For decades while the U. S. was preoccupied with Soviet spies, China quietly penetrated the highest levels of our government. In fact, emerging evidence suggests China has been America’s biggest spy threat all along. Unknown to most Americans, China has discovered the details of our most advanced nuclear warhead and aerospace secrets. Their intelligence has penetrated the FBI, CIA, and the State Department. And cyber attacks by Chinese hackers on U. S. military and defense industry computers are on the rise. A look behind America’s secret spy war with China — and what we must do to win it.
- David Wise Author of "Spy," "Nightmover," and "The Invisible Government."
Read an Excerpt
From “Prelude” by David Wise. Copyright 2011 by David Wise. All rights reserved. Excerpted here by kind permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. China's secretive army opened its doors this week to U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Admiral Mike Mullen. He responded by saying China is no longer a rising power, but a world power. Espionage expert David Wise argues China has been America's most effective and dangerous spy foe for years.
MS. DIANE REHMIn a new book, he explores America's secret spy war with China and how our efforts to win it have fallen short. His new book is titled "Tiger Trap." David Wise joins me in the studio. You are welcome to join us as well, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, David Wise.
MR. DAVID WISEGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to see you again. The premise of your book is that China is outwitting America. Tell us how.
WISEWell, while the FBI and the public were focused on the KGB for many, many decades during the Cold War, China was improving and increasing its ability to spy on the United States. And mine is the first book that looks at that problem and I really examine about a dozen cases. That's the way that I'm able to show that.
WISEThey haven't always been able to be successful. The FBI has, in many cases, caught Chinese spies. Sometimes these cases go under the radar a little bit. They don't seem to get the same publicity as, for example, those ten Russian illegals last summer because one of them was very attractive and, of course, the press went wild over that. But meanwhile, the Chinese are very quietly stealing a lot of very impressive secrets.
REHMTalk about "Tiger Trap," the title of your book and one of the cases you talk about in the book.
WISEYes. Well, "Tiger Trap" comes from really two things. It is the code name of a case that I explore in the book about how the Chinese got the neutron bomb and the suspect that was delivered in that -- detective in that case was a man named Gwo-Bao Min. He worked as an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory in California. He was not arrested because the Justice Department felt they didn't have enough evidence to do so.
WISEHe was forced out of his job and that code name was Tiger Trap, which is partly how I get the title of my book. It also comes from the word tiger, which is a symbol of China...
WISE...so it really comes from both of those, yes.
REHMBut he was actually a mole, is that your point?
WISEI don't think he'd been recruited as a long-term mole. He'd gone over to Beijing. And as often happens, they wined and dined him and then they started asking questions. He couldn't answer all those questions so he said he'd see what he could do when he got back home. He had access to all of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, including the neutron bomb. And he wrote down some of the answers on a bunch of index cards, which the FBI was able to look at by a subterfuge when he was lined up at the airport.
WISEThey said that we're checking everybody today, you know, on this flight and they looked inside and were able to photograph these cards which were later torn up and disposed of in the trash, in this man's trash at his home. And an FBI agent who later received a commendation was able to piece together the information on these cards. The cards were in a bag that also contained dog poop and the FBI man got an award for hazardous duty.
REHMYou know what interests me so is that the Chinese seem to recruit ordinary people, not necessarily people in high places.
WISEWell, one of the main cases that I discuss in this book was not exactly an ordinary person. She was Katrina Leung who was a major figure in Los Angeles in the Chinese-American community. She had very good contacts in China. And for example, the president of China at that time, Yang Shangkun came to Los Angeles and she was the MC of the dinner and even got him to sing. He was a sort of karaoke type. He liked to sing so she got him to sing at this dinner. And that cemented her reputation as somebody who could deliver the goods with China.
REHMAnd what kinds of goods did she deliver?
WISEWell, the FBI recruited her in 1982 and the man who recruited her was named James J. Smith, universally known as J.J. Within a year, they were having a romantic affair. She was able to go over to China frequently for the FBI and to gather information because she had access to the top leadership. And that information was so important or it was regarded as so important that it went up to the White House under four presidents, beginning with President Reagan, right through to Clinton and the two Bushes.
