China’s Top Spy Agency Enlists the Entire Nation

China’s Top Spy Agency Enlists the Entire Nation
Security personnel stand guard at Zhongnanhai near Tiananmen Square ahead of China's 20th Communist Party Congress in Beijing on Oct. 13, 2022. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)
Antonio Graceffo

Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping and Beijing’s paranoia has reached such a level that the regime’s top spy agency has launched a social media campaign enlisting the entire nation to fight the so-called foreign espionage threat.

On National Security Education Day on April 15, the Ministry of National Defense released a video made by the civilian spy agency, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), titled “Let the spies have no place to hide.” The official description translates as, “In the sea of people, you may never notice them. Their identities are changeable, they have countless disguises, and they even don’t hesitate to change their gender.” This video is the latest manifestation of the growing paranoia of the Xi Jinping regime.

The video features an Asian man who assumes different disguises—a utility worker, a chef, a driver—while carrying out espionage. As a photographer, he captures images of a woman near a restricted area. In a lab coat, he blends in with researchers, extracting secrets from a laboratory. Disguised as a businessman, he infiltrates a meeting, copying data onto a thumb drive for transmission to an undisclosed foreign entity. A real James Bond moment comes when a waiter slips him a message hidden in his lunch, which he reads and then eats. However, his activities are thwarted when Chinese security forces apprehend him in a raid.

After the spy’s capture, flashback sequences reveal that state security forces monitored him at every stage of his cunning identity shifts and intelligence gathering. This video served as both CCP propaganda, praising the bravery of those protecting the Party and the nation, and a stark reminder to citizens that the CCP is always watching and that they will be caught no matter how clever they are. The flashbacks show that not only was the spy under surveillance, but nearly every person he encountered was a CCP counterspy.
The National Intelligence Law requires citizens and companies to assist the CCP in intelligence gathering. This notion is echoed in the video’s description, highlighting that despite spies blending in among the Chinese population, “as long as there are 1.4 billion of you and me, we can build 1.4 billion lines of defense! ... Maintaining national security is for everyone and everyone is needed!” This places the obligation for national security on every citizen’s shoulders, urging them to report any suspicious activity by both foreigners and nationals.
The CCP operates several spy agencies, both civilian and military. Military intelligence falls under the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is tasked with “collecting foreign military, economic, and political intelligence to support military operations,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Until recently, the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force was the primary military agency responsible for signals intelligence, cyberwarfare, and other technological warfare tasks. However, as of April 19, 2024, the Strategic Support Force was dissolved and replaced by three separate forces: Aerospace Force, Cyberspace Force, and Information Support Force (ISF), with ISF emerging as the leading agency. Favored by Xi, ISF has been commissioned as a new strategic branch of the PLA.
The CCP’s primary civilian spy agency is the MSS, which is tasked with foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, human intelligence, and domestic security. The ministry operates as a Chinese government ministry, supervised by both the State Council—the top administrative authority of the regime—and the Politburo Standing Committee. Under Xi’s leadership, the MSS has assumed a more prominent role in public domestic counterespionage efforts.
Under Xi, the Counterespionage Law was expanded last year. The new law broadens the scope of what constitutes violations, potentially encompassing routine business activities such as market research, auditing, due diligence, business consulting, or inquiries about sensitive subjects.

As security tightens, the MSS has come out of the shadows to remind the public that they are being watched and to watch each other. The ministry has social media accounts, and its posters and notices are visible in public places in towns and cities throughout the country.

Previous anti-spy propaganda included a comic strip called “Dangerous Love,” depicting a Chinese girl unknowingly passing state secrets to her foreign boyfriend, David. However, the MSS has stepped up its efforts, now publishing manga-style comics and an online series titled “Shenyin Special Investigation Squad,” based on purported real espionage cases.
Chinese tabloid Global Times published an article praising a video released by the MSS for “building a strong national security people’s defense line” through citizen reporting on acts endangering national security. The article highlights that in 2023, the ministry received numerous citizen tips, leading to the prevention of espionage acts and resulting in arrests and prosecutions in some cases. As recognition for their efforts, around 85 citizens were honored with awards for their contributions to state security.
According to the CCP, spies are everywhere, infiltrating everything, and the only way for the nation to survive is if the entire citizenry works together against “foreign forces.” On some level, state paranoia may seem comical, particularly the CCP’s response, which includes producing videos and manga for national security. However, the Chinese regime, armed with nuclear weapons and boasting the world’s third most powerful military, aspires to rival the United States as the global hegemon. This pervasive paranoia significantly influences government decision-making, underscoring its importance. Moreover, individuals conducting business in China must acknowledge that the risk of being arrested and charged with espionage is at an unprecedented level.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Antonio Graceffo, PhD, is a China economic analyst who has spent more than 20 years in Asia. Mr. Graceffo is a graduate of the Shanghai University of Sport, holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University, and currently studies national defense at American Military University. He is the author of “Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion” (2019).
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