CHINESE SPIES from Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping.

JurisdictionNew Zealand
Date01 September 2020
AuthorHoadley, Stephen


from Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping

Author. Roger Faligot

Published by: Scribe Publications, Melbourne and London, 2019, 507pp, $39.99.

From its modest beginning during the Battle of Shanghai in the 1920s, the intelligence service has grown to become a vital contributor to the dominance of the Communist Party of China and the rise of the People's Republic of China to super-power status. It is now the largest intelligence service in the world, surpassing in personnel and scope of activities the KGB/GRU/ FSB, the CIA/FBI, MI6/ MI5 and the DGSE/Gendarmerie.

The bulk of Faligot's book is a chronological narrative of a century of evolution, interweaving details of institutions, personalities, factions and intrigues. The author's journalistic bent and competence in Mandarin are reflected in intriguing chapter titles such as 'Deng Xiaoping's Deep-Water Fish', 'Sea Lamprey Tactics', 'The 610 Office and the Five Poisons', 'China Wins the Espionage Gold' and 'Xi's Mole I hint'.

Faligot touches on all of the staples of espionage: human infiltration and spying, electronic surveillance, economic warfare, propaganda and cyberwar, to name a few. Of particular interest to this reviewer is his summary of nine methods by which China collects economic intelligence and acquires foreign technology to accelerate its own manufacturing innovations in pursuit of the 'Made in China 2025' goal of technological self-sufficiency. It is this drive that has provoked the Trump administration's reactive policies of disengagement from China, including its ban of Huawei.

Notable for its current relevance is Xi Jinping's initiative to seize control of the vast intelligence apparatus from super-spy-administrator Zhou Yongkang and his alleged allies, the ambitious Bo Xilai and the Chongqing Group, and to reorganise and restaff it under the cover of an anticorruption campaign (the 'Tiger Hint'), thus consolidating his authority over the Party, the government and the army by 2017.

China's intelligence structure is multi-faceted, and Faligot serves the reader well by providing annexes diagramming key institutions and listing their leading personnel. Notable is the integration of military intelligence with Party and state intelligence agencies to create an impressive 'whole of government' approach. One...

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