Ministry of State Security (China)

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Ministry of State Security
of the People's Republic of China
Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó Guójiā Ānquán Bù
National Emblem of the People's Republic of China (2).svg
Ministry of State Security of the People's Republic of China.svg
Logo of the Ministry of State Security
(contains the Danghui golden.svg Emblem of the Communist Party of China)
Agency overview
FormedJuly 1983
Preceding agencies
TypeConstituent Department of the State Council (cabinet-level)
Jurisdiction People's Republic of China
39°59′32″N 116°16′42″E / 39.9921°N 116.2783°E / 39.9921; 116.2783Coordinates: 39°59′32″N 116°16′42″E / 39.9921°N 116.2783°E / 39.9921; 116.2783
Annual budgetCN¥56 billion
($8 billion)(FY 2018)[1]
Agency executive
Parent agencyState Council
National Emblem of the People's Republic of China (2).svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is the intelligence, security and secret police agency of the People's Republic of China (non-military area of interests), responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security. MSS has been described as one of the most secretive intelligence organizations in the world. It is headquartered in Beijing.[2][3]

The MSS was preceded by the Central Investigation Department (CID), which was China's primary intelligence organization from 1955 to 1983. The MSS was created in 1983 with the merging of the CID and the counter-intelligence elements of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China.[4][5][6]

The network of state security bureaus and the Ministry of State Security should not be confused with the separate but parallel network of public security bureaus, administered by the Ministry of Public Security.

The logo of the MSS is unique among Chinese government agencies as it displays the party emblem instead of the state emblem.

Missions and powers[edit]

The mission of the MSS is to ensure "the security of the country through effective measures against enemy agents, spies, and counter-revolutionary activities designed to sabotage, destabilize or overthrow China's socialist system."[7][8]

Article 4 of the Criminal Procedure Law gives the MSS the same authority to arrest or detain people as regular police for crimes involving state security with identical supervision by the procuratorates and the courts.[9] The National Intelligence Law of 2017 grants the MSS broad powers to conduct many types of espionage both domestically and abroad, it also gives the MSS the power to administratively detain those who impede or divulge information on intelligence work for up to 15 days.[10]

MSS functions as China's intelligence, security and secret police agency.[11] A document from the U.S. Department of Justice described the agency as being like a combination of CIA and FBI.[12]



The headquarters of the Ministry of Public Security near Tiananmen Square are reported to also function as MSS headquarters, but the degree to which operations are run out of the official address of No.14 Dong Chang'an Jie versus the secretive Xiyuan compound is disputed

The precursor of the modern MSS was the Central Department of Social Affairs (CDSA), the primary intelligence organ of the Communist Party of China (CPC) before its accession to power in 1949, directed by Kang Sheng.[13] The CDSA operated from the communist base area of Yan'an in Shaanxi Province in northern China during the 1937–45 Second Sino-Japanese War. The CDSA provided the CPC with assessments of the world situation based on news reports and furnished the Communists with intelligence that proved crucial in the Chinese Civil War against the Nationalist forces.[14]

The CDSA was thoroughly reorganized in summer 1949.[15] It was renamed, becoming the Liaison Department (not to be confused with the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China), and was attached to the General Intelligence Department of the Central Military Commission (chaired by Mao Zedong himself).[16] The new department was given a new chief; Kang Sheng was removed, being replaced by General Li Kenong, a protégé of Zhou Enlai.[16]

Meanwhile, after the establishment of the People's Republic of China a few months later, in October 1949, domestic intelligence, counter-intelligence and regime protection came under the control of the new Ministry of Public Security, headed by General Luo Ruiqing.

The Liaison Department, now responsible for foreign intelligence, was significantly expanded and upgraded in 1955, becoming the Central Investigation Department (CID) under the Communist Party Central Committee, again with Li Kenong as its director.[17] On orders from Li, all Chinese embassies in the 1950s established "Investigation Offices" to gather intelligence, while Soviet KGB advisers helped train new agents. Li Kenong's high standing with both Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai can be seen from the fact that, while serving as Director of the Central Investigation Department, he was simultaneously given the posts of Deputy Chief of PLA General Staff and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, in order to help him control and coordinate foreign intelligence more effectively.[16] Li was also a good friend of Wang Dongxing, chief of Mao's personal security force.

After Li Kenong died in 1962, the Central Investigation Department gradually came under the control of Kang Sheng and his people, who managed to make an impressive comeback after many years; especially after the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Kang became one of Mao's closest associates.[16] Following Mao's death in 1976, the new leadership under Hua Guofeng initially tried to return to the pre-Cultural Revolution years and strengthen the CID. However, Deng Xiaoping, who gradually rose to supreme power, distrusted the CID. On Deng's orders, the Investigation Offices in Chinese embassies were dissolved and the CID downgraded.[16]

Throughout these years, the Central Investigation Department had to face competition from the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, which was active in fomenting international revolution by funneling weapons, money and resources to various guerrilla movements (not all of them communist) across the world.[18][19]


The MSS was established in 1983 as the result of the merger of the CID and the counter-intelligence elements of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China.[4] One of its longest-serving chiefs was Jia Chunwang, a native of Beijing and a 1964 graduate of Tsinghua University, who is reportedly an admirer of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He served as Minister of State Security from 1985 until March 1998, when the MSS underwent an overhaul and Xu Yongyue was appointed the new head of the organization. Jia was then appointed to the Minister of Public Security post, after a decade of distinguished service as head of the MSS.

