Espionage Tradecraft of Ministry of State Security (MSS), China.

Political Science

Espionage Tradecraft of Ministry of State Security (MSS), China.


Espionage tradecraft is a Human intelligence (HUMINT) collection method that aims at gathering intelligence using varying techniques and technology. In a bid to revolutionize their operations and strategic development of techniques to counter their enemies, the Chinese have different espionage tradecraft in place. The Chinese Central Intelligence system has been using professional and personal techniques in obtaining intelligence.

Economic Espionage

Chinese Intelligence services have committed economic espionage with intent of obtaining secrets used in various companies.  The main intent of economic espionage is to obtain Intellectual property concerning the specific craft and evading the costs involved in developing the trade craft. According to the FBI agencies, China has committed the theft of trade secrets in US which is a crime according to USA laws.  Tirkey and Pant (2020) China strategic goal for 2025 is set to be accomplished through economic espionage. MSS gets access to the trade crafts of USA companies and either replaces them, replicates them or robs them.  The Chinese state robs American Companies of their intellectual property rights, replicates their products in the market and seeks to replace the American companies in China and the world through replacing them.

            The USA department of Justice records that China accounts for more than 90% of the economic espionage cases and 67% of the trade secrets thefts in USA (Tirkey and Pant, 2020). The crime causes huge losses to the economy of USA amounting to over $ 320 billion. China uses either spies or insiders who are heavily compensated to intrude the computer systems of the private and state sectors in the USA.   Mostly, Tirkey and Pant (2020) found out that individuals indicted as accomplices in the theft of trade crafts and economic espionage are not professionals such as students, professors and researchers.  The propagation of open market in advancement of scholarly information concerning the collaborative learning environment has been a loop hole in the economic espionage.  Learners and professors have been contributing great advancements in technological innovation.  Tirkey and Pant (2020) illustrates that Beijing has been taking advantage of the openness in the collaborative learning environment in committing economic espionage.  USA has come up with mechanisms of tackling such crimes such as the development of the Economic Espionage Unit to deal with the offenders.

Cyber Espionage

 Chinese Intelligence systems have been hacking into systems so as to gain access to private data crucial for economic development. Tan (2017), describes the Chinese as not being resolute and not shaken by the USA accusation of their intrusion into their systems.  Chinese cyber espionage might be inspired by their quest to replace USA as a global superpower.  Sanger and Myers (2018) recounts a diplomatic deal signed between China and USA during the reign of President Obama, compelling China to stop the cyber espionage actions. For a while there was a remarkable decline in the number of cyber cases involving USA and China. However, there has been a spike on the cyber espionage in Trump’s administration. The Heightened tensions between US and China worsens the issue of espionage.

 Chinese cyber espionage system has drastically changed (Sanger and Myers, 2018).  Despite the 2013 exposé on the People Liberation Army and the destruction of their systems, there has been a steady increase in the replacement of the hacking systems by the Chinese government.  The new technological systems are focused on Americans technological and innovative prowess that China wants to mimic in production of similar goods and services (Sanger and Myers, 2018).  Trump’s administration has been dealing with the issue of cyber-crimes in various ways. Firstly, there have been arrests made on the different perpetrators of the violence. Secondly, there have been negotiations done to transfer technologies to Chinese Companies to counter cyber thefts.   It’s interesting to note that despite the continual cyber-attacks by China on the USA system is still marked with USA being the top product developer and Chinese lagging behind.

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Surveillance System

As the future of surveillance embodies technological development and Beijing has emerged as a leader in the artificial intelligence developer. The surveillance systems are put up to help monitor operations of geographically designated people’s groups. Ideally, Buckley and Mozur(2018) describes an instance where the China Electronics Technology Corporation, have developed a technological  system to monitor minorities in the Xinjiang region. The system does work through tapping of the phones in the neighborhood, tracing movements and actions, detection of possible crime so as to know which kind of security forces to deploy in the region. The espionage trade craft seems like modern day slavery where the ethnic minorities are the only ones subjected to constant monitoring in a region where the majority of the residents are not the ethnic minorities.

 Chinese government has been criticized for putting up segregation camps in the past where the majority of the Muslim members were put in a restricted area. The main motive of the segregation camp was  to compel the Muslims to convert into protestant faith so that in future they shall not be a threat to the communist nation( Buckley and Mozur, 2018).  Additionally, the Chinese government has put up virtual fences in collection of databases through a mobile system that penetrates the android system. The databases contain information on people’s activities and actions, in the country and abroad so as to counter any illegal actions.

Dead drop Spikes Intelligence

            Dead drop spikes intelligence refers to an intelligence collection technique that entails the transmission of information between two parties without the need for their meeting. The Spike is either strapped on the body of the individual carrying out the investigation or dropped in specific locations to gather intelligence.  Gilmour (2019) describes the case of a naturalized USA citizen, Peng who hails from China use of dead drops in collecting intelligence on various locations in California.  Peng, who poises as an ordinary tour guide was charged for being a spy for the Chinese government.

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             He would execute the dead drops by placing them in strategic locations. He would later on collect the dead drops and deliver them personally to the government in China. The charges earned him a bond-free arrest as he awaited trial.  The case was an illustration of the Chinese intelligence gathering technique beyond its borders. The dead drop spikes are negligible and thus an easy way of intelligence collection.

Listening Devices

             The covert listening devices help intelligence services due to their capability of tapping conversations in the environment.  The listening devices appear as additional equipment’s placed strategically to help tap into conversations and transmit the data into the security agencies. The practice entails discretion in putting up the devices. Chinese intelligence services have severally placed the listening devices in residents whose behavior was being monitored.  Ryan (2015) describes the situation in WeiWei studio where he found that the listening bugs had been placed in his studio in Beijing, four years after his return from exile.  Weiwei had suspected that the listening bugs were placed in his studio during a time where he was detained for 81 days without trial of any kind (Ryan, 2015).  The installation of the devices was a means of checking on his actions and behaviors to warrant his execution by the authorities if possible.

             In a related incidence, the technological giant Huawei 5G technology has been considered a threat to the national security. The virtualized network over and edge holds possibilities of conducting mass eavesdropping on information passing through the network. As such, every nation who uses the 5G network could be at the brink of exposing their information to the Chinese telecommunications giant.  In conclusion, MSS uses various espionage tradecrafts in gathering intelligence mainly to help improve on national economy and placing it amongst the leading world’s superpower. Economic espionage has been the leading tradecraft   with the aim of gaining access to leading company’s intellectual property and using them to manufacture similar products and replace the original companies in the global market. The Chinese intelligence has faced counterintelligence measures especially form the USA government through the use of various techniques to unearth its operations.  Existence of counter intelligence laws have made it easy for USA to sentence Chinese nationals indicted with intelligence crimes.


Buckley, C., & Mozur, P. (2019, May 22). How China Uses High-Tech Surveillance to Subdue Minorities. The New York Times.

Gilmour, J. (2019, September 27). San Francisco tour guide led secret life as Chinese spy, prosecutors say. Fresnobee; The Fresno Bee.

Ryan, F. (2015, October 4). Ai Weiwei finds “listening devices” hidden in Beijing studio. The Guardian.

Sanger, D. E., & Myers, S. L. (2018). After a Hiatus, China Accelerates Cyberspying Efforts to Obtain U.S. Technology. The New York Times.

Tirkey. A  and Pant. H.V (2020) China faces a new threat as US cracks down on economic espionage. ORF. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from

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