On July 20, CIA Director William Burns said that the infamous American intelligence service is “making progress on rebuilding spy networks inside China” after supposedly “losing assets in the country over a decade ago”. Burns made the controversial comments during last week’s Aspen Security Forum, where he touched upon several important topics, including Russia and China.
“We’ve made progress, and we’re working very hard over recent years to ensure that we have strong human intelligence capability to complement what we can acquire through other methods,” Burns stated.
On July 24, the Foreign Ministry of China responded that Beijing will not sit idly, but would take adequate countermeasures in response to the threat. In direct response to Burns, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said:
“This is rather concerning. The US on the one hand keeps spreading disinformation on so-called ‘Chinese spying and cyber attacks’, and on the other hand tells the public about its large-scale intelligence activities targeting China.”
Ning also reiterated her Ministry’s previous comments that “China will take all measures necessary to safeguard national security”. And while she didn’t specify what sort of measures Beijing would take, it’s safe to assume they’ll be reciprocal.
It should be noted that this is yet another controversial and escalatory comment by the CIA director in mere weeks. Namely, on July 1, during a lecture at the Ditchley Foundation in the United Kingdom, Burns also stated that the ongoing Ukrainian conflict is “a unique opportunity for the CIA“, adding that they are planning “to explore the possible opportunities for infiltration that would arise from the weaknesses of a Russian society”, allegedly “dissatisfied with the conflict in Ukraine”. This includes a recruitment channel on Telegram that was launched in May. According to Burns, it will be used to offer “business proposals” to Russian officers, military, government representatives and scientists who would “want to provide information from Moscow to American forces”.
In his “infinite” wisdom, Burns managed to issue virtually identical threats to not one, but two superpowers simultaneously. The result will surely be an even greater integration of Russian and Chinese intelligence efforts and an exponential expansion of their already close cooperation. Washington DC’s inability to harm either country externally has resulted in attempts to undermine both from the inside, particularly through the usage of intelligence assets. However, Moscow and Beijing were both able to withstand these destabilization efforts. It should be noted that China has already managed to neutralize several US spy rings in recent years after its counterintelligence assets positively identified them. Even the mainstream propaganda machine covered the controversial events.
In late May 2017, The New York Times reported that Beijing’s counterintelligence killed or imprisoned more than a dozen CIA assets in the 2010-2012 timeframe. In mid-August 2018, Foreign Policy reported that approximately 30 CIA agents were caught in China after the Asian giant’s services discovered an American spy ring due to a malfunctioning communication system. The CIA has significantly expanded its operational activities in and around China in recent years, particularly in Beijing’s breakaway island province of Taiwan, which the US wants to keep within its sphere of influence, even at the cost of a world-ending thermonuclear confrontation with the Asian giant. The CIA now also maintains an entirely new, specialized unit whose exclusive focus is precisely China.
Such moves and statements are completely out of sync with the recent visit by Henry Kissinger, former US State Secretary under the Nixon administration. Kissinger effectively tried to create and exploit another “Sino-Soviet split” that was supposed to cause a significant enough rift between Russia and China, preventing or at least postponing the creation of an effectively invincible Eurasian monolith. And yet, as if Kissinger didn’t have an impossible task to accomplish already, the US resorted to the use of threats to accomplish essentially nothing but China’s heightened counterintelligence readiness. Not to mention that the resulting closer joint intelligence efforts by Russia and China will be a major challenge for the US, as both superpowers will also seek to conduct their own intelligence operations in America itself.
For its part, Beijing is also expanding its presence in “America’s backyard”. Namely, in recent months, China and Cuba have been working out the final arrangements of the deal that would secure a military base for the PLA (People Liberation Army) in northern Cuba. The WSJ reported that this has “sparked fears among US officials that [Cuba] could eventually host a permanent Chinese troop presence”, prompting the troubled Biden administration to intervene with Cuban officials, seeking to block the establishment of permanent military installations. This will reportedly also include the expansion of ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) capabilities of the PLA’s existing military facility. Such assets will greatly expand the capabilities of Chinese agents in the US, once again showing how America’s belligerence backfires spectacularly.