《Fatal Weakness》CHAPTER EIGHT: Fatal Weakness
On the phone I'm obstinate about coming to
Director Zhou's personal driver Little Wang picks me up at the airport. As the car turns onto Chang'An Avenue,he moves into the middle lane and picks up speed as we head towards Tiananmen Square. I can already guess that my two nights here will be spent enjoying the "massage" tubs at Beijing Hotel. Sure enough, Xiao Wang soon pulls up to Beijing Hotel's front door. He hands me a room key and gives me a wink as he laughs: "Director Zhou was specific in that you were to be given a luxury room with a massage bathtub. Enjoy it! I'll call you soon."
I give a knowing smile back; I feel quite warm and at ease. Director Zhou always was this kind of a leader, with this own special way of his of welcoming people back from journeys to far-off places or subordinates back from long-term assignments abroad. He knows I'm only in Beijing for two days, so of course the expense won't be any burden on them. He also knows that no matter where I go on business I always choose to stay in rather cheap hotels, and that's why he's gotten me a deluxe room in a six-star hotel; as usual, he didn't forget to go out of his way to make sure it came with a massage tub. The first time I thought it was funny that they would even think to put in a massage tub; Director Zhou himself surely knows how cheap Beijing's massage girls come these days. Then one time Xiao Wang laughed as he told me: "Director Zhou doesn't want to see you going out looking for any pretty massage girls, that's why he always insists on having the massage tub." I didn't laugh when I heard that, though I did think it was rather cute of Director Zhou. There's the old saying that you can't even swing a bamboo stick in Beijing without smacking into a Bureau-level cadre, but it's not as easy to make Bureau Director as people think. At the time it was having a clear understanding of my own ability that led to my decision to quit and go into business for myself, but seeing the fierce competition at work to move up the system was just as much a factor. Though I never made Bureau Director, I still know what it takes to be one.
Just after ten p.m., Director Zhou rushes over to the hotel. I put on some coffee and we sit, sipping as we talk.
"Director, before I get started on the formal report, there's just question I'd like answered, something I've been thinking about ever since you first mentioned it."
Seeing Director Zhou still looking calmly at me, I go on: "you said every person has their own fatal weakness. Makes sense to me. Your old job was to use the enemy's fatal weaknesses and make them cave in, spill out all their deepest secrets. I imagine in your counterespionage reconnaissance and intelligence work now there's even been more than a few people whose fatal weaknesses you've had to tap into. Yet, my question is, does everyone have a fatal weakness?"
Director Zhou nods: "everyone has their strong points and weak points, only some weak points can be fatal. You've read philosophy, what I'm saying isn't by any means an original idea. Yet, in reality, even in academia, emphasis is no longer placed on people's fatal weaknesses. In our line of work, it's essential that we be clear that all people have fatal weaknesses; otherwise we'd be unable to do our jobs. In counter-espionage work, all interrogations of suspects we capture must begin with their fatal weaknesses. The other aspect of fatal weaknesses are their usefulness in intelligence work, in that we must use them”
"This I understand, but, yet, I still wonder that some people, the kind who would value something above their own life, even if you do manage to find their fatal weakness, is it of any use? How would you ever be able to get what you want just by threatening him with his life, if he never wanted that life to begin with?"
"Little Yang, your example's a bit extreme; anyone can be made to fear death. Though I have to admit, your question is still an important one. In a civilized society ruled by law, one can't run around threatening people with death. For example, now when we interrogate criminals, we can't just straight out threaten them with the death penalty if they don't tell the truth. People know what the laws are now, threatening them like this is useless. What you mention is definitely worth taking into consideration, but it doesn't mean people who aren't afraid to die don’t have fatal weaknesses."
I know we have more important things to talk about today, but I'm still not convinced. I raise my voice and ask: "so then how do you explain someone like the martyr Zhang Zhixin? If you were a rebel—or, say, a murderer like Mao Zedong's nephew Mao Yuanxin who signed the order for her to be killed, how far would you have gone in order to break her?"
