Western intelligence services continue to warn of the rise of cyberattacks from China, with increasingly bold and sophisticated operations. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to have taken Beijing by surprise and exposed some flaws in China’s spy apparatus, judge “The Economist” . The British weekly bases its observation on the official reactions in the days following the start of the conflict, whether on the diplomatic scene, showing itself clearly embarrassed by its Russian ally, or in its muddled communication with its nationals in Ukraine. .
“Obviously, other governments failed to anticipate the invasion,” concedes “The Economist”. “But given his capabilities, his lack of contingency planning and knowledge of the developing situation suggests a serious intelligence failure. The gratifying conclusion for many countries is that Chinese spies are not necessarily as good as people think. »
Catching up with a certain delay in this area, China has concentrated its efforts on industrial and technological espionage, as well as on its relays of influence within Western democracies. “But on the infiltration of foreign capitals, its spheres of interest have expanded so much over the past thirty years that its intelligence agencies seem to have had difficulty in establishing clear priorities”, advances the newspaper. This would notably result in difficulties in recruiting first-rate sources.
Several experts also believe that their analytical capacities are hampered by a political culture that does not encourage initiative-taking or questioning of hierarchical authority and “the official line”, limiting the possibilities of interpreting the materials obtained in the field.
“Tragic strategic errors”
But these various obstacles in the rise of Chinese power lead “The Economist” to a worrying conclusion: “President Xi Jinping’s decisions seem to be based on intelligence services that are not necessarily solid. The root of the problem may lie in the information gathered, the analysis applied to it, or its transmission to leaders. Either way, it could lead to tragic strategic mistakes. And the newspaper wonders about the consequences of a miscalculation of international reactions on the case of Taiwan…