, Tiandy, or ZKTeco using such military camps for employee training.

The Zhejiang Military Culture Camp itself provides military-style training to a wide array of schools and private companies in China, everything from a local pharma firm to China's Herbalife branch to a primary school.

Huawei Military Training

One company that has conducted military training is Huawei. This is considered part of Huawei's "Wolf Culture", which emphasizes extremely aggressive expansion tactics. The 2013 Chinese book "The Huawei Story" notes:

The military training is aiming at changing the spiritual outlook of new employees and shaping their bodies.

...the military training is not just a pre-post training for new employees, even battle-scarred supervisors at all levels in the marketing department have to attend the military training for one week

Huawei is well-known for having a founder, Ren Zhengfei, who is a former PLA engineer; Zhengfei often uses military analogies to motivate his employees, for example recently comparing Huawei's consumer electronics division to the Communist Party's wartime struggles in the 1930s. Huawei's deputy chairman Eric Xu outright stated in an internal memo:

This is wartime

We don't need soldiers who cannot fight or generals who cannot command

Rising Popularity

Professor Willy Lam told IPVM via email that the practice of military-style bootcamps for companies is becoming more popular in China as a way to showcase loyalty to the state:

Big firms (even private ones – and both tech and non-tech firms) send recruits to boot camps probably to ensure their loyalty to a) their employers; b) the Party, which ultimately controls all big companies in China.

Wo-Lap added that military-style boot camps are part of an ideological revival in China:

All these tie in with Mao’s concept of “people warfare.” Ordinary citizens become soldiers in times of war. This used to be Cold War doctrine. But this has been revived by XJP [Xi Jinping] to beef up what already is the world’s most formidable police state apparatus.

Response from Recruits

How popular this military training is for Hikvision employees is unclear to us. We did search for Hikvision comments and found two users on Chinese internet forums sharing experiences.

One Hikvision employee stated in an online thread about why people left Hikvision that the boot camp was a bad experience, with whole teams punished for one person's mistake and an almost cult-like atmosphere:

Every day, I recited corporate values, shouted slogans, and people who didn't know [about it] thought it was a pyramid scheme.

In another forum post, a user called the military training "bullshit," "torture", and "brainwashing", noting:

What this company needs is an employee who is determined to execute orders without independent personality and autonomy.

No Comment Hikvision (UPDATE: Declined to Comment)

IPVM initially did not receive a response to our request for comment about this training from Hikvision. Later, Hikvision officially declined to comment.

Challenges - Line Between Private Company And Government

While companies like Huawei and Hikvision emphasize being private companies in their Western marketing, this training, with explicit military and Communist Party themes, runs counter to that. The concern among many in the West is the control and influence of the Chinese Communist Party, which this training further underscores.

2 reports cite this report:

Hikvision Global News Report Directory on Apr 30, 2019
Hikvision has received the most global news reporting of any video surveillance company, ever, ranging from the WSJ, the Financial Times, Reuters,...
ISC West 2019 Report on Apr 12, 2019
The IPVM team has finished at the Sands looking at what companies are offering and how they are changing their positioning. See below for 50+...

Comments (19)

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Clearly they are preparing for your visit to their ISC West booth next week.

That's one way to do a team building workshop. Most companies I know just go to Top Golf🤣

Top Gun > Top Golf.

Didn’t PelcoU have a similar program in the U.S.?

Hikvision defenders need to accept reality. An organization that conducts new hire orientation in PLA soldier uniforms while pledging loyalty to Xi Jinping is an organization that follows the rule of the authoritarian China Communist Party, including the risks it places for foreign countries, especially democracies.

None of this should be a surprise given Hikvision's Chairman is a Communist Party Secretary and member of the Chinese government but this training shows that this extends from the very top to the very newest, youngest recruit.

Professor Willy Lam Wo-Lap told IPVM via email that the practice of military-style bootcamps for companies is becoming more popular in China as a way to showcase loyalty to the state:

Big firms (even private ones – and both tech and non-tech firms) send recruits to boot camps probably to ensure their loyalty to a) their employers; b) the Party, which ultimately controls all big companies in China.

