The Chinese Secret Service

Title:                  The Chinese Secret Service

Author:                 Richard Deacon

Deacon, Richard (1974, 1989). The Chinese Secret Service: New York: Taplinger

LCCN:    74005817

HV8260.A2 M3 1974


Date Updated: October 19, 2015

Richard Deacon [i.e. D. McCormick].is widely published on matters of espionage.

The following review was published in China Information[1].

In general, books on the intelligence service of any State pose considerable problems to academic researchers. On the one hand, they promise relevant information on an extremely important part of the State apparatus, but on the other, due to the nature of the information, most of the sources must remain unknown. Moreover, it makes a difference whether an author who writes on the Chinese intelligence services is a China specialist or not.

Richard Deacon, the author of the Chinese Secret Service, has written books on the intelligence services of a number of different countries. Not being a China specialist, however, various minor errors cloud his otherwise very interesting account of the Chinese case. He starts off with a very promising discussion of three classic Chinese texts, namely the Sunzi, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and The Book of Changes, creating the impression that he wishes to attempt to establish a connection between the methods described in them to those used by the Chinese secret service in modern times. This interesting approach, however, is not in fact carried out.

Instead, he proceeds to give a 200-page account of various court intrigues throughout the ages, which are interesting, but rather beside the point: as the author himself emphasizes, the Chinese governments, prior to the 20th century, did not possess anything comparable to what is today called a “secret service”. The “intelligence service” of Imperial times was only used for internal control. It is rather in the remaining 200 plus pages that the books real merit lie.

Although there is no description of the structure and methods of China’s secret services (there are, in fact, more than one, something the author is unaware of), it presents a useful, if somewhat general, account of the secret services of the Guomindong and the Chinese Communist Party, and the main events in which they play a role. Dai Li (but not Chen LiFu!), Morris Cohen, Treibitsch, Kang Sheng, and other persons of less importance are mentioned.

Unfortunately, the transcriptions of Chinese names are not uniform, which often leads to confusion. Most accounts are, nevertheless, very entertaining, for example the case of the Chinese scientists who fled the US to the PRC in order to start China’s nuclear program, and the events surrounding Liao Heshu in the Netherlands. The organizational aspects of the Chinese Secret Service, however, remain unclear, and the post-1949 Taiwanese secret service is only mentioned in passing.

Between 1974 and the book second edition of 1989, 15 years elapsed which are largely unaccounted for in the “updated” edition. The “update” consists of no more than about 30 pages, merely containing short, unconnected pieces of information.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[2]

Deacon, retired foreign manager of the London Sunday Times and prolific author of histories of secret services, has compiled from numerous reports and from information obtained from his own private sources the only comprehensive account of the Chinese secret service. The author traces the beginnings of the Chinese service and then goes on to describe its evolution and operations down to 1974. After the period of World War II the chronicle tells of the Chinese Communist secret service and its operations in Korea, Taiwan, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The bibliography is excellent and contains references to accessible sources.

[1] China Information (7, 4, Spring 1993, p. 2.)

[2] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 29


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One Response to The Chinese Secret Service

  1. Pingback: The Chinese | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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