THE TAIPEI TIMES
Thursday, January 20th, 2000
Considering Taiwan and the US its two major enemies after the cold war, China has sent a huge number of intelligence agents to the two countries to collect all kinds of information from nuclear nuances to high-tech secrets, according to reports published in the United Sates.
Nicholas Eftimiades, an US intelligence officer with the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, states in his book Chinese Intelligence Operations that China has already become the largest spy exporting country in the world, and the US and Taiwan are it primary destinations.
The Wall Street Journal reporter John Fialka also claims in his book War by Other Means that the number of intelligence agents in the US sent out by the Ministry of State Security (MSS) of China has exceeded that of the KGB of the Soviet Union at the peak of the Cold War.
A survey by the American Society for Industrial Security conducted in 1998 showed that 1,300 leading US companies ranked China as the number one foreign economic espionage threat.
Eftimiades points out that China differs from the former Soviet Union and the Eastern-bloc, who usually dispatch professional intelligence agents, in that it uses people in various professions and trades, conducting a kind of "people's war." This might not be very professional, but they operate in large numbers and have infiltrated many professions. Therefore, it is difficult for the US to use traditional counterintelligence methods to fight the new spy war with China.
China certainly makes use of ethnic and linguistic similarities in the pursuit of its "people's spy war" in Taiwan.
Macau has now become an ideal transit point for the MSS after its return to China at the turn of the century. Of the 120,000 Macau residents who hold Portuguese passports (out of a total population of 400,000), 100,000 were mainland Chinese who only emigrated to Macau in recent years. According to current Taiwan law, people who hold Portuguese passports can stay in Taiwan for two weeks without a visa. Therefore, sending Portuguese passport holding Macanese to Taiwan on intelligence missions is very convenient for Beijing.
Smuggling people into Taiwan could also be part of the operation. The MSS claimed that the total number of illegal Chinese immigrants living in other countries was around 500,000. However, that number is conservative, says Peter Kwong, a US expert on illegal Chinese immigrants, in his book Forbidden Workers. According to his study, about 100,000 Chinese are smuggled into Japan, Taiwan, the US and other Western countries each year. It is possible that intelligence operatives are among this number.
Ding Yu-jou (丁渝洲), the head of Taiwan's counterespionage mission, told Taiwan's congress recently that they were monitoring about two thousand Chinese secret agents currently working in Taiwan. Considering that the immigrant population from China is between 50,000 to 70,000 (both legal and illegal), 2,000 is certainly a very large number.
Another probable way of dispatching secret agents is by sending them as "visitors" to Taiwan and having them making friends with a variety of important people in order to siphon off information.
According to the US press, both John Fialka and Edwin Fraumann, a FBI agent, stated that the MSS used Chinese students and visiting professors to conduct economic espionage activities in the US.
The MSS has classified well-known Chinese-American scientists, US government officials, professors, editors and reporters of major newspapers into different sorts, and have sent "visitors" to contact these people, trying either to influence them or to get information from them.
Similarly, many scholars in variety of delegations sent by China to Taiwan have the same mission. They not only collect information but also pay attention to establishing friendships, which are followed up with letters and telephone calls, faxes and e-mails. When the relationships mature, recruitment becomes the next step. According to a declassified US intelligence report, Beijing had recruited 150 spies from the 21st Century World Overseas Chinese Conference held in Taiwan in 1997.
With an increasing number of Taiwanese students studying in China, it has become more convenient for the MSS to recruit from those Taiwanese students who believe in the greater-China ideology. China is likely to take advantage of their repugnance for Taiwan independence to induce them to work for China.
The MSS can also lure Taiwanese students to violate Chinese law and then threaten them with severe punishments if they do not work for the agency.
The ideal candidates for MSS recruitment are people who already hold important positions in Taiwan, believe in the greater-China ideology, and who are discontented with the KMT's "special state-to-state relationship" formula.
The KGB paid great attention to the American left during the Cold War because those people were disgruntled with the US system and could be easily won over to serve Soviet interests. Recently released KGB records show, according to The New York Times article "Cold War Without End" published Nov. 28, 1999, that leftist American reporter I. F. Stone was on the KGB's payroll throughout the 1950s.
It is obvious that there are officials, scientists in military and high-tech sectors and leading scholars in many professions who are irritated by the "special state-to-state" theory and favor reunification -- they are easy prey for the MSS. Their dissatisfaction with the government and resentment towards the Taiwan independence movement may push them into Beijing's arms.
With the increased tension created by the threat of potential armed confrontation in the Taiwan Strait, it becomes imperative for China to steal political, military and technology information from Taiwan. To do this, it must intensify its espionage efforts. A war without gunfire has already begun.
Cao Chang-Ching is a writer and journalist based in New York.