Beyond Spy vs. Spy: The Analytic Challenge of Understanding Chinese Intelligence Services

Beyond Spy vs. Spy: The Analytic Challenge of Understanding Chinese Intelligence Services

Peter Mattis

Scholars of intelligence and comparative politics have tended to overlook intelligence services as bureaucratic organizations and as components of government information-processing systems. As a consequence, conventionally trained analysts and most journalists tend to overlook the role of intelligence and security services in extending and maintaining state power and international policy goals.

In the case of China, the intense focus of writers on the ups and downs of US-Chinese relations seldom leads to efforts to more deeply understand China and the sources of its government’s behavior, and, in particular, the effects that Chinese intelligence services might have on that behavior. Even when journalists and other commentators address the seemingly monthly appearance of new details of Chinese human and technical espionage, analysts tend to focus on each incident as a bellwether of the US-Chinese relationship or as a straightforward counterintelligence (CI) issue.

Protecting the integrity of US intelligence and policy processes is an important task for the US Intelligence Community, but clear understanding of Chinese intelligence serves more than the CI mission. At the core, analysis of Beijing’s intelligence institutions is about trying to understand systematically how the Chinese government uses information to inform its policy formulation, guidance to diplomats and security officials, and the execution of its policies.

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Posted: Oct 17, 2012 02:25 PM
Last Updated: Oct 17, 2012 02:25 PM