Director Zhou doesn't look so calm now. Zhang Zhixin has always been one of my most revered heroes. During the Cultural Revolution she could see that Lin Biao and his bunch were destroying the country at the expense of the people. This woman, she wasn't scared of him or his campaign of terror and she cried out against them. She ended up getting caught by insurgents who tried to force her to submit. Li Biao and his insurgent minions in the northeast used of some of the cruelest forms of abuse in history on Zhang Zhixin. Even as they beat her senseless and to the edge of death, she didn't stop denouncing Lin Biao even for a minute. In the end, with the rebels unable to find a way to break her, it was announced Zhang Zhixin would be executed. Afraid she would keep screaming for Lin Biao to be taken down at her execution, the rebels sliced her throat open and put in a metal tube to keep her alive. The rebels were thinking that come her execution, as long as Zhang Zhixing were unable to cry out, as long as the fear she would be feeling could be seen on her face, then their role of "educating the people" would have been fulfilled. But, according to rebels who were there at her execution later recalled, although she was unable to cry out, and her life rested on a small length of steel tubing, an unyielding light shot out through her eyes. I know all about the things Zhang Zhixin did, some of which I learned by using my MSS privileges to gain access to files. I keep her birthday in mind, and every year on that day I silently remember to raise a glass to her. Even after all these years her heroism hasn't the least bit faded in my heart. I only chose this as an example to that to leave Director Zhou speechless.
Director Zhou says: "Little Yang, you seem to have forgotten that I spent the good part of the Cultural Revolution in a labor camp up in the northeast myself, not that far from where what happened to martyr Zhang Zhixin took place. I know more about her than you do, and she's still a hero of mine too. Sometimes I wonder, if China had more people like her, would the Japanese have been able to lay into our land for eight whole years? Would tiny Lin Biao and his little Gang of Four still have been able to bring ten long years of catastrophe to our Divine Land?"
"People like her just don't have any fatal weaknesses. Otherwise, as the rebels were about to dissect her alive, why were they still unable to make her give in?"
"Little Yang, I've already said: people who do what we do have to believe that all people have fatal weaknesses. Or else we'd be too scared to solve any cases, discouraged before we even get started. From there we'd just make up excuses for ourselves. Listen, there are no mountains that can't be climbed, there are no key problems that can't be resolved, and there are definitely no adversaries with no fatal weaknesses. Although using Zhang Zhixin isn't a very appropriate example in this case, in order to help you thoroughly understand, I'll add a few more words.
"Little Yang, there are plenty of heroes here in our ranks just like Zhang Zhixin, fearless in the face of death. Even more in The Party. You've surely heard of the great general He Long, who took his ax and started a revolution. Or the great general Peng Dehuai? There was never a time that he led his men to war when he didn't put himself right in death's path. Or even say president Liu Shaoqi who, before Liberation spent years leading our Party's underground work, going down to the mines in Anyuan, encouraging the miners there to rebel, even dealing with the enemy directly. You're not going to try telling me that any of them were afraid of death, I hope."
I nod vigorously to show that I agree: of course they weren't afraid to die, the same with the countless revolutionary martyrs whose names we can't even remember today, the heads lost, blood spilt, all in the name of justice, no thought of themselves or fear of death.
"And do you know why they weren't afraid? Right, because had much higher ideals. The Communist Party of China led the entire Chinese people to believe they were invincible, able to uproot any mountain that stood before them, convincing them that the final victory would belong to all the people of China as represented by the Communist Party of China. Governed by such lofty ideals, they saw their own lives in second place to everything.
"Aye, how can I explain this to you? Undoubtedly, this was to their collective strength. But these kinds of strengths quite often are also their fatal weaknesses. I can put it like this: Liu Shaoqi dedicated his whole life to the Communist cause; do you think he was afraid of death? So if you think about that, were someone to try and use the threat of death to torture him, eventually turning to his body to try and grind him down, how would he react? Of course he would have kept on laughing, wholehearted to be martyred for justice. Precisely the same as Zhang Zhixin herself would have."
"Only things didn't really turn out that way. The last stretch of President Liu Shaoqi's life left him completely broken. Several times he begged to see Chairman Mao, hoping to give his self-criticism in person. He even wrote a letter of self-criticism, crying as he put it down on paper, but Mao never even read it. In the end, after the President of the Republic died his extremely miserable death, it's said the corpse was just hastily rolled up in a bamboo mat and cremated in secret. If you think about it, he and martyr Zhang Zhixin were both heroic in fearlessly facing down their own deaths, but then why was one death miserable while the other movingly tragic? Why did they each end so differently? While you think about this, don't forget to take into account all the other people who during the Cultural Revolution were framed and tortured into confessing, or those who couldn't stand the torment and killed themselves, not to mention all the cases of the older generation of revolutionaries who repented and repented. Then think about all the fighting they lived through during the war years, having to tie their brains to hang from their belts and head off to join the revolution—were they afraid of death? Of course not, but in the various movements leading up and the Cultural Revolution itself, how is it that a pack of ignorant Red Guards and a few impudent insurgents were able to reduce them to wailing and tears, to feel that to die would be better than to go on living, one after the other yielding and giving self-criticisms?"
