Chinese intelligence operations directed at the United States should not be viewed as simply the province of a few intelligence organizations. The Chinese utilize a whole of government approach to targeting the United States. Effectively, every element of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese government is involved in this kind of activity. If you are in contact with a Chinese national who works in any sense for Beijing you are liable to be targeted.
It is also important to understand that the Chinese Communist Party is not simply seeking to acquire classified information. It is also actively attempting to undermine the United States of America, sow dissension and cripple what it sees as its chief adversary from within. This means, among other things, funding groups that look to divide America along racial and class lines.
The CCP is also looking to coopt and recruit influential Americans, including politicians, business leaders and academics. It seeks to steer American foreign and domestic policy and to persuade the United States to adopt policies favorable to Beijing and not to the American people.
Formal Chinese intelligence services can be divided into civilian and military sides. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is not unlike an amalgam of CIA and FBI, with officers stationed overseas and internally. It is a civilian organization and operates within the United States to recruit Americans to spy for Beijing.
Within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), intelligence organizations fall under the General Staff Department; the General Political Department for intelligence and covert influence operations; the PLA Navy, Air Force, and Second Artillery headquarters; and technical reconnaissance bureaus in the military regions. Much of this intelligence apparatus is based in China, but defense attachés and clandestine collectors do also operate abroad.
The New China News Agency and other media outlets also collect information for the Chinese Communist Party. While most Chinese reporters are not formally intelligence officers they do send reports to Beijing on non-public topics, particularly the activities internal security targets (like Tibetans, Uighurs, Taiwanese, Falungong, and others.
The Overseas Chinese Affairs office and the Ministry of Education monitor the activities of Chinese nationals abroad. They also help to organize overseas Chinese when necessary in support Chinese government initiatives.
The purpose of the CCP’s United Front Work Department is to exercise political influence abroad. The United Front has been reenergized in recent years. The CCP’s United Front system operates both inside and outside China “to mobilize the party’s friends to strike at the party’s enemies”. It exerts Chinese influence within foreign political parties, diaspora communities, colleges and corporations, all with the goal of promoting the party’s interests by co-opting local organizations.
Confucius Institutes on dozens of U.S. campuses have “longstanding and formal ties” with the United Front Work Department.These institutes work to shape the perceptions of both faculty and students and influence them to support the policies of the Chinese Communist Party
Chinese Talent Plans
China oversees hundreds of so-called talent plans. All incentivize members to steal foreign technology needed to advance China’s national, military, and economic goals.
Pursuant to these efforts, China recruits science and technology professors, researchers, students, and others to apply for talent plans. Individuals with expertise in or access to a technology that China considers important to its efforts to become the dominant military and economic power on the planet are prioritized.
Selected participants enter into a contract with a Chinese university or company. The contract typically subjects the participants to Chinese law, provides that technology developed will be shared only with China and requires that the participants actively recruit other Americans into the project. The primary goal of these plans is to facilitate undisclosed and illegal transfers of information, technology, or intellectual property that are detrimental to U.S. institutions.
- CSIS: Understanding China’s Intelligence Services
- China’s spies are waging an intensifying espionage offensive against the United States. Does America have what it takes to stop them?
- DOJ: Former CIA Officer Arrested and Charged with Espionage
- New cold war: China-US spying steps out of the shadows
- Hi Tech And China: The Long Game Re Spying In The United States