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Communist spies still alive and kicking
Paul Lin
8/9/2003

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There have been numerous spy cases recently. China is clearly trying to expand its struggle against its enemies, so the credibility of its spy accusations is immaterial. Apparently, Beijing's accusations were made to weaken those of Taipei and Washington, as if to say, "Look, all three of our nations are engaged in covert activities to gather information, so we are not so different after all."

It's believed that the Chinese spy cases uncovered over the past few years were just the tip of the iceberg. These cases are particularly different from those in other countries because they involve the unification and independence ideologies over the issue of national identity. Some may leak confidential information to China due to the dispute over different political ideologies.

In light of frequent contacts across the Taiwan Strait, how can anyone be sure that none of those who travel across the Strait is a spy -- especially those retired military and intelligence agents? Plus, the China-based Taiwanese businesspeople, China's visiting delegations to Taiwan, as well as legal and illegal Chinese immigrants, all travel across the Strait. Although we should not accuse them all, we should never overlook possible security factors.

Perhaps it will be viewed as a joke if someone mentions a slogan from the past: "Be careful! Communist spies are around you." But the percentage of spies is absolutely higher than that during the two Chiangs' era. As a result, it's necessary for us to promote the above slogan again, so people will not lose their vigilance. Taiwan failed to urge its people to remain vigilant after the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion was abolished. This was indeed a mistake of the naive KMT government.

In terms of the most recent spy case of Yeh Yu-chen -- a Taiwanese businessman in Taoyuan who allegedly spied for China -- the case may involve significant security matters of Taiwan and the US. Unfortunately, the media has revealed many details in order to cause a sensation. This is inappropriate, because other parties involved may flee to China right away. Agencies should never arbitrarily reveal the progress of an investigation.

US Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller recently told US Congress that the number of foreign spies currently in the US is unprecedented. The FBI has listed China as the biggest intelligence threat to the US in the next 10 to 15 years. The American people often view the outside world with a kind heart, and they are not vigilant about spies -- especially Chinese spies who are good at smooth talking and playing tricks.

China's intelligence-gathering methods are different from those of other countries, as it often appeals to patriotism to gradually collect information, calling on people of Chinese origin worldwide to provide various confidential information about every walk of life. Such a "people's intelligence war" is a headache for Washington: it may suffer if it ignores this. But too much attention may be criticized as racial discrimination. China is particularly good at using overseas Taiwanese and Chinese people to avoid the US government's attention. Some spy activities in the US were conducted by either overseas Taiwanese or Chinese-Indonesian people.

Washington's allies, such as Israel, have also sent intelligence agents to collect confidential information in the US. But their ultimate goals are the same, and the competition is not a life-or-death situation. However, the intelligence war between China and the US or Taiwan is fierce due to their divergent ideologies. Only when China begins its democratization can this spy war be resolved.

*Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.



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