Director Zhou's made his point very clear. I think for a bit, then suddenly it hits me. I say with excitement: "I get it now. These people's fatal weakness came from the same thing that gave them strength: their lack of fear of death, their noble ideas about dedicating their own lives to the country and the people. Liu Shaoqi, in the end, came quite close to a total collapse. When he suddenly realized that the people didn't need him anymore, that the party had expelled him and, most importantly, that Chairman Mao had discarded him, he at once fell into a hellish despair, the kind that's far more terrible than death could ever be. It used to be that dying for an 'ism', for an ideology, would be a death with no regrets, only now they had been wronged to the point of being in opposition to the people and The Party; if they were to die like this, it would mean they would take that regret with them to the grave. This is why they suddenly came to fear death."
I stop, and Director Zhou says: “But as true as that is, there's one thing you have to remember: the people never discarded Liu Shaoqi, neither did the Party. It was only after Liberation when politics took a turn for the abnormal and it became all about cult of personality, when even the people one expected would have kept their heads got confused. They thought Chairman Mao represented the Party, represented the people, and themselves in sticking their own necks out, spilling their own blood, for the Communist cause. And when Chairman Mao began to rectify people, those people's spirits would immediately collapse. Now you know why Chairman Mao had no enemies for the whole of the Cultural Revolution. If even just one general had kept Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist cause separate from the future of the Chinese people themselves, things would have been completely different. But all those people persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, the majority of them experience died a spiritual death long before their bodies gave out. I don't want to say this, but I don't know how I can't: of all the so-called heroes of the Cultural Revolution, Zhang Zhixin is the only one I think that had no regrets about dying."
"I understand," I say, but only half meaning it. "If I'd been one of the insurgents, I could have easily made Zhang Zhixin cave."
"Oh yeah? Let's hear it." Director Zhou looks eagerly at me.
"The reason Zhang Zhixin shouted out slogans like 'strike down Lin Biao! Annihilate the reactionaries!' at the time was because in her heart she firmly believed that she was defending Chairman Mao, defending the future of the Chinese people. In other words, it was clear in her mind that Lin Biao would fall from power and Chairman Mao, and the people, would triumph. Zhang Zhixin held these kinds of beliefs because she could see had foresight; she knew that the day in history would come when those who judged her now would be put on trial themselves. But could it also have been for the following reason, that she was too far removed from Beijing and the higher-ups and couldn't see things clearly? Let's just suppose that if she had known at the time that Chairman Mao was Lin Biao's behind-the-scenes supporter, that she might very well have caved in the very same day, no different than so many central government leaders before her, suddenly begging to be allowed to write a self-confession. So that's why my approach would have been to have the rebels put on an act and tell Zhang Zhixing that Chairman Mao himself had ordered her execution. I'll tell ya, she wouldn't have just stopped putting up a fight, she'd have gotten right down on the ground and begged the rebels not to kill her, trying anything she could think of to show her devotion to the Party and Chairman Mao."
Director Zhou stares at me for a while and doesn't say anything. I say: "Director Zhou, I've been thinking a lot about something these last few days, but I just can't seem to tell. Tell me, all my shortcomings aside, just what is my fatal weakness?"
Director Zhou's expression lightens up again: "you'll figure this out by yourself one day. I think..." Director Zhou takes a look at his watch, "that you didn't come here just to discuss philosophy with me, am I right?"
I hold in my curiosity and start talking about what I flew here for.
I give a simple report of my trip to America. As I wrap up, I say: "going through customs was a total breeze, didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. But as I was coming out of Chek Lap Kok, I noticed my luggage had been professionally searched through on the way out of the States."
"Really?" Director Zhou scowls. "This shows that your operation in the States has already drawn the attention of the relevant parties, or else you came in contact with someone already under FBI surveillance. Right, what was your tactic when you entered the States to make sure nothing was out of the ordinary?"
I tell Director Zhou about the laundry detergent. He laughs as he listens, the mood in the room still feels rather relaxed; after I finish the story he keeps on laughing: "Little Yang, you really...you sure have your own ways of doing things, easily applied, never the same trick twice. I gotta say I admire you for that. Laundry detergent? Ha! Perfect! If you were already being watched when you entered the States, your luggage would've been inspected the minute it arrived at the airport, and the FBI wouldn't have said a thing about the laundry detergent. If that were the case, even if you really had brought drugs into the States, the last thing they would want would be for you to get suspicious, seeing as all it was was just laundry detergent. Smart move. Usually when you go enter a country, the hardest thing to tell for certain is if you're being watched or not. Just the least bit of carelessness and all the family and friends you meet will be implicated. Anyway, Little Yang, were you able to pinpoint exactly when you came under watch?"
