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China's Spy Agency Takes Center Stage Under Xi's Leadership

By News   Desk

China's powerful but traditionally secretive Ministry of State Security intelligence agency has taken an uncharacteristically public stance in recent years, raising its profile and issuing overt warnings about perceived foreign espionage threats as part of Xi Jinping's emphasis on national security.

The shift has made the MSS, China's main civilian spy service, a much more visible presence through propaganda campaigns, social media posts, and public awareness videos. In one recently released video meant to commemorate National Security Education Day, the ministry depicted a shadowy foreign agent infiltrating various parts of Chinese society while grimly intoning "foreign spies are everywhere."

"The three-minute video shows a beady-eyed, broad-faced man posing as a food delivery driver, businessman, lab technician, and even a street fashion photographer while ominous music plays," the Associated Press reported. "He is seen setting up an online honey trap to obtain critical state secrets from locations across multiple industries."

In public statements, the MSS has disclosed details about alleged espionage cases, including one Chinese scientist executed in 2016 for selling state secrets, likely to the United States based on imagery shown. The agency also claims to have thwarted foreign intelligence recruitment efforts targeting Chinese nationals living and working abroad.

The raised public profile represents a drastic shift for the once extremely opaque ministry. Formed in 1983 by merging party intelligence and counterintelligence units, the MSS previously eschewed the spotlight as part of China's moves to open up economically after decades of isolation.  

Now, with provincial branches operating across China overseeing intelligence matters at home and overseas, ubiquitous messaging about the MSS and its mission have become part of the security landscape. From campuses to public transit, posters and slogans raise awareness about MSS's role safeguarding the nation from perceived foreign threats.

"The move is part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's sweeping effort to double down on security issues and prepare the populace for the growing risks of foreign espionage and intervention as tensions heighten with the U.S. and others," experts assess.