CIA activities in China

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This is a list of activities carried out by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in China.


The Office of Strategic Services was involved in World War II.


Tibetan troops serving under the 14th Dalai Lama murdered the American CIA agent Douglas Mackiernan and his two White Russian helpers because he was dressed as a Kazakh, their enemy.[citation needed]

Republic of China (Taiwan)[edit]

Chiang Kai-shek, President of the Republic of China on Taiwan, suspected that the United States was plotting a coup against him. In 1950, Chiang Ching-kuo became director of the secret police, which he remained until 1965. Chiang also considered some people who were friends to Americans to be his enemies. An enemy of the Chiang family, Wu Kuo-chen, was kicked out of his position of governor of Taiwan by Chiang Ching-kuo and fled to America in 1953.[1] Chiang Ching-kuo, educated in the Soviet Union, initiated Soviet style military organization in the Republic of China Military, reorganizing and Sovietizing the political officer corps, surveillance, and Kuomintang party activities were propagated throughout the military. Opposed to this was Sun Li-jen, who was educated at the American Virginia Military Institute.[2] Chiang orchestrated the controversial court-martial and arrest of General Sun Li-jen in August 1955, for plotting a coup d'état with the American CIA against his father Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang. The CIA allegedly wanted to help Sun take control of Taiwan and declare its independence.[1][3]


In order to open a second front in the Korean War, CIA officers decided to rely upon a second plan. CIA operators were fearful of Mao Zedong's entry into the war and estimated that a substantial amount of Kuomintang Nationalist guerillas were available to work with the agency. They also estimated that Muslim horseman led by Ma Pu-fang would be willing to launch attacks against China in its western regions. When both of these efforts proved to be overly projected in terms of success and strategic actualities, the U.S., convinced that a third force was available within China, decided to invest resources into securing such a force to its efforts. In order to facilitate resistance against China's involvement in Korea, the CIA invested over $100 million in buying weapons that would be used by "third force" guerillas in China. The Agency scarcely could find any anti-Mao sentiment within their contacts, however, with the only signs of life being a group of refugees in Okinawa, invariably proven to be a group more interested in obtaining their own goals than in truly assisting the United States.[4]

Eventually, the CIA declassified its records and admitted the failures of the Third Force strategy.[5] The list illuminated a quick study on insurgency failures. According to the documents, the CIA began dropping small guerilla units into China, the first Third Force team having been deployed in April, 1952. All four members of the team were never heard from again. The second Third Force team was made up of five ethnic Chinese agents, and dropped into the Jilin region of Manchuria in mid-July 1952. The team eventually reported contact with local rebel leaders. The team was, unbeknownst to the CIA, captured and turned by the Chinese, setting up the ensuing trap. The CIA responded by sending in a rescue unit, only to have its planes shot down and its principal agents assigned to the mission, Jack Downey and Dick Fecteau, arrested. Both men were subsequently sentenced to prison sentences in China. Beijing later boasted of the insurgency failures of their United States counterparts. At that point, the CIA had dropped 212 agents into China, resulting in 101 agents killed and 111 captured.[5][6][7] Michael D. Coe, who had been recruited by the CIA and worked within the agency during the Third Force events, stated that the CIA "had been sold a bill of goods by the Nationalists - that there was a huge force of resistance inside of China. We were barking up the wrong tree. The whole operation was a waste of time." [8]


A CIA-trained Tibetan guerrilla group operated out of Upper Mustang, Nepal. A small contingent was airdropped inside China, but without much success in their mission.[9]


Tension between the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union was such that the United States did not expect the PRC would get Soviet help on nuclear weapons development.[10]

A facility at Lanzhou was judged incomplete, and it was unclear if it was a gaseous diffusion plant for producing weapons-grade uranium. If so, it could not be ready before 1966. It was estimated that a plutonium-producing reactor could be ready by 1962.[11] The editors at the National Security Archive made reasonable inferences, in spite of excisions from the document, that the Central Intelligence Agency had made considerable progress in using sophisticated collection methods—satellite photography and U-2 flights by Chinese Nationalist pilots… CIA did not know that the installation at Lanzhou was in fact a gaseous diffusion plant that would soon be ready for operations.[12]


The first Chinese nuclear test was in 1964.


Intelligence analysis[edit]

According to Bill Gertz of the Washington Times, a CIA intelligence memorandum dated 14 September 1996, entitled "China and Pakistan Discuss US Demarche on Nuclear Assistance", prepared by ---- said,

1. Chinese officials -- probably from the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) -- recently met with Ghulam Kibna, Pakistan's nuclear and missile procurement officer in Beijing, to discuss the 30 August US demarche on China's sale of diagnostic equipment and a furnace to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities in Pakistan, according to an intercepted message. Kibna said Chinese personnel were already in Pakistan to install the equipment, which an intercept in August indicated was to be delivered on 2 September.