"No, I slipped up on that. It seems whoever was tailing me sure knew what they were doing. Though, as I came into New York I took the appropriate steps and I didn't see any tail. It might not have started until towards the time I left."
Director Zhou nods. I tell him that not much was accomplished during this mission, that I tried my best—Director Zhou at once cuts me off: "Little Yang, you did a great job on this mission. Because the information we've been able to gather is limited, this mission was bound to be a difficult one, not to mention that you were just doing me a favor with this, right?"
I nod. I like that Director Zhou refers to missions as mere favors we do for him. It lets me know when to relax and when to keep it serious.
By the time I finish my report it's already midnight. I can see that Director Zhou is already ready to leave so I cut straight to the point.
"Director Zhou, there's one other thing I came to Beijing for."
"I know, otherwise you wouldn't have come in such a hurry." Director Zhou nods: "but can you speed it up a bit? I have a meeting first thing in the morning."
"I'll try, but I'm going to need your cooperation and support if this is going to go quickly." I give Director Zhou a wink and he looks back in confusion, lighting up a cigarette.
"I know your work must be kept strictly confidential, and I know that I'm no longer a front-line fighter for the MSS. But I really hope that I can get some pointers from you today."
Director Zhou doesn't even stir, just sits and keeps smoking away. Then he asks: "is it anything sensitive? You know what the rules are, I don’t think you need me to remind you of that. Try backing up a bit, start with something simple. You've got ten minutes to talk."
"Okay." I get up and walk over to the bed, sit down and turn on the bedside lamp, then quickly turn off the light beside the chair in which Director Zhou sits. With this new lighting, Director is now sitting in darkness and all I can see is his blurry outline and the glowing red end of his cigarette as he inhales. I think he knows what I have in mind now. "Director Zhou, you know about mine and Guo Qingqing's relationship. You sent me to America to investigate her situation their, particularly her movements following the plastic surgery. I know well what job discipline is, so despite my curiosity I still didn’t ask, didn't even let myself ask others. Do you know how hard that was? Director Zhou, you know full well about my relationship with her, yet still you went and assigned this kind of mission to me, I can see how much you trust me. I'm really moved."
"But I'm worried, as well. You were the one who sent me to go find what became of Guo Qingqing following her surgery, and I came back with nothing. I still have feelings for her, that's why my first request is: are you able to tell me what happened?"
I look but see nothing but a cloud of smoke. I take a deep breath and go on: "after I came back from the States, I thought everything would have been over. But then I noticed two friends I'd gone through college with had wound up in trouble, right around the time that I spent locked up: one in prison now for treason and selling state secrets, and the other for a breach in security protocol relating to national security. These three events all happening together gave me a growing feeling that something just wasn't right. I mean, it can't all be a coincidence, can it? And you should know, our class of forty, we all started college in the mid-eighties, so we were exposed to and tormented by all sorts of bizarre ideology and philisophical theories one after the other; after graduation we then got to live through one of the fastest periods of economic growth in the history of manking. Of the three big gold rushes of the opening-up and reforms—dealing in stolen shipment approvals, snatching up land and embezzling state-owned assets, nearly all of us got in on some of it at least to one extent or another, and as far as I know, not a single one of us ever had any problems come of it. So why, then, in just a few short months have two of us been taken down, one a serious felony and the other not that much lighter. That leads to my second question: what connection does all this have with me going to investigate Guo Qingqing? Did you already know there was a connection there? Or did you just find out now?"
