Spying for the People

Spying for the People : Mao's Secret Agents, 1949-1967

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Since the end of the Cold War, the operations of secret police informers have come under the media spotlight and it is now common knowledge that vast internal networks of spies in the Soviet Union and East Germany were directed by the Communist Party. By contrast, very little historical information has been available on the covert operations of the security services in Mao Zedong's China. However, as Michael Schoenhals reveals in this intriguing and sometimes sinister account, public security was a top priority for the founders of the People's Republic and agents were recruited from all levels of society to ferret out 'counter-revolutionaries'. On the basis of hitherto classified archival records, the book tells the story of a vast surveillance and control apparatus through a detailed examination of the cultivation and recruitment of agents, their training and their operational activities across a twenty-year period from 1949 to 1967.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 20 b/w illus.
  • 113960354X
  • 9781139603546

Table of contents

1. Public security: the institutional framework; 2. Agents by category: informers, enablers, and guardians; 3. The recruitment base: where utility trumps class; 4. Finding the right man for the job: operational profiling; 5. Recruitment; 6. Training and tradecraft: behind the covert front; 7. Agent running: Beijing rules.
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Review quote

'This is an extraordinarily fine work of historical scholarship on a topic about which little had been known.' Hayden Peake, Studies in Intelligence 'Michael Schoenhals states a number of times in this study of internal covert surveillance in the establishment phase of the People's Republic of China that in many ways describing the history covered in this work is almost impossible. It involves an area in which the main actors deliberately concealed themselves and their actions, and about which archival material is hard to access, and even when available very hard properly to interpret. Despite these massive limitations, it is clear that the book is based on a large amount of Chinese primary source material, ranging from surveillance manuals to internal agent assessments and reports and agency minutes and secret documents. Getting this amount of material together on such a sensitive area is a formidable achievement in itself.' Kerry Brown, International Affairs 'For those with in an interest in security studies, Chinese history, especially the early years of the PRC, or totalitarian systems and their establishment, this book will be of value.' Katherine K. Reist, Journal of Military History
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About Michael Schoenhals

Professor Michael Schoenhals has researched the politics and history of the People's Republic of China for more than twenty-five years. Now at Lund University, his publications on the subject include Doing Things With Words in Chinese Politics: Five Studies (1992) and, with Roderick MacFarquhar, Mao's Last Revolution (2006). In 2003, the Swedish Research Council awarded him the prestigious 'researcher of excellence' title.
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