Why US, China won’t prove they have spymaster

Must Read


Why would China’s top spycatcher flee to the US? If he has, there are clues. It’s about power. It’s about oppression. And then there’s his daughter.

Rumours are flying. The implications are enormous. So why hasn’t Washington or China taken steps to prove who has spymaster Dong Jingwei?

All it would take is a video. In a verifiable context.

That’s how Beijing could prove the defection of its top counterintelligence official is a lie.

That’s how Washington could prove the coup of the century – the defection of a man close to the Chinese Communist Party’s beating heart.

RELATED: Spy ‘exposes’ Wuhan’s Covid secrets

If true, he’s the highest level defector in Chinese history.

If not, it’s another major blow to the integrity of international think tanks, media and intelligence analysts.

Which makes it odd that neither nation has yet taken any definitive steps.

But Beijing at the weekend issued a statement said to have been made by Dong Jingwei. Its subject? Ordering a renewed clampdown on all “foreign agents” within China’s borders.

So far, the only evidence offered remains just words. As do claims of his defection. But nothing happens in isolation.

And the rumour has grown out of a nation struggling to restrain signs of profound discontent.

Cracks in the firewall

One clue may be spymaster Dong Jingwei’s daughter, Yang. She is reportedly the ex-wife of Alibaba executive Jiang Fan.

RELATED: Inside Covid lab leak conspiracy

The international tech firm has been the focus of intense Communist Party attention in recent months. Its CEO, Jack Ma, “disappeared” for several weeks earlier this year. And the company is undergoing scrutiny for alleged “antitrust” and “corruption” issues.

Chinese media reports the billionaire has “embraced supervision”. Whatever that means, he has severely curtailed his public appearances and statements.

He’s not the only one.

The Chinese Communist Party has been cracking down on billionaires and academics.

This weekend, news emerged from China of the death of one of its leading nuclear scientists. Vice-president of Harbin Engineering University Zhang Zhijian reportedly “fell” from his building. No cause was given amid Beijing’s resolute denials of a nuclear accident at the China Taishan power plant.

RELATED: ‘Piles of evidence’ Covid escaped lab

Several other Chinese billionaires are also facing immense political pressure. Wang Xing – CEO of tech firm Meituan – has been ordered to “keep a low profile” after posting a historic poem as part of a media campaign. It criticises an ancient emperor.

Mentions of emperors are banned on Chinese social media. It could be construed as an oblique reference to Chairman-for-life Xi Jinping.

Wang insists the advertisement was aimed at his competitors.

Agricultural industry billionaire Sun Dawu has lost control of his business after being arrested over a minor property dispute. The 67-year-old has since been charged with “seeking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

Behind it all, Beijing is combating a generational challenge.

“Gen Z” memes are slipping through the cracks of the Great Firewall of internal censorship. The campaign is one of passive-aggressive resistance. The call is for “Tan Ping” (which translates to “lying flat”). It aims to subvert Beijing’s overwhelming surveillance, cultural and productivity campaigns by encouraging people to do nothing.

Unknown knowns

The defection of Dong Jingwei would explain a lot.

Many observers wondered at US President Joe Biden’s extraordinary announcement last month that he had ordered all his intelligence agencies to urgently investigate claims the Covid-19 pandemic resulted from a Wuhan lab leak.

It came after almost a year of speculation and doubt. But no evidence.

What had changed?

According to rumours reinforced by another defector – Han Lianchao – Dong Jingwei slipped out of Hong Kong with his daughter in February.

Han Lianchao is a former Chinese foreign ministry official who defected after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Dong Jingwei has been the vice minister of State Security in China’s Ministry of State Security (Guoanbu) since 2018. Essentially, it’s their equivalent of ASIO.

It would be a major embarrassment to Chairman Xi Jinping’s authoritarian regime.

Not to mention immensely damaging.

“Not only does Dong have detailed information about China’s special weapons systems, the Chinese military’s operation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and the Chinese government’s assets and sources within the United States; Dong has extremely embarrassing and damaging information about our intelligence community and government officials in the ‘terabytes of data’ he’s provided to the DIA,” the first media site to break the story, Red State, claimed, before launching an attack on US pandemic-response head Dr Anthony Fauci.

But, at the weekend, Chinese media reported all was well with the naturally secretive 57-year-old spymaster. He had just addressed a counterintelligence conference. He warned his agents and Communist Party Commissars to watch out for “foreigners” and “anti-China forces”.

Despite this, Dong Jingwei hasn’t been pictured in public since September last year.

Known unknowns

In an arena where even rumours such as the “deaths” of President Vladimir Putin and Chairman Kim Jong-un circulate freely, truth can be a toy. And a weapon.

Which is why international security commentators are all urging caution about these claims.

The US State Department has not been responding to requests for confirmation.

Five Eyes intelligence partner Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne refused to confirm or deny the claim.

“If true, it would be a bombshell, but all we are hearing at the moment are rumours. It would be unwise for any serious analyst to draw conclusions about what these rumours mean at this stage,” Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) national executive director Dr Bryce Wakefield told News Corp.

The origins of the rumour remain uncertain.

It was first published on the pro-Trump website Red State on June 4 and again on June 17. It hit critical mass with a Friday report from the SpyTalk social media network.

That was the same day Chinese Communist Party-controlled media, including the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, reported Dong Jingwei was on the job.

He apparently appeared at a seminar that day.

“On the morning of June 18, 2021, Vice Minister Dong Jingwei of the Ministry of National Security hosted a symposium to study and implement the ‘Regulations on Anti-espionage Security Work’ that came into effect on April 26 this year, and make arrangements for anti-espionage work,” one report reads.

“In particular, some individuals are willing to be ‘internal traitors’, secretly colluding with foreign spies and intelligence agencies and hostile forces to engage in anti-China activities. Individuals act ‘behind the scenes’ and send funds to hostile forces through illegal channels to support anti-China activities. These ‘traitors’ and ‘behind-the-scenes gold masters’ have seriously endangered the country’s political security. They will eventually be nailed to the pillar of shame in history,” it attributes Dong as saying.

It’s about who we trust

Disinformation is a polite alternative name for lies and propaganda. It’s an increasingly common tool.

Businesses. Churches. Governments. Media. All embrace the idea of “spin”, “information management”, and “messaging”.

Truth doesn’t matter. What counts is doubt.

Chinese state-controlled media has embraced the Covid-19 “lab leak” theory. It’s just that it says the lab that leaked the virus was Fort Detrick in the United States.

It’s a message that has been pushed on Chinese citizens unable to seek alternate sources from behind the great digital “firewall”. It’s part of what China scholars call the “technocratic engineering of public opinion” by the authoritarian, single-party state.

And it’s a message that helps muddy the waters of truth in the wider world.

Analysts argue it’s not about convincing people. It’s about making it harder to convince them of anything. And that makes political transparency, openness – and evidence – the only effective counter-attack.

It’s exactly what authoritarians loathe.

Which is why US military and intelligence commanders have implored the White House to do just that to combat “pernicious conduct”.

“We request this help to better enable the US, and by extension its allies and partners, to win without fighting, to fight now in so-called grey zones, and to supply ammunition in the ongoing war of narratives,” nine commanders appealed to the National Intelligence Committee last year.

“Unfortunately, we continue to miss opportunities to clarify truth, counter distortions, puncture false narratives, and influence events in time to make a difference.”

Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer | @JamieSeidel


Source link

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest News

Sun Yang’s doping ban almost halved | Ralph Lauren

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang's doping suspension has been almost halved to four years and three months by the...

More Articles Like This