Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence

Title:                  Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence

Author:                I. C. Smith

Smith, I. C. (2012) and Nigel West. Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press

LCCN:    2012000920

JQ1519.5.I6 S65 2012


Date Updated:  February 24, 2016

Although China s intelligence activities may not have been well documented, they can be traced back to the ancient writings of Sun Tzu, and espionage has been a characteristic of Chinese domestic politics and international relations ever since. The People s Republic of China has long engaged in espionage, but relatively little is known about Chinese techniques, methodology, personnel, and organizations in comparison with what the West has learned about other more conventional intelligence agencies that conduct operations across the world. Whereas most intelligence services have suffered damaging defections, the number of Ministry of State Security professionals who have switched sides is relatively small, further limiting outside knowledge. The Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence covers the history of Chinese Intelligence from 400 B.C. to modern times. This is done through a chronology, an introductory essay, an extensive bibliography, and an index. The dictionary section has over 400 cross-referenced entries on the agencies and agents, the operations and equipment, the tradecraft and jargon, and many of the countries involved. This book is an excellent access point for students, researchers, and anyone wanting to know more about Chinese Intelligence.

Nigel West is a skilled writer, and I am sure this work is well-researched. I have sat in on several West lectures and I know him to be persistent in finding out the truth, and a storyteller exemplar.

Reviewed by Hayden Peake.[1]

China has assumed new importance in the post-Cold War era and thus justifies a reference book on its intelligence establishment. Toward that end, authors I. C. Smith and Nigel West have provided a valuable mix of case studies, institutional descriptions, organizational relationships, and commentary on key personnel. But with China’s reputation for secrecy, one immediately wonders whether they have it right. As is unhappily customary with Scarecrow Press, no sources are permitted for the entries. But the authors in this case are well suited to the task. West has written about British contacts with the Chinese elsewhere.

Smith was a career FBI special agent and worked many of the Chinese cases discussed. A good example is the penetration of the CIA by the Chinese agent Larry Wu-Tai Chin. Chin was exposed after his retirement by a senior Chinese Ministry of Public Security officer who defected. Some sources have identified the defector as Yu Zhensan.[2] Smith, who worked the case and knew the man, names Yu Qiangsheng as the culprit. Coincidentally, according to West and Smith he is the same source that gave up Bernard Boursicot, the French foreign ministry employee whom the Chinese recruited into their service through an affair with a Chinese man impersonating a female. (p. 29)

Not all the cases and events will be familiar. Won Chong-Hwa, for example, was a North Korean recruited when she was 18. At one point she was sent to a North Korean prison, then escaped to China but was recaptured and sent to South Korea to assassinate defectors. (pp. 288-89)

The Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence documents the extent of Chinese global reach in espionage, including cyberespionage, and is the best reference work on the subject to date.

[1] Hayden Peake is a frequent reviewer of books on intelligence and this review appeared in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (19, 1, Winter/Spring, 2013, pp. 123-124). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Di recto rate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found on line at http://www.cia.gov.

[2] See for example Wise, David (2011). Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Nigel West is a skilled writer, and I am sure this work is well-researched. I have sat in on several West lectures and I know him to be persistent in finding out the truth, and a storyteller exemplar.

This entry was posted in Chinese Intelligence and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence

  1. Pingback: Soviet/Russian Aircraft Weapons Since World War Two | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: One Minute to Midnight | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s