Before the CIA spies were exposed in China

China has been publicly announcing the arrests of several spies working for the CIA, an unconventional move for a country not best known for message clarity.

2 mins read
Chinese security officers stand in front of the Chinese Embassy in Beijing [ PHOTO: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS]

“Drug Panic,” “God’s Scalpel,” “Old Classmates in Washington,” “CIA Spy School,” “Sexy Spies,” “Target – Beijing Olympics,” and “Double Agent,” these gripping chapters of the spy novel Fatal Weakness, upon its first release in 2004, led many spy fiction enthusiasts to believe that its author, Yang Hengjun, a former employee at China’s Foreign Ministry, was next in line to become one of China’s bestselling writers in this genre. His fans were awed by his vivid description and attention to detail at portraying the life of a double agent. They later discovered that all it took was for Yang to report on his own life, as Fatal Weakness fits better in the category of autobiography than novel.

For the past two months, China has been publicly announcing the arrests of several spies working for the CIA, an unconventional move for a country not best known for message clarity. Previously, China’s state media would only go so far as saying that a person is harming national security and therefore warrants an arrest. What prompted the sudden change of tone? Most importantly, wouldn’t openly revealing that even government officials lack faith in the country hurt the government’s reputation even more, further fueling the already rampant suspicion around its former Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s removal?

To answer these questions, it would be necessary to examine all the “accidents” that have killed Chinese scientists in the past five years, as this provides insight into the urgency Beijing faces to take a more assertive position. Whether these incidents were truly unfortunate accidents or the successful operations of secret agents is up to you to decide.

On July 1, 2023, Feng Yanghe, the brain behind the AI software used in China’s military simulations, died in a car accident in Beijing at the age of 38.

On June 22, 2023, China’s leading botanist Zhang Dabing passed away at the age of 56 from a car accident. He was a prominent scientist in China’s hybrid rice field and transgenic biosafety monitoring field.

On September 21, 2022, genius rocket engineer Li Yuchong died in the United States at the age of 30, a week after he announced his decision to forgo offers from the US and return to China.

On June 14, 2019, Ning Bin, one of the driving forces behind China’s digital signaling systems across the railway, died at the age of 60 from a car accident. He was working on a control system for a super high-speed train running at 1,000 km/h.

On December 1, 2018, renowned quantum physicist Zhang Shoucheng died in the US at the age of 55, purportedly from depression, three days after his team announced a breakthrough in 5G chips. His discovery of “angel particles” in 2017, particles that are both matter and anti-matter, ended one of the most intensive searches in fundamental physics. Before his death, it was widely speculated he would be the next recipient of the Nobel Prize. His scientific life was put to an abrupt end on the same day Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada. Meng is the senior executive of Huawei, the company Zhang and his team had collaborated with since 2009.

A month later, Chen Shuming, head of the R&D team for chips of advanced weapons, died in a car accident on December 31, 2018.

The list goes on and on, with examples found in all areas involving leading science and technology. Beijing has never confirmed nor denied people’s suspicions that these were premeditated assassination attempts coordinated by a network of spies that have infiltrated key positions in the Chinese government. However, as the list grows longer, the silence becomes increasingly unbearable to many.

Remarks by CIA Director William Joseph Burns that the agency has “made progress” in rebuilding its spy networks in China served as both verification of people’s suspicions and validation of Beijing’s perceived incompetence. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that if Beijing prolongs this silence, we will witness its reputation being slowly shredded to pieces. In an apparent effort of self-consolation, Chinese netizens even pushed a story online about the Macao Garrison Special Operations Company being awarded a first-class collective merit citation in 2014 for defeating an alleged CIA assassination attempt on Snowden when he was transiting through Hong Kong en route to Russia. To their disappointment, the narrative was later denied by Macao authorities. It is conceivable that the recent string of reports on spy arrests is the long-awaited response to an anxious populace that has borne witness to some not-so-clandestine espionage activities.

Source: China Academy

SLG Syndication

SLG Syndication is committed to aggregating excerpts from news published by international news agencies and key insights on contemporary issues published by think tanks. Our aim is to facilitate the expansion of its reach while giving due credit to the original source.

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