Following my presentation on Chinese espionage at National Chengchi University’s just-opened MacArthur Center for Security Studies on Oct. 15, a member of the audience asked a question that has stayed with me and probably deserves elaboration on the short answer I provided at the time.
“Once relations between Taiwan and China improve,” asked a young man — an undergraduate exchange student from Dongguan, Guangdong Province — “do you think Beijing might, given the importance of the relationship for the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], decrease espionage activity against Taiwan?”
My answer was that regardless of how important Beijing sees its relationship with other countries, its collecting of intelligence continues unabated. In fact, while there is no arguing that China’s most important bilateral relationship is with the US (and increasingly so), the Chinese intelligence apparatus continues to engage in Cold War-style espionage, targeting the government, the military and the high-tech sector in the US. There is, therefore, no inverse correlation between the quality of the relationship and the breadth of espionage activity.
Capability of the People’s Republic of China to Conduct Cyber Warfare and Computer Network Exploitation, a report released on Oct. 22 by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said that the Chinese government is ratcheting up its cyberspying operations against the US, using, as the Wall Street Journal wrote the same day, “a carefully orchestrated campaign against one US company that appears to have been sponsored by Beijing.”
In Canada, the then-director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Jim Judd, told a Senate committee meeting in May 2007 that “China accounts for close to 50 percent of our counter-intelligence program.”
A former Public Security Bureau official in Shenyang, Han Guansheng (韓廣生), who defected to Canada in 2001, has stated publicly that Beijing handles informants in Canada’s Chinese community and gathers intelligence on key economic areas.
Chen Yonglin (陳用林), a former Chinese political consul who defected to Australia on June 4, 2005, told the Toronto Star in June 2007 that “China has a huge network of secret agents and it is working hard to influence governments.”
He also told Australian authorities that Beijing had been overseeing a network of more than 1,000 spies and informers in Australia.
Hao Fengjun (郝鳳軍), a second defector in Australia who is believed to have been a low-level intelligence official, has confirmed that China has more spies in Canada than in any other country.
The UK’s Daily Telegraph reported in July 2005 that a Chinese intelligence defector in Belgium, who had worked at European universities and companies for more than a decade, gave the Surete de l’Etat, Belgium’s security service, detailed information on hundreds of Chinese spies working at various levels of European industry.
Oftentimes, even private Chinese firms that engage in what is ostensibly “pure” industrial espionage are found to have links to the Chinese government, as was the case with the Shenzhen-based company Chitron, which violated US defense export regulations and engaged in money laundering. US federal authorities recently established that Chitron’s main customer was the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, which conducts research, development and manufacturing of missiles and rockets.