Magazine article Insight on the News

China's Intelligence Machine

Magazine article Insight on the News

China's Intelligence Machine

Article excerpt

Recent controversies about alleged Red Chinese attempts to buy influence in the 1996 presidential elections, as well as the spy potential arising from the Chinese Overseas Shipping Co. lease of a former U.S. naval facility in Long Beach, Calif., have raised questions about Chinese Intelligence operations here. Insight asked Russian defector Stanislav Lunev, a former spy in China, to provide background on Beijing's aims and methods.

Editor's Note: The author is a former colonel in the Soviet strategic military intelligence service, known by the acronym GRU. He is a graduate of the Tashkent Military Academy -- the Soviet equivalent of West Point -- and later received training in a top-rated Soviet-army intelligence school. In 1978 he was sent to Singapore, where he observed Beijing's activities among the large ethnic Chinese population there. After a stint in Moscow, he was sent to Beijing first as a GRU operative and then as a so-called TASS correspondent -- one of 400 "civilian" Soviet agents in Beijing. In 1988, he was assigned to Washington, again as a TASS correspondent, and one of only a handful of GRU agents authorized to recruit. He defected in 1992.

It is well-known that Red Chinese intelligence services have been operating abroad very actively and carefully for a very long time. They also have been extremely successful.

Drawing upon an ancient tradition of strategic espionage that goes back to Sun Tzu's famous book, The Art of War, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, has given this kind of activity the very highest priority.

During the Cold War, the intelligence agencies of the East and the West didn't pay enough attention to what the Chinese were doing -- giving Beijing plenty of time to maneuver between the superpowers. Even now, with the Cold War over, the Western nations still are dealing with China without careful examination of its cultural, historical and military traditions.

The reason is that espionage is important for China not only for the traditional military and political purposes, but for economic development as well -- particularly development of the defense-industrial manufacturing and trading organizations.

There are two main Chinese intelligence services -- the political and the military. They are under the tight control of the general secretary of the Central Committee of the CCP, through his deputies in the ministries of state security, political intelligence and national defense. Thus the main policies, directions and targets for intelligence collection are established by secret decisions of the Politburo. The Politburo lays out the primary strategy, keeps the intelligence community working in the right direction and concentrates effort against the most important targets.

The more practical issues are handled directly in the Central Military Commission of the party. This commission is in charge of supervising the entire Chinese military apparatus, including the military-industrial trading organizations.

The commission collects, analyzes and summarizes the needs of Chinese industry for foreign technologies, foreign production and proprietary information. It receives requests from Chinese industry and directs the intelligence apparatus to act upon those requests.

The fact is that Chinese leaders are very practical people. They cannot afford to maintain an extremely expensive intelligence bureaucracy unless it can pay for itself by boosting economic development. Of course, their intelligence operatives at the same time are collecting hard information on military and political secrets of other countries, but their main mission is to provide practical support to develop the defense-industrial complex.

The Central Military Commission provides a top-secret "tasking list," which is delivered to all units in the field on a regular basis. The targets include information about foreign leaders who might influence current affairs and state policy. …

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