Spy vs. spy

Wuh oh. Relations between China and America took another hit today, after Reuters ran an exclusive story revealing details about China arresting a senior government official, accusing him of spying for the US.

According to the wire, the alleged spy was an high-ranking security official:

“The official, an aide to a vice minister in China’s security ministry, was arrested and detained early this year on allegations that he had passed information to the United States for several years on China’s overseas espionage activities, said three sources, who all have direct knowledge of the matter.

The aide had been recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and provided ‘political, economic and strategic intelligence’, one source said, though it was unclear what level of information he had access to, or whether overseas Chinese spies were compromised by the intelligence he handed over.

The case could represent China’s worst known breach of state intelligence in two decades and its revelation follows two other major public embarrassments for Chinese security, both involving U.S. diplomatic missions at a tense time for bilateral ties.”

The news was originally broken by the World Journal, an English/Taiwanese newspaper. The Telegraph has more details on the man of mystery:

“According to the World Journal, the aide is a 38-year-old graduate of Peking university’s Institute of International Relations who became a trusted assistant to the vice minister six years ago.

However, three years ago, on a work trip to Hong Kong, he was said to have fallen into a honey trap involving a female US agent and was subsequently blackmailed into passing information to the CIA.

Last year, officials at the ministry became aware that there was a mole and the aide was eventually drawn out with a series of deliberate leaks.

One vice minister who has recently departed the ministry is Gao Yichen, a 61-year-old English, French and Russian speaker whose portfolio included the deputy directorship of the leadership team for “maintaining stability” and the deputy directorship of the 610 Office, responsible for operations concerning the Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned in China.”

Other embarassing diplomatic tiffs in the past few months, as described by the BBC:

“In March, rising political star Bo Xilai was sacked as Communist party chief in the city of Chongqing, after his police chief fled to the US consulate in the city of Chengdu in neighbouring Sichuan province.

And earlier this month, blind activist Chen Guangcheng left for a new life in New York, after he caused a diplomatic crisis by escaping from house arrest and seeking refuge in the US embassy in Beijing.”

What do you think? Does the CIA have egg on its face, or should China keep a tighter lid on its officials’ scandalous behaviour?

Read more about China, France, America and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

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