The Chinese way of collecting data

Just like the Russian intelligence services make a great deal of using traditional tradecraft and Western agencies prefer clear-cut approach which leaves no doubt in the asset’s mind who they are working for so the Chinese approach has a typical modus operandi…

This is Part 2 of the four part series:

  1. Chinese intelligence structures
  2. This post
  3. China: The Monolith Myth
  4. Cyber espionage - the Chinese way

The Chinese agents cultivate their assets for a long period of time, building friendly relations and discussing mutual benefits. Different nations approach intelligence collection and intelligence asset management and handling the same way they approach any other business.

  • Westerners get down to business.
  • Russians and Eastern Europeans geek out on tradecraft.
  • Chinese prefer to beat around the bush and look for a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ type arrangements.

Then and Now

Majority of Chinese intelligence collection comes from non-intelligence services. This wide spectrum collection is by no means a speciality of Far Eastern nations, but they have perfected it well through the years.

A lot of Chinese science and technology collection is conducted under the radar > through visiting academics and businessmen picking up individual items of information that were not in themselves especially sensitive or compromising, or by skilfully picking the brains of Western scientists visiting China, who could often be persuaded following generous – and tiring – Chinese hospitality to go the extra mile in revealing items of information.

It is no longer the case that >Chinese intelligence officers have a strong preference for dealing with Chinese agents and are loath to make intelligence approaches to other nationalities; and Chinese intelligence officers tend to make oblique approaches, in which their true affiliations and objectives are not articulated.

They’ve since realised that most cultures do not cultivate as much attention to subtle gestures. What seemed obvious to the Chinese handlers often went unnoticed and unreacted to by other cultures. Comedy writers love this kind of scenario; intelligence handlers not so much.

Notable exceptions that prove the point that Chinese intelligence services have no qualms recruiting non-Chinese assets are Katrina Leung, Glenn Duffie Shriver, Valentin Danilov, …

China often wields significant influence over its diaspora. China has always kept that the >Chinese communities should consider themselves citizens of the countries in which they reside. At the same time as China’s position on nationality clearly tends towards jus sanguinis much more than jus solis the position that, once Chinese nationals settle in a foreign country they are no longer Chinese nationals seems contradictory. This mutual contradiction is in fact frequently a natural state of being by nations of immigrants. (Hello, Irish sons and daughters!) But, and this is where China stands out, it also means that to the Chinese engagement in the politics of the diaspora is a purely internal affair.

Chinese intelligence services have become true citizens of the world: gathering intelligence through diaspora has never been easier.