During the past few decades, the global impact and imprint of China have risen considerably. Despite this, the intelligence services of the country are not under global scrutiny. The scarcity of information regarding covert operations, power projections and global reach are difficult for the world to understand much less cope with efficiently. CIS or Chinese intelligence services remain successfully hidden from the global community.
Since the Chinese intelligence agency does not use either an acronym or a specific name, supreme secrecy is achieved. There are agencies working to uncover the truth such as those in the UK, US and Europe. Analysts have a lot of theories regarding the CIS to help the community understand their consistently changing interests, stakes and calculated projections. According to the more traditional concept, the CIS is different than any of the other intelligence agencies, including those of Iraq and Iran.
The strategy incorporated by this Chinese intelligence agency is similar to the concept of one thousand grains of sand. This type of thinking suggests that the CIS is reliant on many different methods for data collection as opposed to spending a lot of money on professional spies to perform espionage. These methods include:
• Collection of low-quality information
Although the majority of this information is gathered by amateurs, it is the basis of the CIS. There has been consistent criticism for these methods due to misdirected efforts and overall generalizations regarding the counterintelligence efforts of many other nations. The majority of critics see the CIS as a conglomeration of numerous professional systems with the responsibilities of ISR or intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance.
These types of operations are performed both externally and internally. The most commonly used description is to serve the state by making informed decisions. Since the information gained can indirectly or directly help with the decision-making process of China, a thousand grains of sand analogy is appropriate.
The Pattern of Chinese Intelligence Agencies
Although national news agencies take different viewpoints into consideration, conventional patterns are just as important. China has a reputation for espionage activities and professionalism fitting the stereotypical description. Chinese intelligence agencies are unique due to the potential influence of the government regarding the majority of activities. One of the best descriptions of the CIS is functioning in circles of the most importance.
The core of CIS is using extended interests and influence at the perimeters. This enables the CIS to prioritize a wide range of professional systems for the purpose of performing counterintelligence while including the authoritarian state for all of the activities. Both military and civil agencies are included in the core. The main Chinese civil agency is called MSS or the Ministry of State Security. This Chinese intelligence agency includes the central ministry, numerous municipal agencies and provincial divisions.
The key focus of the MSS is surveying both internal and external threats to help ensure the security of the state. The agency also spies on foreigners for the creation of profiles to be used when recruitment becomes necessary in the future. The main focus of the MPS or Ministry of Public Security is domestic intelligence, although there are external and internal subsidiaries as well. The United Front Work Department has a wide range of responsibilities including internal and external.
The PLA pr People’s Liberation Army military agencies provide the Strategic Support Force which is the leader. This agency handles:
• Technical reconnaissance
• Psychological warfare
• Cyber defense and offense
The PLA is also responsible for overseeing both the General Political Department and the General Staff Department.
How Does a Chinese Intelligence Agency Gather Information?
At the center of CIS operations, there are many areas used specifically to gather information. State media outlets are included such as a New China News Agency called Xinhua. The purpose of this agency is to record activities for gathering information. The Ministry of Education and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office are other organizations participating in these activities by contacting citizens of China overseas.
A formal system is maintained by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information. This Chinese intelligence agency collects technological publications from abroad to help improve communication with China. According to some reports, incentives have been created by China to help businesses conduct economic espionage on foreign soil. The strategic gathering of assets was not originally intended to be used for this purpose.
In 2017, the National Intelligence Law went into effect. According to Articles seven and 14, citizens and organizations in China are required to support the state whenever necessary. The vast reach of this law is the key reason Huawei has experienced issues. This is a telecommunications giant located in China.
International Chinese Intelligence Reports
Reports have shown the CIS conducts extensive activities. Several spies from China have been caught by the United States and convicted. LinkedIn was used to mobilize these spies. This is an online Microsoft networking platform intended for professionals. China also censors data and information coming into the country through a new system. The name of this system is the Great Cannon although it is also referred to as the great firewall.