WISEUnfortunately, she was also having a romance with another -- a second FBI man in San Francisco who was later retired and became responsible for catching Chinese spies at the nuclear weapons laboratory, Lawrence Livermore. But both of these gentlemen were sleeping with the source which is a no-no under the FBI rules. More importantly, she was able to look at the briefcase that J.J. Smith brought to her house during their trysts and was able to extract the documents that interested her and to copy them.
WISEAnd so somewhere along the line about maybe half way during the 20 years that she was working for the FBI, she also began working for Beijing.
WISEAnd became a double, we don't know exactly when that happened, but my guess is it was in the late, mid to late 1980s.
REHMDavid Wise, he's a leading writer on intelligence and espionage. His new book is titled "Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War with China." You're welcome to join us, 800-433-8850. How damaging has China been to U.S. security?
WISEWell, in the Parlor Maid case -- and that was the code name of Katrina Leung, which I just discussed. She was able to penetrate the FBI on behalf of China and that certainly would be a major -- you know, penetrating our intelligence agency is a major goal of Chinese intelligence. But beyond that -- and they penetrated the FBI and the CIA -- some years ago, they did the CIA. We can get to that, but, more importantly perhaps even than penetrating these agencies, is the fact that China was able to acquire the details of the most advanced U.S. nuclear warhead, the W88.
WISENow the W88 sits on the trident missiles on the trident submarines and several of these warheads, because they're very small, can be put on one missile and a trident submarine is able to destroy any country on the face of the earth. They have 24 of these missiles and multiple warheads. So they were able to obtain that information, the details of the W88, and that was certainly one of the most serious coups by the Chinese intelligence.
REHMYou know, it's interesting, those of us ordinary Americans think about China stealing videos or China copying computer data or computer manufacturing information, but you're saying that China has surpassed the U.S. and what the USSR was doing in spying. When did that happen?
WISEWell it's difficult to say that they surpassed. What they have done is they have certainly equaled and in the sense that we weren't paying enough attention to them.
REHMIs that because we are incompetent?
WISEIt's because during the Cold War the focus was entirely on the Russians. There were dozens and dozens of people, for example, in the CIA operating against the Soviets and then the Russians and dozens and dozens of analysts. In the Chinese section of the FBI, you had a handful of people, which, by the way, made it more difficult to write this book because there were less sources to go to. But that was my problem and it's the country's problem in the sense that not enough attention was being paid to China.
WISEI think through my book and other things, the fact that China is in the news now every day -- just two days ago, the head of the Chinese military was scolding the United States for spending too much on the military. Said we ought to spend more social programs, beginning to sound like the debate that's going on now over the budget.
REHMDoes China use different methods than Western countries to do its spying?
WISEChina uses very different methods and that's a fascinating part of all this. The Chinese method of espionage, I think, reflects their culture. They're very patient. After all, China began doing this in 400 B.C. and so they've been doing it for, what, 25 centuries? We began doing it in 1947 when the CIA was established so partly, yes, they're very patient. They collect information bit by bit and they form a mosaic. They will, you know, gather a little bit of information from one scientist who is visiting Beijing on an exchange program, an exchange visit, and then maybe two years later, another scientist will say something which when put together with the first little comment, makes some sense and they're very happy to do that.
WISEAnd they spy. There's a wonderful story which I'd like to tell you that goes -- that you hear it in the halls of the FBI counter-intelligence that if the -- if there were interest in a particular beach as a target, you know, the Russians would send in a submarine at the dark of night and send in frogmen and get the information off the beach, buckets of sand. The United States would have satellites producing reams of data...
REHMAnd we'll hold off as to what the Chinese would do after a break.
REHMWelcome back. Author David Wise is with me. He's a leading writer on intelligence and espionage. He has numerous previous books including "The Invisible Government" and "Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America." But his newest takes a different focus. It's titled "Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War with China." And I'm sure you're all just waiting breathlessly to know how the Chinese would approach going into a beach and spying on that particular piece of land.
WISEWell, unlike the Russians, who would send in a submarine and collect buckets of sand with a frogman team, unlike the Americans that would send over satellite and collect reams of data, the Chinese would send in 1,000 tourists. Each tourist would be told to collect one grain of sand. And when they got back to China, they were told to shake out their towels. And at the end of that time, they would know more about the beach than anyone else.
