China’s Ministry of State Security unveiled allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had successfully placed an intelligence agent within its government. Labeling this as another chapter in the escalating espionage chess game between Beijing and Washington, these accusations raise more questions than answers.
The man in question is a 39-year-old known simply as “Hao.” As per the claims made by the Ministry, Hao had allegedly been wooed and cultivated by the CIA while studying in Japan. Interestingly, his initiation into espionage seems straight out of a spy novel. Upon his application for a U.S. visa, an unnamed U.S. embassy official in Japan fostered a rapport with Hao. This relationship saw Hao being treated to meals, gifts, and even payments for assisting in a research paper.
China Claims CIA Infiltrated ‘Critical Unit’ of a Communist Government Agency https://t.co/yFtHrWTefa
— Jim Polk 🇺🇸 (@JimPolk) August 22, 2023
But the stakes escalated when this embassy official introduced Hao to another colleague, who was eventually revealed to be a CIA operative. Hao was then allegedly lured into the intricate web of international espionage, with promises of employment in a “core and critical department” of the Chinese administration. The bait worked as Hao was purportedly trained and eventually landed a role in a vital government agency. Once embedded, he was believed to have had multiple interactions with CIA agents, handing over essential information in exchange for monetary rewards.
This startling revelation came barely ten days after a similar expose where the Ministry accused another Chinese national, “Zeng,” of serving as an American asset. Zeng’s story, narrated by China’s state-run Global Times, outlines his recruitment, driven by an embrace of “Western values” and the renunciation of communism. While Hao’s recruitment seems financial, Zeng appears ideologically motivated, further complicating the espionage narrative.
These developments should be viewed against Beijing’s aggressive “counter-espionage” campaign. The Ministry of State Security took to the WeChat platform — an app that, according to Bloomberg in July 2022, “dominates almost every facet of a person’s daily online existence in China” — to bolster its presence and push its agenda. With a mandate to encourage ordinary Chinese to report potential spies, this campaign, initiated on August 1, heavily employs anti-espionage propaganda.
Drawing from its WeChat posts, the Ministry emphasized the collective responsibility of its citizens. As translated by the Global Times, the Ministry stated: “National security is the foundation of national rejuvenation; all Chinese citizens have an obligation to help weed out spies.”
In a world where espionage and counterintelligence are staples in the playbook of global superpowers, these claims from China sound a clarion call. While China pushes its counter-espionage narrative, its real motivations remain clouded. Is Beijing genuinely unearthing American spies, or are these allegations strategic moves in the larger geopolitical chessboard?
CIA Director William Burns’s comments in July at the Aspen Security Forum could provide a hint. Expressing satisfaction over the “progress” his agents made in China, he remarked, “We’ve made progress and we’re working very hard to ensure that we have strong human intelligence capability.”
Yet, it’s crucial to tread these waters with caution. China’s track record, riddled with abrupt dismissals and disappearances of officials like Foreign Minister Qin Gang, underscores the opaque nature of the Communist regime.