Diplomacy has never been a forte of the United States. While the US and China hold a series of negotiations to improve communications and trade between the two superpowers, the US announced it was going to strengthen its spying activities in China.
In an unprecedented public announcement on Oct 7, the US Central Intelligence Agency said it was setting up a new mission center for China, the result of a monthslong review of China as being the greatest long-term threat to the United States. It added it would be recruiting “Mandarin speakers” for the job.
Hong Kong Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung was quick with a warning that Hong Kong residents should be prepared for the activities of the new center, adding, “Smart Hong Kong people will know what kind of ways the CIA’s China Mission Center would use to gather intelligence.
“In safeguarding national security as well as the security of Hong Kong, we have to have a robust intelligence system, which will be supported by our operational unit. We also have to look at relevant legislation. That’s why we have to revive Article 23.”
Tang’s remarks come as Hong Kong prepares itself for the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit, among other things, treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the Central People’s Government, … to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.”
During at least the past two decades, foreign governments, particularly the US, have infiltrated Hong Kong and peppered the society with dissent. The ultimate aim of the attack is to dismantle its “one country, two systems” governance architecture and sabotage China’s national goal of bringing Taiwan into the motherland’s fold
He said the National Security Law that Beijing introduced in Hong Kong last year covers only two of seven types of offenses set out in Article 23 of the Basic Law, and existing laws aren’t enough to tackle all acts that endanger national security.
During at least the past two decades, foreign governments, particularly the US, have infiltrated Hong Kong and peppered the society with dissent. The ultimate aim of the attack is to dismantle its “one country, two systems” governance architecture and sabotage China’s national goal of bringing Taiwan into the motherland’s fold. The US State Department’s subsidiary agency, the National Endowment for Democracy, has publicly poured millions of dollars into educational institutions and trade unions to subvert Hong Kong, resulting in bloody riots. Many of the rioters, and their supporters, have since been jailed or are awaiting trial.
NED co-founder Allen Weinstein said in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” CIA Director William Burns said in a statement that the China Mission Center “will further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century — an increasingly adversarial Chinese government.” The center will become one of less than a dozen mission centers operated by the CIA, with weekly director-level meetings intended to drive the agency’s strategy toward China.
The center, part of a broader review of the agency’s China capabilities by Burns, will elevate the focus on China within the agency, and upgrade China’s previous status from a broader “Mission Center for East Asia and Pacific.”
Mission centers are stand-alone entities that utilize resources from across the CIA, according to agency priorities. A separate China center will make it easier to secure funding and high-level attention for China-related activities.
Existing mission centers include those for counterintelligence, counterterrorism and the Near East, including North Korea.
During the Donald Trump administration, the CIA established a new Korea Mission Center to meet the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea. At the time, the agency said the center would help it to “more purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts.”
The China proposal reflects the priority Burns laid out during his US Senate confirmation hearing in February. The veteran diplomat called China’s “adversarial, predatory leadership” the biggest threat to the US, saying Beijing’s goal is to “replace the United States as the world’s most powerful and influential nation.”
“For the CIA, that will mean intensified focus and urgency — continually strengthening its already impressive cadre of China specialists, expanding its language skills, aligning personnel and resource allocation for the long haul,” Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The agency’s broader China review is also considering whether to deploy China specialists in locations around the world, following the approach used to counter Soviet influence in the Cold War, Burns said in an interview with Washington-based National Public Radio last month.
But spying on China is not easy because of its superior intelligence capabilities. This was confirmed by Burns when he admitted that the agency was looking into how to deal with the “ubiquitous technical surveillance” and other “very advanced capabilities on the part of the Chinese intelligence service,” which make it more difficult for foreign agents to conduct espionage activities against Chinese interests.
The author is a former chief information officer of the Hong Kong government, a media consultant and a veteran journalist.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.