REHMThat's quite a story.
WISEYeah, well, it's only a story but it kind of is indicative...
REHMIs it only a story?
WISEIt's indicative I think.
REHMHow do they recruit the individuals they want to spy for them?
WISEWell, there are various methods used. The way that the Russians often recruit people is because someone will -- a volunteer will walk in and say, you know my boss doesn't appreciate me. Or maybe there'll be someone within one of the American agencies with a drinking problem, like Aldra (sp?) James and who needs money. The Chinese don't want people like that. They don't want people who are vulnerable or have difficulties in their personal life. And very often they will recruit someone who he might be a Chinese American. They often target Chinese Americans, not exclusively.
WISEThere was a recent case with two people who are not ethnic Chinese in the Pentagon who were recruited by China and that was -- involved money. The -- in some cases they don't have to recruit because they get volunteers. There was a very interesting case of a man named Dongfan Chung and he was a volunteer spy. He was born in China but became a U.S. citizen, worked in California in the defense industry for 30 years.
WISEAnd one day he wrote to a contact in China saying, I don't know what I can do for the country, and he meant China. He said, having been a Chinese compatriot for over 30 years and being proud of the achievements of the people's efforts for the motherland I am regretful for not contributing anything. So they then said how happy they were that -- to hear from him and gave him a tasking list, a laundry list, if you will, or a shopping list of what they wanted. And he proceeded to supply a lot of that information.
WISEWhen he was caught, he sent them 24 manuals on the B1 bomber from Rockwell, for example. He was a stress analyst on the shuttle -- on the space shuttle which we recently had the last trip of for Boeing. And when the FBI finally caught up with him in 2006 and they searched his home, they found not one document or a dozen documents that he'd squirreled away from Boeing, they found 300,000 documents in his house. Where do you put them, I don't know.
WISEHe ran out of space. Some of them were in a crawlspace under the house. And when he was arrested two years later the -- after a ten-day trial the judge, whose name was Cormac Carney, did not, as we might say, mince any words. He said, Mr. Chung, who was then 73, I'm sentencing you to 16 years in prison. And he imposed such a harsh sentence because he wanted to send a message to China. And the message he said was, stop sending your spies here.
REHMBut you had a Chinese spy within the CIA who worked as a translator for the CIA. That was Larry Wu-Tai Chin.
WISEYes. And he was working for China for about 30 years. And he...
REHMWithin the CIA.
WISEWithin the CIA, yes. He was a top translator and people -- there weren't that many Chinese translators. People would go to him even outside his particular division. And so he had access to an awful lot of stuff. He was finally caught in 1985. He was -- he had a lot of money, he had, like, 30 properties in the Washington area that he'd bought, condos and whatnot. And he explained this by saying that he was a very good Blackjack player. He went out to Las Vegas frequently.
REHMWhen in fact...
WISERight, when in fact he was getting money from China. And when he was caught it was only because a defector came out of the Chinese Intelligence Service. And that defector didn't know Larry Chin's name but he had certain details. It was known, for example, that he had stayed in a certain hotel in Beijing. And the FBI, by searching his luggage, was able to find a key to that hotel room. Apparently he felt somehow that he had mistakenly taken the key with him and should return it instead of just throwing it away. And that helped to identify him and eventually he was caught. And he was convicted and he committed suicide in jail.
REHMWhat kind of information did he get from the CIA to give to China?
WISEWell, he was able to get, you know, all kinds of CIA information classified documents. And perhaps the most interesting was that when President Nixon did the opening to China there were documents on what Nixon's position would be and the negotiations and that sort of thing. And he was able to obtain the presidential -- secret presidential memorandum on what the negotiating position would be with the Chinese. And he gave it to Beijing.
REHMI'm aghast. I mean, one knew that that kind of cautiousness had to be applied to Russia. But to begin to think of China as we engage with them every single day. Here is an e-mail from Harold in Dallas who's listening on KERA. He says, "How can we give most favored nation trading status and put ourselves in debt to a nation that attacks us daily?"
WISEWell, it's a very good question but we have to assume that all countries -- major countries at least, spy on each other.