  • A Chinese nuclear official informally told our Embassy on Wednesday that the equipment was sent late last year or early this year, but he claimed not to know the final end user at the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.
  • The Pakistanis' expectation of the 2 September delivery, however, indicates either that the Chinese shipment scheduled in January did not occur or that it may have been only a partial shipment.

2. In the aftermath of CNEIC's ring magnet sale to Pakistan and China's 11 May commitment not to provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, senior-level government approval probably was needed for this most recent assistance. The Chinese told Kibna they needed end user certificates for the sale and all future dual-use shipments and other equipment for Pakistan's unsafeguarded facilities and vowed to discuss the certificates only with a "third party" -- apparently the US -- probably to demonstrate that Beijing is complying with its May commitment.

3. The PAEC's chairman told Kibna any decision to share documents with others would require the approval of Pakistan's President or Prime Minister. Kibna suggested possible language for the false end user certificates to make it appear that one item -- possibly the diagnostic equipment -- was intended for the safeguarded Chasma nuclear power plasm which Chinese firms are building.

  • The intercept indicates Kibna also suggested to the Chinese that all remaining contracts, apparently for unsafeguarded facilities, be canceled and new ones drawn up naming unobjectionable end users.
  • Kibna claimed the Chinese reacted positively to the idea, but added this kind of agreement is "dangerous." Such a subterfuge probably would require the approval of senior Chinese Government leaders [13]


Dismantling of CIA Operations[edit]

Between 2010 and 2012, the government of China was able to kill at least 30 CIA sources in China, crippling the CIA's ability to collect information within the country.[14] [15] A joint CIA and FBI counterintelligence operation, codenamed "Honey Bear", failed to determine the source of the agents' compromises.[14]

In January 2018, a former CIA officer named Jerry Chun Shing Lee was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport, on suspicion of helping dismantle the CIA's network of informants in China.[16]

The cause might be that the interim covert communications system used by agents with CIA had been cracked by the Chinese Ministry of State Security.[17]

Sun Bo[edit]

Sun Bo (孫波), the general manager of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is alleged to have sold classified information to the CIA, including technical specifications of the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.[18][19]


  1. ^ a b Peter R. Moody (1977). Opposition and dissent in contemporary China. Hoover Press. p. 302. ISBN 978-0-8179-6771-0. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  2. ^ Jay Taylor (2000). The Generalissimo's son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the revolutions in China and Taiwan. Harvard University Press. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-674-00287-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  3. ^ Nançy Bernkopf Tucker (1983). Patterns in the dust: Chinese-American relations and the recognition controversy, 1949-1950. Columbia University Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-231-05362-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  4. ^ Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (New York: Anchor Books, 2007), 66-68.
  5. ^ a b "Two CIA Prisoners in China, 1952–73", Apr 05, 2007, CIA
  6. ^ "Extraordinary Fidelity", Apr 05, 2007, CIA
  7. ^ "Extraordinary Fidelity" , Jun 05, 2013, (transcript), CIA
  8. ^ Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (New York: Anchor Books, 2007), 66-68, 645.
  9. ^ Cowan, Sam (January 17, 2016). "The curious case of the Mustang incident". the Record. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  10. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (25 April 1962). "National Intelligence Estimate 13-2-62, "Chinese Communist Advanced Weapons Capabilities,"" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  11. ^ NIE13-2-62
  12. ^ Burr, William; Richelson, Jeffrey T. (January 12, 2001). "The United States and the Chinese Nuclear Program, 1960-1964".
  13. ^ Gertz, Bill (1999). Betrayal. Regnery. ISBN 978-0-89526-317-9.
  14. ^ a b Mazzetti, Mark; Goldman, Adam; Schmidt, Michael S.; Apuzzo, Matthew (May 20, 2017). "Killing C.I.A. Informants, China Crippled U.S. Spying Operations". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 20, 2017. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  15. ^ Choi, David (August 16, 2018). "The CIA falsely believed it was 'invincible' in China — here's how its spies were reportedly discovered and killed in one of the biggest blows to the agency". Business Insider.
  16. ^ Goldman, Adam (January 16, 2018). "Ex-C.I.A. Officer Suspected of Compromising Chinese Informants Is Arrested". The New York Times. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  17. ^ DORFMAN, ZACH (15 August 2018). "Botched CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  18. ^ Chen, Frank (June 21, 2018). "Disgraced CSIC manager allegedly 'sold Chinese carrier intel to CIA'". Asia Times.
  19. ^ Strong, Matthew (June 22, 2018). "China shipyard manager might have leaked Liaoning secrets to CIA". Taiwan News. While initial suspicion focused on graft and corruption, later reports suggested that Sun might have handed over key details of the Liaoning project to CIA agents.