For seven decades Taiwan has weathered the full gambit of Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-backed espionage. Of the many tactics employed by the CCP, the most potent and damaging is its long-term strategy to infiltrate and gain influence over Taiwanese political and social institutions.
The recruitment of informants and influencers occurs at a grassroots level, often via temple associations and proxy organizations run by members of Taiwan’s organized crime world, such as Chinese Unification Promotion Party founder Chang An-le (張安樂) — also known as the “White Wolf” — but also extends to Taiwan’s corporate lobby, and all the way up to politicians and high-ranking military officers.
Other nations are belatedly waking up to the threat of Chinese infiltration, which appears to have been executed on an industrial scale, as revealed in multiple reports last week.
On Tuesday last week, US Web site Axios reported that from 2011 to 2015, a Chinese national named Christine Fang, or Fang Fang (方芳), targeted several US mayors and politicians in honeytrap-style operations. US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have said that Fang was cultivating relationships with rising US political stars as part of a long-term strategy to gain influence over potential congressional members. One of Fang’s targets was US Representative Eric Swalwell.
On the other side of the Atlantic, British newspaper the Mail on Sunday on Saturday published an investigation into a leaked database of 1.95 million registered CCP members from 2016.
The investigation revealed that registered party members are involved in sensitive military research at British universities and are working at prominent companies in the UK, including the banks HSBC and Standard Chartered, defense contractors Rolls-Royce, Boeing, Airbus and Thales, and pharmaceutical behemoths Pfizer and AstraZeneca. The number of CCP members in these companies ranges from dozens up to hundreds, it said.
The database was leaked by a Chinese dissident and passed to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, an international grouping of legislators concerned about the activities of China’s government.
Even more alarming, registered party members are working at British consulates in China, including one at the British consulate in Shanghai who works one floor below a team of intelligence officers. The concern, according to a security source quoted in the article, is that the team’s cover could have been blown.
Back in the US, Di Dongsheng (翟東昇), a professor of international relations at Renmin University, claimed in a video of a talk delivered on Nov. 28 at an event in Shanghai that Beijing has “old friends” at the top of the US’ “core inner circle” of power, including within Wall Street. After the video went viral, it was quickly removed from Di’s page on the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo.
The video could simply be a disinformation designed to discredit the US public’s confidence in the elections — Di hinted that Beijing has kompromat on US president-elect Joe Biden through his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China. However, it could be credible, with media reports last week saying that federal authorities, including the FBI, are investigating Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, in addition to a laptop computer that he had used.
Similar attempts to infiltrate democracies — including Australia, New Zealand and Canada — have received extensive coverage in the past few years. It is likely that cases currently in the public domain are just the tip of the iceberg.
Taiwan’s intelligence agencies have amassed a wealth of counterespionage experience, accumulated through decades of rooting out Chinese spies. The government should consider providing discreet offers of assistance, such as training and intelligence sharing, with affected nations, to leverage this valuable national asset.
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