WISEWe spy on China. My book is not about that. It's about -- my book is about Chinese spying on this country. But the Russians spied on us, of course, as is well known. We spied on them and yet we had good relations with Russia. We had d'état and we had good relations after Nixon went to China. And with all these countries, it's almost as though it operates on a dual level. On the foreign policy level, you have good relations with these countries. But underneath that -- well, for example, one of our allies in the Middle East is Israel and yet Mr. Pollard was spying on behalf of Israel. But that doesn't mean we cut off Israel and say we don't like them anymore.
REHMHere is a Tweet. "Please ask Mr. Wise, why is this very important defense question so absent from our national political discourse."
WISEWell, I think that there is attention being paid finally now to Chinese espionage, and much of it is from the military. I mentioned the W88, the neutron bomb. There is all kinds of military equipment being exported illegally from this country. In the last three years there have been 70 cases of indictments or convictions of persons sending everything from night-vision goggles to parts that could be used for missile technology in violation of export rules. And again, these go under the radar. There's very little attention paid.
REHMSo from the smallest, perhaps least expensive item to many of the most important to our defense system, these items are being stolen, created in China and then sold back...
WISEIt goes all the way...
REHM...to the Americans.
WISEYes. It goes all the way from night-vision goggles to warheads...
REHMTo nuclear -- exactly.
WISE...nuclear warheads. Yes.
REHMAnd is anybody able to do anything about it or is it such a widespread problem that we have not focused enough attention on it?
WISEI think there have not been enough resources focused on it. I'd like to see, for example, the FBI have more counter intelligent people focusing on China. We haven't even touched on a whole other aspect of this, which is the cyber warfare, the hacking into computers of the Pentagon, the nuclear weapons labs, the State Department, not to mention at least 34 major American defense contractors and Google.
REHMAnd do you believe this is being done by the Chinese government itself or individuals that they hire to do this sort of thing?
WISEOh, I was afraid you would ask me that. It's very, very difficult. It's what the intelligence people call the problem of attribution. Because you don't know, looking at what seems to be a server coming from China, whether it's a high school kid across the street or someone in Estonia pretending to be hacking into computers in the State Department and pretending they're in Shanghai. However, having said that, the burden of evidence is that it's coming from China, most of it. And given the complete control that China has, or nearly complete control over the internet, it's hard to believe that these attacks -- cyber attacks -- computer attacks are happening without either the tacit encouragement or the outright control of the Chinese government.
REHMSo what kind of retribution are we taking?
WISENone. But we are -- the government is trying now to create better defenses. But I say trying because those defenses really don't exist yet. And as a nation we're very vulnerable to these cyber attacks, which can take down power grids, could ruin the air control system. All kinds of infrastructure in this country are vulnerable to computers.
REHMSo which branch of government, which department is primarily focused in this country on trying to deal with what China is doing?
WISEThe military has created a cyber commander. And they would have the -- and of course with the NSA, which is part of the Pentagon, The National Security Agency, have the primary focus. President Obama has also created a person in the White House to try to coordinate this. But this is in its infancy and we're not even crawling yet let alone walking in this field.
REHMDavid Wise and his new book is titled "Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War with China." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's open the phones now. First, we'll go to Ken who's in St. Louis, Mo. Good morning.
KENGood morning, David and Diane.
KENThere's been some speculation over the last few years, which I've heard on NPR on a few shows here and there about academic intel and espionage. What -- you know, as an academic, what do you do, if anything? Because, you know, there seems to be, as we well know, you know, Chinese people, there's, you know, Americans working all over, academia. And I don't mean to sound, you know, lighthearted about this, but, you know, what do you do, you know, as an academic, if you think that, you know, someone's going back to China all the time, but their relatives live there? You know, what -- you know, it seems so widespread that there's always this, you know, spy versus spy thing going on. So...
REHMSure. And I'm sure there would be worry about racial profiling in that kind of situation.
WISEYes. And one of the things that I did not want to write and did not write was a book saying that we should all head for the basement with a 30-day supply of water because the Chinese are coming, or that every time you see a Chinese person in your department or on the street that they're going to be a spy. The fact is that there are 3 million Chinese -- ethnic Chinese in America. The vast majority are American citizens, either born here or naturalized.
REHMBut does that make a difference?
