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Five Ways China Spies

March 6, 2014 Topic: IntelligenceSecurity Region: China

Five Ways China Spies

Not as different as you might think.

According to a widely cited Hong Kong press article , Chinese military intelligence employs “commercial cadres” who operate like case officers despite not being official government employees. The businesspersons have government credentials and help intelligence officials recruit foreigners that might possess valuable information. One such person may have introduced Kuo Tai-shen, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Louisiana-based businessman arrested in 2008 for spying, to
a Chinese intelligence official with the Guangzhou Friendship Association that promoted U.S.-China business ties. After being recruited himself, Kuo then recruited two U.S. Defense Department officials, Gregg Bergersen and James Fondren , to provide him sensitive defense information related U.S. concerns in the Asia-Pacific. ="#v=onepage&q&f=false">="#v=onepage&q&f=false">

China also hides intelligence officers overseas using commercial cover—sometimes allowing them to emigrate and gain legitimate foreign documentation. Last year, Taiwanese counterintelligence ( with U.S. assistance ) uncovered a high-level penetration in Taiwan’s military. A Chinese intelligence officer living as an Australian businesswoman in Thailand handled General Lo Hsien-che—director of army telecommunications and electronic information at the time of his arrest—while he posted in Thailand as a military attaché in the early 2000s. She and/or another Chinese intelligence officer reportedly lured Lo into a situation where he could be blackmailed and then offered to pay him thousands of dollars in exchange for cooperating with Chinese intelligence.

Peter Mattis is a Fellow in the Jamestown Foundation’s China Program and a PhD student in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Image: Flickr/ Franco Folini . CC BY-SA 2.0.