In the interview, he also said:
• China’s spy agency is focused on sending spies to infiltrate the U.S. intelligence community, and also on collecting secrets and technology from the United States. “China spends a tremendous effort to send out spies to important countries like the U.S. to collect information,” Mr. Li said.
• China is censoring the Internet to prevent the population from knowing about what occurs outside the country.
• An internal MSS manual that is kept secret from most officers outlines the primary role of the service as the promotion of Communist Party’s interests.
• Ongoing cooperation between the CIA and FBI and the MSS in countering international terrorism can be constructive, but U.S. agencies need to be cautious because the MSS is mainly an organ of the Chinese Communist Party, and does not directly serve the interests of the Chinese nation or people, he said.
Mr. Li said he worked in the MSS department in charge of gathering economic, political and technical information in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Some of the work involved targeting and recruiting foreign nationals who visit China.
He was born in 1968 in northern China and was first recruited into a provincial Chinese intelligence service before being promoted to the MSS in Beijing after several years.
Two groups in China that are a main focus of the MSS are unofficial Christian churches and the outlawed Falun Gong religious group, he said.
The MSS also has targeted pro-democracy activists, like those who were involved in the mass demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, he said.
The MSS is China’s main civilian spy service that is viewed by U.S. intelligence officials as one of the world’s most active in stealing secrets and running foreign spies. The military counterpart, the Second Department of the People’s Liberation Army, or 2PLA, is focused on stealing foreign technology, much of it for weapons and military systems.
Together, the Chinese services are estimated to have several thousand trained operatives working around the world, most posing as diplomats, journalists, business representatives and academics. Thousands of other Chinese nationals also function as semiprofessional information gatherers.
Former FBI Special Agent I.C. Smith, a specialist in Chinese counterintelligence, confirmed that the MSS focuses its activities on penetrating U.S. intelligence and government agencies.
“The goal of every intelligence agency is to get someone inside, and in the case of Chinese, they use not just intelligence people but academics and everybody else,” Mr. Smith said in an interview.
Mr. Li said his access to information that was banned for the general public helped him to turn against the system, including internal reports on party ideology and information on American values of freedom and democracy.
Mr. Li said that as a doctoral candidate, the MSS sent him to study at an American university, an experience that influenced in his decision to defect. In 2004, after he defected, he was declared an enemy of the state by the MSS in at least two notices sent to security offices in China.