WISEWell, it makes a difference in the sense that we shouldn't think -- there are only a handful of people who are spying for China and we shouldn't generalize from that. And I don't think the caller is trying to do that. If somebody has a genuine concern and sees somebody taking documents or says something like, I'm trying to help China with information about this program we're doing in the physics department, then that should be reported. But that would be a very rare instance.
REHMI would think so. Ken, I hope that answers it.
KENIt does. Thank you very much.
REHMAnd thank you. Let's go to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Hi, Ron, you're on the air.
RONGood morning, David and Diane.
RONMy question is -- well, first of all, it's been my observation that many American politicians seem to willfully ignore the reality that nations don't have friendships. They only have interests. And that opens the door to nations such as China spying or recruiting through either third party or false flag operations. In that vein does your book address how much of the classified information stolen by Jonathan Pollard may have been shared with China to support Israel's strategic political and military objectives?
WISEWell, not specifically but you raise a good point about third party or false flag recruitment because I talk about a recent case involving people on the west coast. I mentioned one, Dongfan Chung, the Chi Mak case and then there were three people on the east coast or in Louisiana and Washington. And they -- two of them who were recruited from the Pentagon -- officials in the Pentagon were told that the information was going to Taiwan. Now, one of them would be a little hard pressed to believe that, would seem to me, 'cause he had met with someone in Beijing who was running this whole bicoastal spy ring of about ten people.
WISESo yes, they have used false flag recruitments in that sense that it's easy to say, well, the information you've given me is Taiwan.
REHMAnd what about WikiLeaks connections?
WISEWell, some of the WikiLeaks documents tie China closer than anything else has to the hacking into the United States. But again, they're not completely conclusive. They're just 98 percent.
REHMNinety-eight percent sounds pretty close to me. David Wise whose newest book is titled "Tiger Trap: America's Secret War (sic) With China." We'll take a short break here and be right back.
REHMAnd if you've just joined us, David Wise is with me. He's written a brand new book titled "Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War with China." At this point, David, would you say that China is winning this particular war?
WISEI would say they're not losing. They have obtained some very serious military secrets such as the W88 nuclear warhead, the neutron bomb. They've infiltrated both the FBI and the CIA. On the other hand the FBI has caught, you know, a dozen Chinese spies including 10 quite recently in both California and the East Coast. So it's an ongoing war. You win a few, you lose a few.
REHMWhat about our efforts to spy on them?
WISEWell, that's outside the scope of my book for the most part.
REHMI understand that.
WISEExcept in the case of Parlor Maid, who was Katrina Leung, the woman who was sent over to China, frequently, to gather information. That was clearly a case of the FBI using an asset to try to gather...
REHMBut she was a duel spy.
WISEShe became a duel spy, yes. And we don't know exactly when. She was paid $100,000 by China and did better with the FBI. She got $1.7 million in expenses and salary.
REHMHere's an e-mail, "Are there examples of China spying on individual Americans? For instance, American officials or rights activists?"
WISEI don't know of any such cases aimed at individuals. The espionage is aimed, for the most part, at defense contractors, at government agencies and at the military.
REHMAnd would that mean they would seek out military contractors?
WISEYes, of course. But it doesn't mean to the extent they might spy on an individual, it's because of his position within the government or within an agency or within a contractor.
REHMAll right. Let's go to San Antonio, Texas. Good morning, David, you're on the air.
DAVIDI was working as a civilian instructor pilot for a private company that was training airline pilots from China. And what I would observe on occasion -- we have a lot of military bases in our city and we would do practice instrument approaches to the military bases because often times our other airports were too busy. And these guys -- I would have typically two or three students on board, and they would sometimes pull out cameras and start taking pictures of the military bases and the aircraft.
DAVIDAnd I would, you know, leave the area and say look, you know -- I'd make them dump the data out of their cameras because I didn't want them spying, you know, while they were supposed to be over here learning. But it made me nervous, it made me wonder, you know, how often that sort of thing is going on where students are actually doubling as spies.
WISEWell, it certainly sounds, in the case you describe, as though they were at least freelancing on behalf of the government.
DAVIDAnd their comment was well, we're over here, you know, as tourists too, you know. And I'm, like, okay, well, you don't need to take pictures of our military bases from the air. That's something that you are not...