"I wanna talk about my main assumption, which also happens to be my biggest worry, namely something that occured to me when two classmates recently found themselves strung up right at the same time. Director Zhou, you know that Peking University is no different from any of the other top schools in that some departments feed talent straight into certain key state departments and ministries. The school for international politics that we were all in was especially set up by Premier Zhou Enlai himself in the mid-seventies, at the same time that schools for international politics were set up at Renmin and Fudan University. In requiring universities to begin fostering their own talents in international relations, Premier Zhou was merely going with the flow of the international situation at the time—particularly considering the increasingly frequent international exchanges in which China was taking part. International relations graduates that our school produced, starting in the seventies and continuing and continuing until the late nineties, were almost all assigned to jobs by and for the state, with assignments including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Commerce, State Security and even military academies, me being the only exception. Just look at my class as an example: out of us forty graduates, at least thirty got assigned off to various major areas within the Party—or wait, let me be a little more specific. Look at the MSS for instance, nearly every MSS office throughout the key coastal provinces has somebody I went to school with—all professional, proficient, talented and masters of at least one foreign language with over ten years of discipline on the job and for the most part all young and energetic leaders and cadres in their own right. Only now with two former classmates of mine in a row having gotten in serious trouble, I suddenly have the strangest feeling, that the rest of my classmates stand to fall afould of similar problems—if they haven't already! If we don't find out the reason for this and put an end to it right away, serious problems are very possibly going to start popping up as quickly as the plague."
I'm rambling steadily on, but I still can't help but taking the occasional glance toward the shadow and the perpetual plume of smoke; Director Zhou seems to have been so caught up in what I've been saying that he's forgotten about his cigarette. I snub it out and in a very low, clear voice says: "I suspect, that the CIA, after so many years of work carried out on China, unable all along to get a foot in the door, has finally found a way in. Even though our country—especially you at the MSS—keep secrets so tightly guarded, we've gone and forgotten that between old classmates, there's no such thing as keeping secrets. No matter if it's where you get assigned to, what job you do, how well you do it, including promotions, family issues, everything—or rather, nothing is secret between old classmates. If you think that's nothing to worry about, I'll tell ya, it looks downright fatal when you take into consideration that old classmates know everything there is to know about each other's personalities, strong and weak points, their likes and dislikes. From there it's easy to see that if this is the way in that some foreign intelligence agency has found, then the situation is critical. American intelligence and counterespionage agencies recruit university students just like we and everyone else does, but what they don’t the same as China is go and recruit an entire class. At least, not that I’ve ever heard.
"Director Zhou, didn't you say everyone has their own fatal weaknesses? Well, can you spot this one yet? If it were a wise and mature older person or a stranger met by chance, you might not be able to grasp hold of his or her fatal weakness, but for us, entering college just out of high school, eating, sleeping and studying together and friends for all those years, any one of us would be just as clear about anyone else's fatal weakness as that person would be themselves. You're vain and like to show off? Everyone already knows. Petty and cheap? People stopped lending you money years ago. Excess hormones and always horny? You lived eight guys to the same dorm; everyone knew your bed was creaking because you were wanking, they just never spoke of it while you were around. We have to think like this, because if the someone among us really has turned, that means he's not just learned in psychology, but he knows how we think and what makes us tick. If they had the something like the CIA backing them, just what would the consequences be?
I deliberately pause for a moment, then in serious tone say: "Director Zhou, I've analyzed the cases of the two classmates, one in Guangdong province, one up in Jiuquan, and my take on the situation is that the two of them fell as a result of someone having clearly taken hold of their weaknesses. Just who's in a position to do something like that? I think that our families and friends aside, only our old classmates are left. If this presumption is on the mark, then we have a whole lot to worry about. Never mind us here on the mainland for a minute, as far as I know there's even someone from our class who's been secretly sent abroad, his name's Li Jianguo, to carry out top secret research for our country's space program. With him out there like that, his life could be in danger as we speak. You need to evacuate them as soon as——"
"Ten minutes." Director Zhou shifts out from behind the cloud of smoke, doing his best to keep a calm and steady voice. I stop speaking, don't even move. When he feels the smoke finally waft away, Director Zhou stands up and I turn to look at him. The face I see before remains kind and pleasant. I sigh. I understand Director Zhou's need for caution; I'm no longer a Ministry agent, after all, and I've just asked him such very sensitive questions. This is why I purposefully seated him in the dark and me in the light, and it's also the reason he let me speak straight through without interrupting or answer me even once. Anyone intelligence agent with experience can get almost any key information they want just from observing facial expressions. If I'd been able to watch his face and body language just now, ten minutes would have been more than enough to find the answers I'm looking for. I'd just need to watch his throat, his adam's apple, the frequency at which his eyes darted, how he'd positioned his arms and legs as I carried on speculating; even this highest-ranking information chief, one of the top few in all of Beijing, would provide enough response in ten minutes' time for me to learn a lot more than I came here find out. If that had been the case, national secrets would have been leaked and national security seriously compromised. This is why when Director Zhou, stickler for rules that he is, told me the play it by the book, I knew what I had to do; and it’s why, after my my ten minute speech, I still have no answers, just his kind, round face looking straight at me.
