- - Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Speaking at the Justice Department’s China Initiative Conference on Feb. 6 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., FBI Director Christopher Wray noted that one long-term threat to the country’s information, intellectual property and economic vitality was espionage from China.  

“China is using a wide range of methods and techniques — everything from cyber intrusions to corrupting trusted insiders. They’ve even engaged in physical theft,” Mr. Wray explained. “And they’ve pioneered an expansive approach to stealing innovation through a wide range of actors — including not just Chinese intelligence services but state-owned enterprises, ostensibly private companies, certain kinds of graduate students and researchers, and a variety of other actors all working on their behalf.”

He added that the Chinese are targeting Fortune 100 companies, Silicon Valley start-ups, defense contractors, government and academia, and agriculture. He further stated that the FBI has about 1,000 investigations involving China’s attempted theft of U.S.-based technology, in all 56 of the FBI field offices.

“The Chinese government is taking an all-tools and all-sectors approach — and that demands our own all-tools and all-sectors approach in response,” Mr. Wray said. “To respond to the China threat more effectively, I believe we need to better understand several key aspects of it.”

One could add that we should also know the history of Chinese espionage, so the publication of “Chinese Communist Espionage: An Intelligence Primer” is timely.



Peter Mattis, a research fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial and a former CIA counterintelligence analyst, and Matthew Brazil, a non-resident fellow at The Jamestown Foundation and a former U.S. Army officer who worked in Asia for more than 20 years, offer a studious history of Communist China’s intelligence services.

The authors mined numerous Chinese publications, books and other materials and sources to tell the history and current state of Chinese Communist intelligence operations, and of the often shadowy figures who planned and carried out those operations.

The book reads like a Who’s Who of past and present Chinese spies, saboteurs, agents, assassins, intelligence officers, military officers and security and police officials, as well as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders. Considering that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is far from an open society, this is an enormous undertaking. The book also offers Chinese language intelligence and security terms.

“In writing a reference guide, we do not intend to provide the definitive answers but rather to introduce the history of intelligence within the CCP and the modern party-state,” the authors write in the preface.

“Systematically sketching the key figures, organizations, and espionage cases invites readers to draw their own conclusions about PRC intelligence services, their activities, and their methods.”

The authors state that the book has sections that will appeal to both general interest readers and intelligence and security specialists who desire to better understand today’s China and espionage in general.    

“The men who have led the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) intelligence and security services (and they have all been men) have shared few traits. Besides being male, their common attribute is loyalty to the party. From there it diverges,” the authors explain. “Zhou Enlai, an intelligence leader from the early days until his death, founded the effort in 1927. In the words of Chen Yun decades later, before then the party “did not know how to organize intelligence.”

Zhou, who hailed from an intellectual family, maintained an expertise in tradecraft and operations management even after ascending the heights of party leadership.

“In modern times he retains the most respect — cultivated by modern propagandists to the level of a saint — of any of the figures discussed in this volume.”

While Zhou Enlai, China’s long-serving premier, is a well-known historical figure, most of the other Chinese spooks profiled in the book are not as well-known to the general public. Such as Deng Fa, who from 1931 to 1935 was Mao Zedong’s head of the secret police.

“Deng was a colorful figure whose life story might eventually become the subject of a biographical action film, particularly if today’s leadership wishes to further sanitize the darkest elements of CCP intelligence and security during the revolution,” the authors tell us.

The book also lists the many spies and Chinese espionage cases in America and elsewhere over the years.

“Chinese Communist Espionage” is a well-researched reference guide that should be in the library of every student of espionage and every intelligence and security specialist.

• Paul Davis covers crime, espionage and terrorism. 

• • •

CHINESE COMMUNIST ESPIONAGE: AN INTELLIGENCE PRIMER

By Peter Mattis and Matthew Brazil

Naval Institute Press, $45, 376 pages

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