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The report says most CICIR officials, including Mr. Cui and Yuan Peng, its American studies director, either taught or studied at the University of International Relations, which is closely linked to CICIR. The university was set up in 1964 to “train intelligence personnel for the [Communist Party] Investigation Department and (undercover) at Xinhua News Agency.”

The report quotes David Shambaugh, a George Washington University China specialist, as stating that CICIR’s leadership “all share lengthy and shadowy careers in the intelligence service.”

The report states that CICIR’s affiliation with MSS is rarely acknowledged in the state-run press. One exception was a Xinhua journal called Liaowang that reported in 2009 that the institute is subordinate to MSS.

Hong Kong press reports quoted by the CIA, however, provide other details of CICIR’s intelligence work, including its role as the intelligence-analysis branch of MSS.

Hong Kong’s Cheng Ming reported in 1995 that CICIR worked with MSS in comparing and verifying the authenticity of intelligence information obtained from secret channels with open-source materials compiled by CICIR before submitting intelligence to senior Chinese Communist Party Politburo members.

Collecting intelligence

The report listed its missions as collecting open-source information from major news agencies, newspapers and magazines globally, translating articles for MSS, and arranging subscriptions for major English-language newspapers for the foreign-affairs secretaries of Politburo members.

“I don’t think American universities or think tanks take CICIR’s intelligence-collection or disinformation tasks seriously,” said John Tkacik, a former State Department intelligence official.

“Instead, they take the views of CICIR’s researchers at face value without attempting to sort out the MSS agenda. CICIR makes a point of giving off-the-record insights to foreign academics and journalists in order to shape foreign perceptions of Chinese international policy, especially Chinese support of North Korea, Iran, Syria, Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Sudan.”

The institute’s researchers overseas, including most “former CICIR” scholars, also are given intelligence-collection duties that include clandestine collection, Mr. Tkacik said.

An example of how CICIR influences U.S. policy can be seen in a classified State Department cable from Dec. 3, 2009, that quotes CICIR Vice President Yang Mingjie speaking about the Pentagon’s nuclear-posture review.

Mr. Yang told U.S. Embassy officials that if the Pentagon made “significant” nuclear cuts, China would “feel increased pressure” to be more open about its nuclear buildup and it would “influence” China to slow or stop its nuclear modernization, ideas that analysts say likely would influence Obama administration policymakers to favor nuclear-weapons cutbacks.

Huntsman, officials met often

The CIA report lists numerous prominent officials and experts who met with senior CICIR officials.

U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. met with Mr. Cui and CICIR Vice President Wang Zaiban on March 25, a little more than a month before he stepped down, to discuss “the current international situation,” the report says.

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