In October 2018, the deputy director of the Ministry of State Security, Yanjun Xu, was charged with economic espionage by the United States prosecutors.[20]

MSS facilities in Xiyuan, Haidian District, Beijing


In March 2009 former MSS operative Li Fengzhi told the Washington Times in an interview that the MSS was engaged in counterintelligence, the collection of secrets and technology from other countries, and repressing internal dissent within China. The internal repression, according to Li, includes efforts against nonofficial Christian churches and the outlawed Falun Gong religious group, plus censoring the Internet to prevent China's population from knowing what is going on outside the country. Li emphasized that MSS's most important mission is, "to control the Chinese people to maintain the rule of the Communist Party".[21]

In 2012, an executive assistant to MSS vice minister Lu Zhongwei was found to have been passing information to the CIA. Lu Zhongwei was not formally charged, but that incident was said to have infuriated Hu Jintao and led to a tightening on information dissemination and increased counterintelligence activities in Beijing and abroad.[22]

The Shanghai State Security Bureau (SSSB) of the MSS has repeatedly been involved in both failed and successful attempts to recruit foreign agents. In 2010, the SSSB directed US citizen Glenn Duffie Shriver to apply for a position at the National Clandestine Service of the CIA. In 2017, SSSB case workers were implicated in the recruitment of US Department of State employee Candace Claiborne who was charged with obstruction of justice.[23]

In 2013, a Chinese driver was employed by Senator Dianne Feinstein who was notified that the driver was being investigated for possible Chinese spying. At some point, he visited China and was recruited by China's MSS. He worked for Senator Feinstein for several years. The FBI concluded the driver hadn't revealed anything of substance.[24]

In 2017, the cyberespionage threat group known as Gothic Panda or APT3 was determined to have nation-state level capabilities and to be functioning on behalf of the MSS by researchers.[25]

Economic espionage has become a prime directive of the MSS and the FBI has estimated that 3,000 companies in the United States are covers for MSS activity.[26] Companies such as Huawei, China Mobile, and China Unicom have been implicated in MSS intelligence collection activities.[27][28][29]

In 2017, Ministry of State Security officials entered the United States on transit visas that did not allow them to conduct official business. During the visit the officials made an attempt to persuade Chinese dissident Guo Wengui to return to China. Guo Wengui accepted the meeting, out of apparent gratitude for one of the officials, named Liu Yanping, having previously assisted in bringing the wife of Guo Wengui to America. However, Guo Wengui recorded the conversations and alerted the FBI. Subsequently, the Chinese officials were confronted by FBI agents in Pennsylvania Station, the Chinese officials initially claimed to be cultural affairs diplomats but ultimately admitted to being security officials. The Chinese officials were given a warning for their activities in New York and were ordered to return to China. Two days later, the officials again visited the apartment of Guo Wengui once more prior to leaving the country. While at the apartment the second time, the officials reportedly ate dumplings made by the wife of Guo Wengui, and Guo Wengui walked them out of the building after again declining their offer of clemency for silence. The FBI was aware of the second visit and agents were prepared to arrest the Chinese security officials at JFK Airport prior to their Air China flight on charges of visa fraud and extortion, but arrests were not made following pressure from the State Department to avoid a diplomatic crisis. The FBI did, however, confiscate the Chinese officials’ phones before the plane took off.[30]

Agency heads[edit]

Since 1983, agency heads carry the title of Minister of State Security (MSS), reporting directly to the State Council.[31]

  • Directors of the Central Department of Social Affairs (1939–1949)
Name Took office Left office
1 Kang Sheng 1939 1949
2 Li Kenong 1949 1949
  • Directors of the Liaison Department (1949–1955)
Name Took office Left office
1 Li Kenong 1949 1955
  • Directors of the Central Investigation Department (1955–1983)
Name Took office Left office
1 Li Kenong 1955 1962
2 Kong Yuan 1962 1967
3 PLA military takeover due to the Cultural Revolution (Special Unit 8341 under Wang Dongxing) 1967 1969
4 Officially placed under the 2nd Bureau (Intelligence) of the PLA General Staff, in actual fact controlled by Kang Sheng 1969 1973
5 Luo Qingchang 1973 1983
  • Ministers of State Security (1983–present)
Name Took office Left office
1 Ling Yun June 1983 September 1985
2 Jia Chunwang September 1985 March 1998
3 Xu Yongyue March 1998 August 2007
4 Geng Huichang August 2007 November 2016
5 Chen Wenqing November 2016 Incumbent