REHMYeah, I think you're on the mark, David. Thanks for calling. And here's an e-mail that says "In view of Pakistan's very close relationship with China, shouldn't we be concerned that the former may be passing to China military equipment such as F-16's stingers, night vision goggles, among others?"
WISEWell, I think we should be concerned about anything that Pakistan is up to. As is well known and widely reported, their intelligence agency has been playing footsie with the Taliban while pretending to be working on behalf of the United States against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. And so they're playing a double game. It's partly because they know that the United States is giving them billions in foreign aid, military aid. So, yes, I think, we should be concerned about anything that Pakistan may be doing these days.
REHMAll right, to Bob in Berryville, Va. Good morning, you're on the air.
BOBHi, good morning. I was just wondering, giving the fact that we have apparently a great asset pool of Chinese-Americans or American-Chinese, however you want to classify them, are we not -- I know that this is beyond the scope of your -- but I was just wondering if you were aware in any way or have any ideas about that whether we are taking advantage of that pool of Chinese-Americans who, for one reason or another, go to China and play tit for tat with the Chinese? Do to them what they are doing to us. And I wondered if you had any thoughts or information on that.
WISEWell, if the CIA is not asking some people to do what you describe, then they wouldn't be doing their job. They are -- they've traditionally tried to recruit foreign students, for example. You know, from all countries.
REHMBut in this era, particularly Chinese?
WISEWell, I'm saying that if they're not recruiting some Chinese or trying to, they're not doing their job. It is outside, as you pointed out, the scope of my book, however.
REHMAll right, to Grand Rapids, Mich. Good morning, Tom, you're on the air.
TOMHey, good morning. A couple of years ago, it seems I remember a report that MI-5 had sent a message to businesses in Great Britain and they said, basically this, if you have been doing business with China, your computers have been compromised and most likely the computers of your attorney, and I'm not remembering exactly, but maybe your accountants have been compromised as well. And I'm just wondering if your guest had any comment on that.
WISEYes, I remember that MI-5 warning, exactly. And it's consistent with the fact that China has -- China or at least what seems to be hacking -- originating in China, has been targeted at American companies as is widely known and, for example, Google, which threatened to pull out of China if it didn't stop. So, yeah, that's going on.
REHMAnd here's an e-mail. It says "All this reminds me of Khrushchev's quote to the West. Quote, 'We will hang you and you will sell us the rope.' Most of our debt is held in China. About anything we buy says 'Made in China.' China is building as we crumble on and on. And our Congress is worried about the shape of light bulbs?"
WISEWell, I think the quote was "We will bury you," but it's close enough. I don’t think we should exaggerate the Chinese threat. They are -- they've become a world power. They are an enormous economic power. They have, you know, 1.3 billion people. And they are very competitive with the United States now. But we're still in the game. We're still the most powerful military country on the planet. And I don't think we should just throw up our hands and say that, in this struggle, China will automatically emerge as the victor.
REHMHowever, because of all these close financial ties and dealings, do you believe the U.S. has been less than aggressive as it should've been in trying to deal with, you know, the hacking questions, the spying issues? What do you think?
WISEWell, I think we could've done -- we could do much more in trying to defend against the hacking. It's very difficult. I mean, there are technological issues there that I'm not competent to address. But I know that it's very difficult to stop it. And -- but we're not doing enough to try to stop it. I don't think we're doing enough in the counter intelligence field. As I said earlier, I think there could be more FBI people assigned to this problem of counter intelligence against China. And so those are some of the steps that could be taken.
REHMTo Tim in Delray Beach, Fla. Hi, there.
TIMGood morning and thank you.
TIMBut my question was, if we view China with such distrust or hostility, why do we continue -- we don't we just break off all ties, including financial ones with them? Because, as I listen to our media, I hear nothing positive about this relationship.
REHMExcept that, what David?
WISEWell, except that we want to do business with China. They're a huge market. American companies are salivating to do business with those 1.3 billion people.
REHMAnd they hold a great deal of our debt.
