In 2005, the defection of former Chinese diplomat, Chen Yonglin created a crack in the Chinese communist regime's spy network. However, except for the highest authority that controls the spy organization, outsiders may never know how many spies the communist regime has sent overseas. Other than the officials in diplomatic organizations, who also act as spies, it may be impossible for outsiders to figure out who's who amongst the communist regime spies and what their mandates are.
Just by chance, I recently learned that a friend, whom I have known for years, had been a spy working for the communist army General Staff Headquarters. It was through him that I learned the operations of the communist regime's overseas spy system. Most spies report to two different organizations; they do not have any subordinate relations, and their missions are different. Foreign service military officers belong to the system operated by the military General Staff Headquarters. Their information-gathering status is usually known to people, and their emphasis is on collecting military, political, and business information for China.
The National Security Ministry operates the other system. In addition to collecting the usual information, these spies also monitor overseas democratic activists and Falun Gong practitioners, and some have even penetrated into these organizations to try to disrupt and eventually destroy them. Both systems have similar types of operatives: official diplomats, businessmen, students, and local Chinese residents.
My friend's public persona was a business representative of a company headquartered in Chengdu city, China. He took advantage of this position to make millions of dollars in personal wealth over a period of ten years. His success was attributed partially to his secret spy status. It was said that in the 1990s, when the Chinese government controlled people applying for permission to go overseas, everyone who applied to leave the country had to pass a “political review,” and then had to attend training courses if their applications were approved.
The purpose of such training was to instill in their minds that they must follow local laws and not do anything damaging to China. Spy organizations participated in these training courses and chose spy candidates from the trainees. Once a person was chosen, the spy organization would indoctrinate the person and convince him to work for them. Nobody knows how many people accepted such positions, but it is safe to guess most of the applicants would have consented under the circumstances.
In the early 1990s, China did not yet have an open door policy, and most people did not think that working as a spy for China was a dishonorable thing to do as they had experienced years of communist education. In truth, many people would have felt honored to be entrusted by the regime. Even if they realized it was not appropriate to be a spy, not many people would dare to refuse for fear they wouldn't be allowed to leave the country at all. In addition, the spy organizations offered very attractive conditions that were hard to turn down.
My friend is a good example. The spies from the Communist Central Military Commission General Staff Headquarters asked him to assist in collecting political and military information in Vietnam when they learned that he would be selling cement-making equipment. In Vietnam, most cement factories are run by the military—many of the managers are military officers. The benefits the spy organization offered were profits for his business and the status of permanent resident in Hong Kong. Such an offer was difficult for him to refuse.
As a result, my friend became a spy for the communist Central Military Commission General Staff Office in Vietnam for ten years. Later, he was involved in a corruption investigation that resulted in Ji Deshen, head of General Staff Headquarter, stepping down and fleeing to the U.S. My friend would still be a spy today if he had not also fled to the U.S. because it is extremely difficult to leave a spy organization once you are working for them.
I never had an opportunity to ask my friend what kind of information he provided to the communist regime, I can only guess he did a good job. He was in his twenties when he went to Vietnam, tall, good looking, and spoke fluent English. He even dated several high-profile women including the daughter of Vietnam State Bank Deputy Chairman, the daughter of Vietnam Industrial Group Vice President, and a famous singer from Saigon. He entered the upper class circles easily with his networks, was a guest of the Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister, and his business became very profitable. It was easy for others to believe that his networking was for business purposes only.
My friend fled to the U.S. and stayed for over a year after the corruption was revealed. However, he then returned to Vietnam to do business. When I visited him in Vietnam, he warned me not to participate in any political activities, otherwise I might be captured a spy organization. He used the famous democratic activist Mr. Wang Bingzhang as an example. Mr. Wang was picked up, extradited to China from Vietnam, and eventually sentenced to a long term in prison. He suggested that I escape to a Western country as I would not be safe staying in another communist country like Vietnam. From our conversations, I feel he is still a kind-hearted and honest person although he has been a spy. Therefore, I will not disclose his name in this article.