The government lists that headquarters as shared with the Ministry of Public Security adjacent to Tiannamen Square at 14 Dongchangan Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing.[32] MSS facilities also operate in the northwest of Beijing in an area called Xiyuan next to the Summer Palace in Haidian District.[33] Xiyuan is located south of the MSS affiliated University of International Relations and northeast of the government operated Xijiao Airport. A guarded compound called Yidongyuan is located within the Xiyuan area and offers housing to MSS personnel. The Xiyuan area also contains an elementary school, a hospital, a campus for the Beijing Business Management School, and the Beijing Institute of Electronics Technology and Application. The MSS operates clandestine facilities in the Xiyuan area among the housing and various other institutions.

The MSS is divided into Bureaus, each assigned to a division with a broad directive and each bureau is given a specific task. In November 2016, a MSS associated Weibo account posted an outline of the first 11 Bureaus, however additional Bureaus up to No. 17 have been identified:[34][35]

Bureau № Encompassing Division Directive
1 Confidential Communication Division Responsible for the management and administration of confidential communications
2 International Intelligence Division Responsible for strategic international intelligence collection
3 Political and Economic Intelligence Division Responsible for gathering political, economic, and scientific intelligence from various countries
4 Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau Division Responsible for intelligence work in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau
5 Intelligence Analysis Division Responsible for analysing and reporting on intelligence and collecting guidance on how to handle intelligence matters
6 Operational Guidance Division Responsible for directing and supervising the activities of provincial level MSS offices
7 Counterintelligence Division Responsible for gathering counterintelligence information
8 Counterintelligence Division Responsible for monitoring, investigating, and potentially detaining foreigners suspected of counterintelligence activities. This Bureau is reported to primarily cover and investigate diplomats, businessmen, and reporters[36]
9 Internal Security and Anti-Reconnaissance Division Responsible for protecting the MSS from infiltration by foreign entities by monitoring domestic reactionary organizations and foreign institutions
10 External Security and Anti-Reconnaissance Division Responsible for monitoring students and institutions abroad in order to investigate international anti-communist activities
11 Information and Auditing Division Responsible for the collection and management of intelligence materials
12 Social Research Division Responsible for conducting public opinion polling and surveying the population
13 Science and Technology Investigative Division Responsible for managing science and technology projects and conducting research and development
14 Science and Technology Investigative Division Responsible for inspecting mail and telecommunications
15 Comprehensive Intelligence Analysis Division Responsible for the analysis and interpretation of intelligence materials
16 Imaging Intelligence Division Responsible for collecting and interpreting images of political, economic, and military targets in various countries through both traditional practices and through incorporation of satellite imagery technologies
17 Enterprises Division Responsible for the operation and management of MSS owned front companies, enterprises, and other institutions

Additionally, In 2009, the MSS was reported by a former official to have a Counterterrorism Bureau.[37]

The provincial offices of the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Public Security located in Hubei Province (Wuhan)

Other managerial offices have been said to include:[38]

  • General Office
  • Legal Department
  • Political Department
  • Party Committee
  • Propaganda Department
  • Legislative Affairs Coordination Office
  • Veterans Affairs Department
  • Xiyuan Management Department

In December 2016, the MSS structure was split into a National Counterintelligence Agency and a National Intelligence Agency, it is unclear from public information what change this reorganization had on MSS Bureaus and Divisions.[39]

The China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) is a large civilian think tank for international issues. Located in Beijing, the Institute is affiliated with the MSS, and overseen by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.[40][41] CICIR has been identified by Stratfor as belonging to the No. 8 Bureau of the MSS, and as providing intelligence reports to the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China.[42] The organization itself does not speak much about its relationship with the Chinese government, however, and Chinese media reports rarely acknowledge the institution's ties with the regime.[43]

Many MSS personnel are trained at the University of International Relations in Haidian, due north of MSS housing and offices in Xiyuan.[44][45]

In popular culture and literature[edit]

An agent of the MSS, Zheng Lu Peng, is the main antagonist of the espionage hero Cono 7Q in the spy novel Performance Anomalies,[46][47] by Victor Robert Lee.[48] Zheng, who has engineered Beijing's takeover of Kazakhstan, comes from a family that was tormented during the Cultural Revolution, leading to his own traumatized personality.[49]

In the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Wai Lin, portrayed by Michelle Yeoh, is an MSS agent working together with Bond to stop a crisis that could lead the British and Chinese into war.[50]

In season three of The Last Ship (2014), MSS agents are the major antagonists of the crew of the USS Nathan James.[51]

In the television series Mr. Robot (2015), a fictional Minister of State Security is portrayed by BD Wong.[52]

The Chinese spy novel Ice is Sleepy Water (Chinese: 冰是睡着的水) by Liu Meng tells the day-to-day life story of a group of MSS agents.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]