No nation can prevent spies from springing up among their own population. But there are certain basic motives that make people less likely to choose to live as strangers in their own land, betraying those they are supposed to serve. The Chinese regime undercuts those motives.
That the secretary to the vice minister of State Security was detained early this year for spying was first reported by Hong Kong Eastern Daily on May 26. The secretary was said to have been recruited by U.S. intelligence years ago in Hong Kong. It was said that he fell into a “honey trap”—seduced into a relationship with a woman and then threatened with exposure—and has sent information out ever since.
Loyalty to the nation, the state, and the ruling Party are totally different issues.
He passed on “political, economic, and strategic intelligence,” according to Reuters and NY Times articles. This is believed to be the most serious incident since 1985. That year, Yu Qiangsheng, the high-ranking official in charge of North America in the newly established Ministry of State Security, defected to the United States and exposed the most important Chinese spy, Larry Wu-Tai Chin.
This current spy case, although maybe the biggest, is not the only one from the last several years. Spying is probably one of the oldest professions. After the Cold War ended, espionage focused more on the economy and technology, even though political and military information was still very important.
China replaced the former Soviet Union as most active in espionage in Western countries. However, from this case and the previous cases, one can see that China has its own problems regarding espionage. Some are similar to other countries, some are very unique.
Before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took over China and for the first several years the CCP ruled China, it was not short of people from different parts of society to work for it from the enemy’s side.
They were fooled in the hopes they placed in the CCP, but people at that time really believed that they fought for a good cause. Larry Wu-Tai Chin, if he was really assigned by Zhou Enlai in 1944 to be a spy, belonged to this category, although he probably got paid for his intelligence in later years.
Revolution can’t last forever. After Mao’s death, Communist Party leaders stopped the theory and practice of “continuing revolution.” But they failed to create a new theory to replace it.
Deng Xiaoping’s saying, “no matter if it is a white cat or a black cat, so long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat,” can hardly be considered ideological theory. Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents not only has nothing to do with ideology, but it also conflicts with Mao’s theory of revolution.
Whenever the CCP’s ideology meets universal values, the CCP is immediately defeated. Given this ideological vacuum, China doesn’t have the kind of person who is inspired to spy by the regime’s ideology.
In most democratic countries, there is no need to have a guideline for the whole nation. In most situations, the state and the nation don’t conflict with each other. Government employees (as well as all citizens) need to be loyal to the nation.
In China, the CCP, even after ruling for 63 years, still hasn’t solved the problem of its legitimacy. Loyalty to the nation, the state, and the ruling Party are totally different issues. Those who work in the Ministry of State Security dealing with foreign intelligence encounter the resulting mental conflicts all the time—at least those who are willing to use their own brains to think.
When the ruling Party claims that it is above the state and the law—especially when the Party denies the nation’s history, traditions, and culture—transferring loyalty to the national identity to loyalty to the state is difficult.
The people who work in intelligence have opportunities to know the real situation in China. When they witness high-ranking Party and government officials send their families and fortunes to the “hostile” countries, it’s really hard for them to keep loyalty to the state, which these officials claim to own.
When these officials lose power, they just run to the “hostile” countries or their consulates in China, like the Chongqing Deputy Mayor Wang Lijun did. (It was not an accident that Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov, the head of KGB, started reform when he got the chance. The secret police know the problems better than anyone else.)
Chinese spies need to deal with another difficulty—the attitude of the state toward them.
During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union took care of their own. Once spies were caught, efforts would be made to get them back. There were many times that spies were exchanged. The state’s support is the only hope for those who work behind the front lines.
However, a Chinese spy can’t expect such preferential treatment. When Larry Wu-Tai Chin was caught, he appealed directly to the CCP leader Deng Xiaoping. His request was bluntly rejected.
Then-spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Li Zhaoxing said during a press conference: “Chin Wu-Tai’s case is fabricated by America’s anti-China forces. The Chinese government loves peace and has never sent any spy to the United States or any other country. The Chinese government will not recognize this anti-China incident, and doesn’t know this self-proclaimed Chinese spy, Mr. Chin Wu-Tai.”
Probably out of desperation, Chin killed himself before the trial. Actually, I don’t recall the CCP ever admitting any espionage case. Total denial doesn’t encourage loyalty.
Money TalksAs the true materialists, the last and only measure that the CCP can use is money. Money probably is more effective at buying intelligence from others while being less effective at keeping one’s own intelligence.
In China, all of the Party and government are corrupt, and the intelligence agencies are no exception. Money can buy loyalty and intelligence. But more money can also take the loyalty and intelligence away. In today’s China under the CCP’s materialism, there is no solution to the problem.
Next…Another Blow to Zhou Yongkang