The Chinese intelligence service

Authored by: Nigel Inkster

The Routledge International Handbook of Universities, Security and Intelligence Studies

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138572416
eBook ISBN: 9780203702086
Adobe ISBN:


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Although intelligence and security agencies around the world share some basic features, they are the product of particular historical experiences and serve regimes with different ideological and political priorities. As a result, they often have their own distinctive cultures. In countries like the USA, the UK and Russia, intelligence work is seen as a prestige occupation with the intelligence agencies able to recruit high-quality applicants. In other parts of the world, intelligence work tends to be seen more as the preserve of ‘other ranks’ rather than officers, to use a military analogy. Agencies in this latter category tend to be much less integrated into and less influential within their own policy elites who tend to eschew ownership of their activities unless compelled by specific circumstances to do so. Intelligence agencies are also characterised by certain operational ‘signatures’. Some prefer to work primarily through legal residencies, while others place greater reliance on non-official cover (NOC) operations. The Russian SVR has inherited the KGB emphasis on classic techniques such as the use of dead-letter boxes and all the associated tradecraft. Some agencies use coercive techniques to recruit agents, while others – predominantly western – eschew such techniques in favour of positive motivation. Some services take a pride in getting back agents and officers who have been compromised, while others are content to leave them to their fates.

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