Recruiting Agents in Industry and Trade - Lifting the Veil on Early People's Republic of China Operational Work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper concerns the operational activities of the public security organs of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) during the immediate post-1949 period of regime consolidation. The main part of the paper is a case-study of a 1950 pilot scheme to recruit agents in critical sectors of industry and trade in the city of Yingkou in Northeast China, a scheme in due course subsumed under a nationwide programme with a similar focus. In the years to follow, the operational recruitment of agents would become one of the PRC’s arguably most important operational responses to the twin Cold War threats of economic espionage and—above all—sabotage. The paper’s findings suggest, with respect to operational activities, that in order to represent and explain more fully, in Leopold von Ranke’s words, ‘how things really were’, social and political historians may well want to shift their focus away from successive highly public Maoist ‘mass movements’ and look instead at what transpired out of the public eye in the interregnum of ordinary times that such movements punctuated. If and when they do, they will discover significant, yet hitherto largely unexplored, similarities between the work of the early PRC public security organs and their counterparts in the Soviet Union and other (former) socialist states.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History and Archaeology


  • China, intelligence, counter-intelligence, communist party
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1345-1369
JournalModern Asian Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch

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