Emboldened, italicized and underlined what everyone should be aware of by now. This quote was made not by an outsider or foreigner, but reportedly by:

Willy Lam Wo-Lap, an adjunct history professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told IPVM

Face it, there are NO "private" companies in China, they can all be controlled in a heartbeat to do what they're told, install whatever backdoor, collect whatever data they want, etc etc. Luckily my tinfoil fedora protects me ;)

Come on. Please don't be so political and purposely mis-lead team building activity. They are wearing camouflage uniform rather than official PLA uniform.

I'm sure a spirited game of genocidal paint-ball provided hours of entertainment!

Do this mental exercise. Imagine Google's new hire orientation has their staff dress in camouflage, stand on tanks, sit behind Republican signage and a dedication to Trump. Then imagine what outrage would follow.

But with Hikvision this is simply team building, correct?

If Hikvision wants to persuade people it is just a private, commercial business, then perhaps this is not the best training? Fair?

I guess one of the main objections is them pledging their loyalty? My kids say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school, sure it is not to a person but it is a similar activity. Do all kids at schools in the US mean what they say each morning? Probably not. Do all Hik employees mean what they said? I doubt it. I'm not saying I agree with them pledging their loyalty to Xi Jinping but there might be some cultural misunderstandings here.

As far as military style team building, I don't see any issue with it...it turns out BMW, Unilever, Microsoft, SAP, Honeywell, De Walt, Coca Cola, FedEx, BP, Kenworth, Deloitte, GlaxoSmithKline, E Trade, TYCO, and many others have done a similar team building exercise with this company based out of Australia, but also operating in other counties...including the USA.

They're not the only ones, this company in the UK does military style team building events and boasts Lego as one of their clients. Can you imagine? I wonder if they pledge their loyalty to a Teresa May Lego mini-figure.

A few responses do your points:

  • I don't think the US pledge of allegiance is comparable to this. The pledge is for children, not tech company employees. And the pledge also does not require allegiance to a particular political party nor is it explicitly militaristic.
  • You say you doubt Hikvision employees really mean it when they undergo this training. But the question of whether rank-and-file Hikvision employees truly believe this stuff is not really relevant. What is far more important is what this says about Hikvision itself. The company has repeatedly distanced itself from the Chinese party-state in the West (e.g. "We Put Customers First"), but in China it puts new employees through militaristic, nationalistic trainings complete with CCP propaganda and former Army instructors. We wrote this article to highlight that contrast.
  • Yes, there are some military-style boot camps used for corporate trainings in the West, although there are key differences: 1) they don't include the heavily propagandistic/nationalistic themes this China bootcamp has, nor do they require loyalty oaths to a political party 2) I couldn't find any major Western tech or surveillance firms using military-style bootcamps. That Sabre link you posted doesn't specify which of the clients you mentioned actually chose the 'military' theme, which is only one of its many corporate training options. So unless you find out that Apple or Avigilon is sending new employees to train at a pro-Trump bootcamp in North Carolina, with 'recruits' taking photos on top of tanks and being taught by former Navy Seals, along with being photographed next to GOP and nationalistic USA propaganda, the comparison is not valid.
  • Last point: the US and China have fundamentally different political/economic structures, and this military bootcamp, as Professor Willy Lam told us, showcases how many companies in China are responding to a militaristic/nationalistic revival which has been ordained by China's authoritarian leader Xi Jinping. There is no analogue to that in the US, where many tech companies have in fact opposed President Trump.

Here the Hik Army is drilling with Macy’s bags, part of their retail invasion training:

One, two, three, four...

Hik will win the price war...

Update: two corrections - I initially described the army/police instructors as "retired", however we've changed it to "former" is this is a more accurate description. Also, the "this is wartime" quote was originally attributed to Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, but was actually said by Huawei deputy chairman Eric Xu.

Hikvision exposed yet again. Maybe someday we can all wear these uniforms.................

It will be part of their new camera kit :)

Looks like a militarized version of what US companies do when they require executives to read "The Art of War"?

Wow! This should make selling against Hikvision very easy. Does anyone know why they chose "The People's Republic of China" instead of the "Facist/Communist State of China" ? We all know that if we bend the spectrum into a circle that Fascism and Communism are 1 degree apart from each other. Ethnic cleansing of Muslim's doesn't help.

Honestly... why is Hikvision even allowed to operate in America anymore? We wouldn't let the KGB sell us spy cameras why are we letting them?

Update: The March 26th post, featuring Hikvision employees on a tank, is now returning a 404 / not found. Our screencap for posterity:

Sounds like the usual communist "Reeducation camp".

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