The Spy Who Helped the Chinese Communist Party Conquer China

November 27, 2011 Updated: October 2, 2015
Shen Jian. (Screenshot from

In the last few years one scandal after another has called attention to the aggressive and often successful spying done by the Chinese Communist regime on its enemies. Such spying is not a new development. The Beijing Evening News recently reported on one of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) most successful spies, who played an important role in the CCP’s defeat of the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) under Chiang Kai-shek.

The world knew Shen Jian as the CCP’s first ambassador to India and as the man tapped in 1960 by Zhou Enlai to serve as the CCP’s first ambassador to Cuba. However what really helped him to become a top diplomat was his work as a spy, which was done under another name.

Shen Jian’s birth-name was Shen Zhemin. Zhou Enlai once named Shen as one of the three heroes of secret intelligence: Xiong Xianghui, Shen Zhenmin, and Chen Zhongjing gained the trust of Chiang Kai-shek’s most loved and most important military commander Hu Tsung-nan, and clandestinely provided military information on the KMT to the CCP.

Shen attended Beijing Normal University in 1937 and in May 1938 was secretly recruited into the CCP.

He tried every way to gain the trust of Hu Tsung-nan and served as the secretary of the Youth League. He was able to join the Bureau of Investigation and Statistics (BIS) and the Central Bureau of Investigation and Statistics (CBIS), two important intelligence agencies of the KMT.

Because Shen Zhemin controlled the KMT’s secret agents from the Shanxi Youth league, he gained access to lots of confidential information.

Once, Hu Tsung-nan ordered his forces to occupy a county. Shen Zhemin immediately called the CCP headquarters in Yan’an and reported the plan. The CCP was able to withdraw all its troops, and Hu Tsung-nan’s forces gained nothing from the attack.

In June or July of 1943, Chiang Kai-shek ordered Hu Tsung-nan to make a sudden attack on Yan’an, wanting to eradicate Mao Zedong and the CCP central committee all at once.

At the time Yan’an was pretty much an empty city with only around 30,000 CCP troops. When Xiong Xianghui and Shen Zhenmin heard the news, they telegraphed the CCP in Yan’an immediately. Mao Zedong and the CCP central committee escaped, and Hu Tsung-nan ended up with an empty town.

While Shen Zhemin provided lots of intelligence to the CCP, he was very good at disguising himself and was trusted by the Nationalist forces.

Between 1942 and 1943, the KMT central committee held a training class in Zhongqing headed by Chiang Kai-shek. The main goal was to train the higher officers of the military and youth league in various provinces.

Chiang Kai-shek attended the graduation ceremony personally. Shen Zhemin gave a speech on behalf of all the students. This tall and handsome CCP spy was exceptional at public speaking and made a deep impression. After the ceremony, he was granted personal meetings with Chiang Kai-shek on two separate occasions.

After the war with Japan ended in 1945, Shen was promoted to colonel at Hu Tsung-nan’s headquarters and highly trusted by Hu.

Although the three CCP spies Xiong Xianghui, Shen Zhenmin, and Chen Zhongjing were under Hu Tsung-nan for so long, Hu never seems to have noticed their real identity.

In 1946, Hu decided to send Xiong Xianghui, Shen Zhenmin, and Chen Zhongjing to the United States to pursue their studies.

In July 1949, Shen Zhenmin and his wife returned to mainland China. By the end of 1949, the CCP had driven the KMT out of mainland China.

Afterwards, the CCP leader Liu Shaoqi changed Shen Zhenmin’s name to Shen Jian, and he switched from intelligence to diplomatic work. In 1950, Shen Jian served as the CCP’s first ambassador to India and in 1960 as the CCP’s first ambassador to Cuba.

He later served as deputy secretary general of the International Liaison Department of the CCP Central Committee, Vice Minister of the China-Cuba Friendship Association, Senior Fellow of the Institute of Contemporary International Relations, and Professor at China’s School of Foreign Affairs.

Shen Jian died in March 1992 in Beijing.