Chinese spies are everywhere: how the mega network that was born in the brothels of Shanghai and infiltrated the world was woven

China Focuses Its Operations To Influence Western Opinion And Policy Makers

Clandestine police stations all over the planet, spy balloons, thousands of undercover agents and infiltrated collaborators in all sectors of Western life: China has spies everywhere and that powerful network is central to the story of communist party.

The problem is so serious that its tentacles cause damage both inside and outside the country. In fact, the Party’s subsistence depends on espionage

The history of the Chinese intelligence services dates back more than a hundred years and is inseparable from the founding of the communist state. The seed, however, is not Chinese, but Soviet.

In December 1917, after the Bolshevik revolution, Lenin called for “unchaining the East.” With an eye on the capitalist West, he intended to spread communism in Central Asia (and beyond as well). With the purpose of achieving communism worldwide, in 1919 he established the Communist International, Comintern. Lenin argued that capitalism would be weakened by being cut off from markets and suffering the reduction in resources provided by its colonial and semi-colonial territories. The bloodthirsty Stalin, his successor, shared this belief. Like Lenin, he considered disorder and division to be essential elements of a communist revolution. And they began to look towards China.

So, espionage became a key element for the communist advance.

The Chinese spies that the US is looking for in its territory (AP)
The Chinese spies that the US is looking for in its territory (AP)

In 1911, the Chinese emperor had been overthrown and a republic had been declared. Beijing was internationally recognized as the capital and a quasi-government was established, but the country was deeply divided and local leaders, many of them foreign-sponsored, were the truly powerful ones.

In January 1920, the Bolsheviks seized Central Siberianthey established the first land link with China and, in a few months, the Communist International already had a representative in China, Grigory Voitinsky. And almost in no time, they established an operational center in shanghai.

A year later, at the first Congress of the Communist Party of China, two Soviet envoys already participated. There was also another person in attendance that day, an unknown young delegate from Hunan province named Mao Zedong.

The Soviets helped their Chinese communist brethren, but they also armed and supplied other parties in China, especially the Kuomintang, the nationalist movement.

In 1927, the first Chinese communist intelligence service, the Central Committee Special Branch, or Zhongyang Teke, was formed.. The Special Section was created by Zhou Enlai, who would become one of the founding fathers of the People’s Republic of China and later Prime Minister of Communist China, from 1954 until his death in 1976.

According to the investigator Sean Durns, the enemies of the CCP’s spy service “were legion.” The Chinese Communists had to deal with the Nationalists, the Japanese, and the countless foreigners who inhabited China, many of them in shanghaithe birthplace of the CCP. The city was a den of intrigue, filled with opium dens, brothels, and spies.

“Shanghai was the espionage capital of the Orient”described the writer Ben Macintyre. At that time, foreigners did not need a passport or visa, which allowed spies to do and undo without leaving traces.

So, Shanghai became the first testing laboratory for Chinese communist spies.

In 1927, the Kuomintang leader, Chiang Kai Shekturned against the communists, started a bloody internal purge and, after thousands of deaths, ended cooperation between the CCP. The episode, in addition to being decisive in the future of Chinese communism, at some point also explains the paranoia that continues to this day in the power of the Asian giant.

The organization’s first spy chief, Gu Shunzhang, had been “born on the wrong side of the tracks in Shanghai,” Durns details. “He spent his teenage years hanging out in bars, smoking opium, having affairs with women, learning the ways of the underworld,” the investigator said. Roger Faligot in his book Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping.

By night, he was an illusionist, performing in Shanghai’s many clubs and casinos. But by day, Gu worked at a tobacco factory, and it was there that he began his relationship with the CCP. In time, the magician was sent to the Soviet Union for training, where he learned new tricks…

Gu was soon appointed head of the CCP Politburo security service, where he was active in the conflict with the Kuomintang. But magic ended up being his sentence because a photo of his shows gave him away, in 1931 the Kuomintang espionage service identified him by an image and made him a double agent. The information provided by Gu led to the rounding up and execution of countless communists. But in 1934 he was useless and the Kuomintang assassinated him.

Kang Sheng
Kang Sheng, CCP intelligence chief, close associate of Mao Zedong and feared secret policeman

Another early CCP spy leader, Kang Shengwent down in history as the “Chinese beria”establishing a parallelism with Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s spy chief. Yet Kang Sheng outlived both Beria and Stalin, and his reign as fearsome intelligence chief lasted well into the 1970s, as he continued to orchestrate purges on behalf of his former master, Mao. When the father of the current CCP Chairman, Xi Jinping, who was also one of the founders of the Chinese communist state, was ousted in the 1960s, Xi’s family blamed Kang for the move.