Data from China is channeled strategically so locations can be targeted for different types of attacks including denial-of-service and malware. In 2019, an alleged attack was reported by Australian media. The country claimed China offered major monetary assistance to a political nation of Australia. This individual was found dead before an attempt to run for parliament could be made.
Chinese Intelligence Agencies and India
There are extensive interests between the CIS and India. This includes remaining current with the deployment and development of all nuclear weapons, IT capabilities, missile systems, and satellite and space research programs. Other strategic relationships have also been formed. Due to the wide range of interests and capabilities of the CIS, the agency has been accused of doing more than collecting information to make better decisions.
Accusations have been made against the CIS for attempts to manipulate offensive counterintelligence, decision-making, and sabotage of technical and human sensors to the adversaries of China. Many experts believe the focus of China is now India. Some of these operations have been interrupted and mentioned in Indian media. This may only be the beginning. According to many news reports from India, the CIS has professional systems in place within the country.
Agents from China are still believed to be conducting espionage at several points in India. Some of these agents were caught in both 2013 and 2018. In 2013 and 2019, reconnaissance ships from China were caught spying close to Andaman Island. The same thing happened in 2018 when the Malabar trilateral exercises were in progress. Balloons loaded with technology from the PLA were caught in 2019 while supposedly spying on India from a location in Tibet.
According to some reports, indirect links have been established as well. These reports showed approximately one-third of all cyber attacks occurring in India come from China. Other reports state China has 42 mobile applications actively collecting information about Indian security. In 2018, information became available showing hackers from China stole personal details and emails from the office of the Dalai Lama in addition to reports concerning the Indian missile system.
In 2009, additional concerns were revealed when China established roughly 30 firms and 24 study centers on the Indian border and in Nepal. The belief is information was collected to increase the influence of China throughout Nepal.
The Core of Chinese Intelligence Agency Systems
The CIS system core is coordinated activities necessary to conduct counter-intelligence activities. One of the main issues for democratic societies is the Chinese have the ability to mobilize support through their core systems. Actions have been taken to decrease the extended abilities of the Chinese including a ban placed by the Indian government on mobile applications from China and the way media firms from China are designated by the Indian government.
This includes foreign missions and those to the United States as well. Some experts believe China is responsible for originating these actions through Chinese intelligence agencies since trust with China did not begin until the 1970s. Due to the reinforcement of these agencies, trust with China is starting to be affected. Connections to China are being reevaluated and changed due to the advantages Beijing has received due to a lack of reciprocation.
Due to the authoritarian culture of China, a unique system for gathering information has been created. Some adversaries are concerned the playing field with China is no longer level. In the past, China has been called a surveillance or incomprehensible state. Unfortunately, this may be accurate. Understanding the Chinese intelligence agencies and the way they operate has become essential for democratic, open and liberal societies.
This may be the only way to adopt effective countermeasures. As the aggression from China continues, countries from all over the world are starting to push back. International policies may be significantly affected by the state of power currently found in Beijing.
Chinese Intelligence Agencies and the United States
National security for the United States may be threatened by China. The most substantial threats include human and cyber infiltration of the United States by security organizations based in China. Although espionage from China has been reported for years, there has been a significant increase within the United States during the last 15 years. Chinese intelligence agencies are also operating overseas. As the capabilities of these agencies increases, China is better able to monitor the United States military once deployed.
The stability and alliance between the United States and China could affect partner and ally countries due to attempts at infiltration. This may have an indirect impact on the national defense of the United States. In the meantime, the security implications of operations conducted in China have increased in the United States including the expanding military and competition of Beijing. The operations, capabilities, roles, processes and structure of intelligence services from China within the United States are extremely important.
The response of the United States regarding the collection and implications regarding national security is critical where China is concerned. Chinese intelligence agencies include:
• Government of China
• All Chinese organizations targeting the national security of the United States
Each organization in the Chinese intelligence community has a slightly different role. Regardless of the specific organization, the main goals are preserving and supporting the Chinese state. A good example is the MSS or Ministry of State Security. This is a ministry of the Chinese government regulated by the State Council of China, the Chinese government Chief Administrative Authority and the CCP.