China’s intelligence and security services play a pivotal role in shaping how China’s leadership views the outside world – but we in that outside world don’t know much about how they provide guidance and direction to diplomats and security officials, or how they help form government policy.
When news breaks of the latest Chinese cyberhack or other espionage activities, analysts mostly focus on each incident as either a singular counterintelligence issue, or a reflection of current U.S.-China relations. This misses the point that each of these acts are part of a much larger and little understood strategy carried out by the Chinese Intelligence Services (CIS).
This gap in our knowledge of CIS activities may have mattered relatively little during China’s inward-looking years. But today, CIS leaders are significant players on the world stage, and understanding how and what they learn about the world, and how they formulate their policy choices, is more important than ever.