This is via Bloomberg:
Under Xi Jinping, China has become an even harder target for America’s spying operation.
A lack of top-tier intelligence on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s inner circle is frustrating senior Biden administration officials struggling to get ahead of Beijing’s next steps, according to current and former officials who have reviewed the most sensitive U.S. intelligence reports.
Those officials, who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive issues, say China is becoming a harder target, more opaque, just as the demand for insights into Xi’s decision-making is soaring and tensions with the U.S. are heating up over issues from Taiwan to high technology.
That reality comes after officials in both the Trump and Biden administrations said they were surprised by Beijing’s rapid moves to consolidate control of Hong Kong, project military power across the South China Sea, limit probes into the origins of Covid-19, undercut Chinese companies going public in the U.S. and ramp up hacking against adversaries.
Despite China’s history as a “hard target” for the CIA to penetrate, the agency exists precisely to overcome such challenges, whether it’s deciphering the leadership of al-Qaeda or Kim Jong Un’s regime in North Korea.
What’s more, the agency was capable of providing significant insights into the upper reaches of the Chinese political system as recently as a decade ago, one former intelligence official said. Its ability to penetrate the Chinese leadership has ebbed and flowed over time, but the agency’s current ability to do so is more limited, the person said.
A partially redacted House Intelligence Committee report from September 2020 concluded that U.S. spy agencies were failing to meet the multifaceted challenges posed by China and were overly focused on traditional targets such as terrorism or conventional military threats.
For now, the intelligence community’s analysis relies more on inductive reasoning about whether an invasion [of Taiwan] would align with Xi’s stated objectives than on raw intelligence on the Chinese leader’s views, according to the people.
Translation: they’re basically guessing.
They have been stonewalled at every turn by Xi.
So what exactly is Xi doing to make it harder to spy on him?
Xi’s sweeping efforts to change China’s domestic politics and consolidate his control also have taken a toll on American intelligence. The shift from a system of “collective” leadership under former Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao toward one dominated by Xi means that the CIA has had to go from focusing on the inner circles of seven or even nine top leaders to, effectively, just one.
Even before Xi, China’s political system was highly secretive and organized using a “stove-piped” system where information flows up to top leaders but rarely is disseminated widely inside the system. Chinese academia, the media and civil society organizations are all closely controlled by the government, further compounding the challenge of reporting on the country.
Xi’s broad anti-corruption campaign, which has punished more than 1.5 million officials, has also led to greater scrutiny of Chinese officials’ income, making payments to potential sources far more problematic, two former officials said.
Criticism of the intelligence community’s insights on China weigh most heavily on the CIA, which has primary responsibility for recruiting spies and saw its network severely damaged more than a decade ago by Beijing’s counterintelligence efforts.
Those efforts were detailed extensively in 2017 by the New York Times, which said as many as a dozen U.S. sources were executed by China, with others jailed, in what represented one of the worst breaches ever of American spying networks.
Former officials explained that recovering from China’s dismantling of the CIA’s network in China involves a multiyear process that includes the recruitment and onboarding of new assets, followed by systematically increasing the asset’s access to sensitive information. That’s probably still underway, the people said.
In addition, CIA officers in China face daunting challenges posed by China’s burgeoning surveillance state, which has blanketed Chinese cities with surveillance cameras and employs sophisticated facial recognition software to track threats.
So basically, what this means is that the CIA has very little–if any–foothold in China. The Chinese have completely outmaneuvered the CIA.
Caitlin Johnstone adds this:
When people complain about Chinese authoritarianism and lack of transparency, what they’re really complaining about is that China is defending itself against a nonstop assault from the US-centralized empire which seeks to bring Beijing to its knees.
The heavy-handed domestic policies of US-targeted nations like China are not morally comparable to the censorship, propaganda, secrecy, surveillance and other authoritarian measures you see in the US and its lackey states, because US-targeted nations are actively defending themselves against a hostile foreign aggressor who won’t be content until all nations on Earth bow to its dictates.
Right. It’s not like our government actually cares about human rights in China. They want to bring down the Chinese surveillance state because they surveillance state is stonewalling them and making it nearly impossible for them to spy on the Chinese government.
However, I do find it a bit odd that the CIA would allow this article to appear in Bloomberg for basically anybody to read.
Why would they allow that?
Maybe because they want people to think they are unable to spy on the Chinese government–get Xi to let his guard down a little bit.
I don’t know. Just a thought.
Ultimatley, yet another example of China continuing to eat our lunch.
They’ve got us. America has finally run into the one foreign adversary it cannot crack.