Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping by Roger Faligot

Incredible book about the secret world of Chinese spies. The author has been researching the secret security service in China for decades and the depth of his knowledge is on display in this novel.

I am well versed in the history of China, but it's really interesting to hear about the history behind the history. For example, there is a chapter on Tiananmen Square where he describes the discussions and role of the security service behind the scenes and everything that led to the decision to attack the students.

The author describes the the history of the spy service, how they operate, why different reorganizations happened, and also detailed key events (Tiananmen Square, the Olympics) where the spies were involved a lot behind the scenes.

An interesting thing about the Chinese intelligence service, which is different than Western countries, is how regular Chinese citizens are involved in the network of information passing.

Paul Moore, FBI “the people who covertly gather intelligence for China normally don't look like spies, act like spies or pilfer large amounts of secret information...For most areas of Chinese intelligence collection, the actual work of locating and obtaining desired sensitive information, even very sensitive data, is carried out by academics, students, businessmen or journalists.”

I loved the chapter where the author compares China to the sea lamprey – “a legendary snake-like fish known in China as the 'eel with eight eyes' (ba mu man)”.

Scientists can date its (the sea lamprey) evolution into its current form to around 530 million years ago. Like twenty-first-century China, it has time on its side. The notion of the “sea lamprey strategy” (ba ma man ji) comes from the fact that this slippery, greenish fish blends in with the seascape, clinging to the rocks, and then, having waited patiently to select its prey, closes in and latches on, siphoning off its blood through its multiple orifices. It is the perfect metaphor for Chinese espionage techniques.

The only annoyance I had with the book was the odd quirk where the author would introduce every Chinese spy with his Chinese zodiac sign. “Born in 1919 in the Year of the Goat...”

Anybody who's interested in China should read this book because...

(in China) the security and intelligence services are not simply an organ of information-gathering, or even of influence and limited action, as in democratic countries. They are an essential pillar of power, alongside the army and the single ruling party.

You can't understand Chinese politics without understanding the Gonganbu and the Guoanbu.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #13 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

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