A Chinese spy by the name of Christina Fang had gained access to U.S. politicians, according to an expose by Axios. Fang had used political rallies, conferences, and even campus events to connect with elected officials and prominent figures. She even attended regional conferences for U.S. mayors, which allowed her to grow her network of politicians across the country. Fang volunteered for political campaigns and even helped fundraise for figures like Tulsi Gabbard and Eric Swalwell. U.S. officials believe Fang’s real reason for being in the U.S was to gather political intelligence and to influence rising U.S. officials on China-related issues. When the FBI led a probe into her in 2015, Fang had left the country and “disappeared off the face of everything,” according to the former mayor of Cupertino, California, Gilbert Wong. Fang was not the only Chinese spy associated with U.S. Congressmen however. Senator Diane Feinnstein, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, had a Chinese spy on staff for over 20 years. The staffer, who was her only driver in San Francisco, had reported to the Chinese Ministry of State Security and attended functions for the Senator at the Chinese consulate. A former FBI agent said, “They have an interest in the economy here. How to get political influence here. What’s being developed in Silicon Valley that has dual-use technology. All of that is tied to the Bay Area.”
America’s higher education institutions are prime targets for foreign espionage. In May of 2020, a Chinese Purdue student, Zhihao Kong, publicly praised the student protestors in the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. Shortly after the incident, officials from China’s Ministry of State Security visited Kong’s parents and warned them about their son’s activism. China has long targeted dissident students in U.S. universities, however the students are not the only ones targeted. Earlier in 2020, FBI arrested the chair of Harvard University’s chemistry and chemical biology department, Charles Lieber, with ‘one count of making a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement.’ Lieber had been performing undisclosed work for the Chinese government through the Wuhan University of Technology. He also had a lucrative and secret financial agreement through China Thousand Talents Plan which he also failed to disclose. The FBI has identified programs like the Thousand Talents Plan as a part of China’s ever expanding espionage efforts to surpass the West’s technological capabilities. Lieber was not alone in these arrests. On the same day Lieber was arrested, the FBI also arrested Yanqing Ye, a former Boston University student who was charged with visa fraud for deliberately obfuscating her status as a lieutenant in China’s People’s Liberation Army. In August of 2019, Bo Mao, a Chinese academic who was a visiting professor at the University of Texas, was arrested and charged with fraud for allegedly stealing technology from a California-based company and passing it to China. Universities are some of the prime targets for China, as most academics thrive on the free movement of ideas and collaboration between other researchers, colleagues, and scientists. This comes into direct conflict with the FBI and Department of Justice, who have called upon colleges and universities to be more strict in financial and other ties to China.
3) Intellectual Property
China has been engaged in a long campaign to steal Intellectual Property (IP) from U.S. multinational corporations. An Intellectual Property Commission Report published in 2017 estimated that the cost of IP theft from the U.S. is somewhere between $225 billion and $600 billion. According to statistics from the United States, Canada, and European Union, China is responsible for 80 percent of this theft. In addition to the cost of Intellectual Property, the theft has resulted in the loss of 2 million American jobs. Intellectual property is integral to the U.S. economy as it is permeating “all aspects of the economy with increasing intensity and extends to all parts of the U.S.,” according to a report by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The theft of IP concerns national security. China’s advances in military capabilities are largely due to the theft. China is quickly becoming a near peer in war fighting abilities, and this is shown by its recent threats and military exercises towards Taiwan.
When it comes to espionage, getting access to any and all powerful institutions is a top priority. Aside from Congress, Universities, and our economic capabilities, China has also sent agents into some of our most important police forces. In 2020 a naturalized U.S. citizen, Baimadajie Angwang, was charged with working as an illegal agent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Angwang was a New York Police Department officer and a U.S. Army reservist. He was also charged with committing wire fraud, making false statements and obstructing an official proceeding. According to the court document, Angwang had been working with the Chinese consulate and reporting on the activities of Chinese citizens in New York, reported on the Tibetan community, and provided PRC officials with access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official events. Angwang told his handlers that he wanted to “bring glory to China,” and that their superiors, “should be happy . . . because you have stretched your reach into the police.” One of the PRC Consular officials who handled Angwang worked for the “China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture.” This Department is responsible for neutralizing potential opponents of the PRC and co-opting ethnic Chinese individuals living outside the PRC.
5) Nuclear Espionage
One of the most concerning areas in National Security for modern nations is access to nuclear material information. In 1999, the Cox Report released by the House of Representatives stated that China has stolen classified information on every thermonuclear warhead in the country’s intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal. Fast forward to recent years, and not much has changed. In 2016, the Department of Justice stated that the FBI found evidence that the state-owned China General Nuclear Power had engaged in a conspiracy to steal U.S. nuclear secrets stretching back almost two decades. One of the corporation’s senior advisers, Szuhsiung Ho, was also charged with conspiring to help the Chinese government develop nuclear material in a manner that is in clear breach of US law. In 2018, the US Justice Department arrested and indicted a spy for China’s Ministry of State Security, Xu Yanjun, on charges of economic espionage, attempting to steal trade secrets from U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. In a statement, the U.S. Secretary of Energy at the time, Rick Perry, said “the United States cannot ignore the national security implications of China’s efforts to obtain nuclear technology outside of established processes of U.S.-China civil nuclear cooperation.” In response to this, the Trump administration tightened controls on China’s imports of civil nuclear technology to prevent use for military or other unauthorized purposes.