WISEAnd they are America's banker. I mean, I've written in my book that if we were a house, they're holding the mortgage. So we have to deal with them. We're locked in an uneasy embrace with China, but we can't ignore China, one of the great world powers. And we don't have to like their government. I mean, their government has done some outrageous things against dissidents, writers, artists, lawyers, you name it and -- just as the Russians did when the communists were in power over in Moscow. And yet, we have to deal with the Soviet Union and we have to deal with China. Those are the realities.
REHMTo Amy in, let's see, Rockville, Md. Good morning, you're on the air.
AMYGood morning, Diane. I was wondering if Mr. Wise could comment on the cultural dilution that China has patiently practiced in Tibet and if he sees any cultural type fusion in any other parts of the world in a similar patient strategy that has been shown in Tibet and other cultural regions of China.
WISEWell, I'm not sure I really understand the -- you know, how that applies to the espionage. I mean, Tibet was a separate question where they felt that they owned Tibet just like they still feel they own Taiwan. Taiwan is part of China and those are geopolitical questions as well as, to some extent, cultural. But they have little to do with the subject of my book, which is Chinese espionage against the United States.
REHMOf course, doesn't China have a distinct advantage in terms of it spying on the U.S. simply because we're free and open country where people can move freely? That's certainly not the case in China.
WISEYes, that is true of any country that wants to spy on the United States. It was true of when the Russians were spying and it's certainly true of what the Chinese are spying. We have an open society. And indeed, you know, it's relatively easy for Chinese agents to acquire a huge amount of what's called open source information, Congressional hearings, documents that are publicly released by the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA. There's a tremendous amount of material available in this country in libraries and just by reading the papers or listening to radio and television. So, sure, it's relatively easy.
REHMAnd another e-mail, this from Dolin, "Please discuss how widespread China's spying is on Americans who are working to promote human rights in China and what kind of spying they do on these Americans. Are they vulnerable?"
WISEWell, I write about an incident of a man I interviewed in this country who was a member of the Falun Gong movement which China regards as an evil cult. But...
REHMIn which they have outlawed.
WISE...in which they have outlawed. And this man was actually attacked in his home in the United States, beaten. And interestingly enough, they didn't take any money or jewels or anything of value, but they took some papers from his file cabinets. And clearly, whoever did this was acting in some way because China does not like Falun Gong. And this happened right in this country and there was never any resolution. They never caught anyone. The local police were called in. The FBI was called in. And they did not get anyone.
REHMAll right. To Wellfleet, Mass. Richard, you're on the air.
RICHARDYes, hello. I just find -- I'm personally offended by the tone of the guest. Because I feel like I haven't heard him say anything positive about Chinese people or China at all. It's just, you know, Chinese students are to be distrusted, Chinese students are spies, China's negative. I mean, it's the negative tones are just the kind of thing that leads the wars -- excuse me, the world to more wars. And if people would start coming from a position of trust instead of assuming that no one is to be trusted, we would have a much healthier society.
WISEWell, I think the caller is misinterpreting and hasn't read the book yet. And if he reads the book, he'll realize that among the things I talk about is the terrible discrimination against Chinese people for something, like, 60 years. From 1862 to World War II, the Chinese exclusion act, the law of Congress, the Chinese couldn't come here. And Chinese have reason to feel a certain suspicion. But my book doesn't reflect any anti-Chinese people sentiment whatsoever.
REHMI think what Richard may be referring to was an earlier caller who talked about Chinese tourists coming here to this country and taking photographs of military instillations and another caller who asked about students in the classroom, going back and forth to China. You know, considering the amount of spying -- and maybe that is the question. How broad, how widespread do you think the spying is now?
WISEI think it's very wide spread or I wouldn't of written about it. And the cases that I discuss in detail demonstrate that. It is widespread. At the same time, I tried to write a balanced book because we don’t want to feel that we're in imminent danger or that this is a terrible threat, that we should all run for the hills. It is -- it has to be looked at in a balanced way. All countries spy. China is spying on us. They have the resources to do it. They're smart and they've had some successes so has the FBI had some successes.
WISEAnd the Chinese people are a wonderful people. I don't think much of their government and I don't think very many Americans think much of their government. But that's not to say that we should all, you know, be frightened of what's going on here.
REHMDavid Wise, his new book is titled "Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War with China." Thanks for being here.
WISEThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd that's for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.
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