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They’re All Spies Now: Chinese Spy Agency Calls On Society To Help With Espionage

China’s top spy agency called on Chinese citizens to assist in the communist nation’s espionage work on Tuesday, according to Chinese state-run media.

The Ministry of State Security (MSS) announced that it “requires the mobilization of all parts of society” for “secret work,” Chinese state-run media outlet Global Times reported. The MSS announcement was published as the first post on the agency’s new WeChat social media account, according to the state media report.

“Espionage is highly clandestine, professional, dangerous and criminal conduct, which not only requires national security agencies to perform counter-espionage functions, but also requires the masses’ broad participation in order to form a robust counter-espionage national security people’s defensive line,” the MSS social media post stated, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation translation.

The MSS post characterized China’s counter-espionage struggle as “severe” and “complex,” and called on “state organs, organizations, enterprises, institutions and other social organizations” to implement “counter-espionage security measures” including national security education, training and other activities, according to Global Times’ report. At the same time, the announcement tasked Chinese media with carrying out “targeted counter-espionage publicity and education,” Global Times reported.

The MSS social media post also pledged that the Chinese government would support, protect, commend and even reward individuals and organizations who assisted in China’s counter-espionage work.

On July 1, 2023, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) enacted a new Counter-Espionage Law, according to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The CCP law “expands the definition of espionage from covering state secrets and intelligence to any documents, data, materials or items related to national security interests, without defining terms,” DNI warned.

Li Wei, a China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) national security expert, told Global Times that China’s spy agencies were unable to meet the nation’s counter-espionage needs and encouraged the public to report suspicious activities to the new MSS WeChat account.

“Sometimes, we may notice some suspicious activities around us, but we don’t know who to report to or how to report to professional agencies,” Li said. “In my opinion, through this platform, our citizens can better understand this process.”

Chinese intelligence experts, such as former CIA officer Peter Mattis, have identified Li’s think tank, CICIR, as an MSS front, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

While CIA Director William Burns served as president of the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace between 2015 and 2021, his think tank employed policy experts from CICIR and other Chinese nonprofits controlled by the MSS, the DCNF previously reported.

In May 2023, Burns made a secret trip to China to meet with Chinese intelligence officials. More recently, Burns announced his agency had “made progress” to rebuild operations in China after MSS spies dismantled the CIA’s network over a two-year period beginning in 2010.

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