Like Gu, Kang had been raised in the Soviet Union. He had originally been a supporter of Wang Ming, Mao’s rival. And like Gu, he had been a shop steward before rising through the ranks of the CCP’s security architecture. According to what was said about him, “Kang could freeze you with one look.”

The spymaster – “sinister looking”, as he described it The New York Times in his obituary – he spent the late 1930s and early 1940s eliminating traitorous spies in the ranks of the CCP, consolidating Mao’s power.

He established an intelligence school and headquarters that, according to Faligot, “soon came to be feared by CCP cadres as their worst nightmare,” complete with interrogation rooms and clandestine cells.

Kang’s job, intelligence historian Christopher Andrew revealed, “was to depose and destroy his party comrades, and his continued ‘investigations’ in the early 1960s laid the groundwork for attacks by the cultural revolution that were to come.”

Kang had a lot of influence. In researching him Dunst recalls that it was he who introduced Mao to his third wife, actress Jiang Qing, later known as the infamous “Madame Mao,” for having ordered thousands of executions.

Kang Sheng
April 29, 1969: Left, Chairman Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) casts his ballot at China’s 9th Communist National Congress in Beijing. Waiting to cast his vote in hierarchical order, from 2nd left, Lin Piao, Chou En-Lai, Chen Po_Tak, Kang Sheng, Chiang Ching (Mao’s wife), Chang Chun-Chiao and Yao Wen-Yuan (Getty Photo Images) (Central Press /)

faligot in his book Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinpingassures that Kang was “the inventor of Maoism”, persecuting what he called “deviationist elements”.

He would later play a key role in the Sino-Soviet split of the late 1950s, pushing for Beijing to give up Russian tutelage and become more independent.

As the Kuomintang and the West fought the Japanese in World War II, the CCP withdrew, saving energy for the civil war and for the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949, Mao’s spies gained strength: since then -and up to the present-, its greatest task is to guarantee the survival of the Chinese communist state, outside and inside the country.

Thus, almost from the beginning, the Chinese Communists They managed to install moles all over the worldbut one of his greatest successes was the famous Larry Wu-tai Chin. This Asian American was recruited by CCP spies in 1944. He managed to infiltrate the US military as a translator and served in consulates in Shanghai and Hong Kong… For four decades he collected priceless American secrets. Durns details that, during the Korean War, he provided Mao with the names of captured Chinese soldiers who were cooperating with American interrogators.

In addition, over the years it was known that he leaked sensitive information about Richard Nixon’s plans to normalize relations with China two years before the president visited the country.

But as often happens in the world of espionage, Chin also crossed sides and worked for the CIA… When Mao found out, he unleashed a bloodletting.

Larry Wu-tai Chin 1
Chinese spy Larry Wu-Tai Chin (Charles Tasnadi/AP)

Chin paid for his betrayals on both sides, and was imprisoned in 1985. While awaiting trial, he decided to take his own life in his Virginia prison cell. During that same period, the CCP leader at the time, Deng Xiaopingbegan a process of transformation and modernization of the various intelligence services in China, and even he recruited Xi Zhongxun, Xi Jinping’s father.

Chinese spies are having alarming successes, penetrating Western state agencies and engaging in industrial espionage, hacking into key US and allied intellectual property. According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, China’s economic espionage has become “more brazen, more damaging than ever.”

Now, China focuses its operations to influence Western opinion and policy makers.

Unlike what happens in Western democracies, Chinese intelligence services are not accountable to independent political bodies or to public opinion, nor are they subject to the rule of law.

The degree of political indoctrination within Chinese espionage is monumental. Communism goes through everything. Each entity has two components: a technical chief, in charge of daily tasks, and a political representative, responsible for ensuring that the ideological orientation of the entity conforms to the strategy established by the Communist Party of China.

While a part of Xi Jinping’s intelligence agents control internal security by managing the laogai (the Chinese version of the Soviet gulag) and the repression of dissidents, there are thousands of Chinese agents scattered around the world. Working as scientists, journalists, diplomats, foreign students, and businessmen, they collect sensitive information on a piecemeal basis…

It is that for more than 100 years Chinese spies have been everywhere.

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“Spies”, a complete history of espionage between East and West