"Little Yang." Director finally speaks and fatigue can be heard in his voice, "I've always had a lot of trust in you, you've got a great head on your shoulders. But when it comes to my job, secrecy must be ensured no ifs or buts about it. I can't let my personal feelings get the least bit involved in this. Trusting you is one thing, but staying with the rules and keeping things confidential is another. Everything you mentioned just now, I've been careful to make note of it all. In order to make things easier for you to move to the next step in our work together, I might as well reveal a few relevant points within the limits of what's allowed. I hope, though, that you'll use your brains and keep on questioning things."
Director Zhou goes on: "we obtained a piece of top-secret intelligence from Washington which stated that a woman by the name of Guo Qingqing had been dispatched back to China by the CIA. At first glance there was nothing extraordinary about this. When haven't our CIA friends in Washington been fervid in the number of spies they send to China each year? It is what they do, after all, to try and get intelligence on us. Then again, we do have spy agencies of our own, so why no just wait until their people swallow the bait that we feed them? Except that this information came from a rather important contact; it wasn't something we were able to just take lightly. Later we were able to verify that this information was legit. Only at this point we came across a problem: previously, whenever the CIA had sent people over, were able to get hold of at least some basic information on their identity or their bodily and facial features, but this Guo Qingqing, we could find nothing. Later, as we expanded our investigation, we noticed that Guo Qingqing, it turns out, had gone over to America after graduating from the school of international relations at Peking University; during her graduate studies in New York, she married one of her professors and received a green card. Around the year 2000 they got divorced and she came in contact with a plastic surgeon we know only as ‘Mike’, who performed her operation. After a year of surgery, nearly every inch of her body had been remodelled into a completely new appearance. But then 9-11 took place; Mike was in Tower 1 at the time and, along with all the information regarding Guo Qingqing's surgery, perished in the disaster. When Guo Qingqing later applied for her American citizenship, she came across a problem: as, externally, she had become an entirely different person, without the medical proof, the American authorities had no way to confirm that she in fact was the original Guo Qingqing."
"But when she got her green card, didn't the Americans take her fingerprints?" I jump in.
"This is where it gets bad. They say Guo Qingqing, in order to have her fingers lengthened, even had her fingers reconstructed, which destroyed her fingerprints. This left her in quite a state; not only couldn't she recover her American citizenship, but the estate she received in the divorce settlement was now out of her reach as well. From what we've gathered, she was quite desperate at this point, turning to everyone she could find for help. But Americans pride themselves on their legal system, and begging got her nowhere. Details from here on in we've yet come to grasp. We've no idea if she turned to the CIA or if they found her first. In any event, they came to a mutual agreement: the CIA helped her resolve her identity issue and in return she most likely agreed to work for them. At the time we received it, the intelligence stated that Guo Qingqing had already entered the mainland."
"But, Director Zhou, even if this Guo Qingqing has been sent by the CIA into China, what's the big deal? That's just what the CIA does. If they don't send hordes of spies out each year, what else are they going to do with a budget in the hundreds of millions?" I say with reproach.
"You could look at it that way, but again, because of where this information came from, we had no choice but to respond as we did. Add onto that the fact that most CIA spies in China are American diplomants, businessmen or academics; even if they slip in the occasional overseas Chinese, the vast majority also come as academics for convenience in obtaining the desired information. Besides, many of these are under our control. You probably know, the minute many CIA agents step foot in China, we put them under constant surveillance. Now and then, both in a move against American hegemony, but also in hopes that they'll gain a truer understanding of China, we let their agents go about collecting their 'intelligence'. You know that in America there's a whole pack of anti-Chinese types who spend each day playing up the China threat theory, and on multiple occasions we've openly explained ourselves, but unfortunately they don't believe any of it. But this is why we let their spies collect their intelligence. You know that we do this, that we not only don't get nervous about the spies they send over, but that we often see when they collect false intelligence, sometimes even working behind the scenes to help them out with that. So, back to Guo Qingqing, you should also be able to see why this time it's different. This time the CIA has sent over a spy disguised by plastic surgery, the situation's a little out of the ordinary. In fact, the only time America ever used tactics like this was during the Cold War when the US and the USSR were at a standoff. Despite the many problems with Sino-American relations at present, the overal direction things are moving is still towards the development of a healthy relationship. For America to suddenly take such extreme steps like this in secretly dispatching a spy over, what could their goal be? We're attaching extremely high importance to this."
Director Zhou stops for a second, then: "if one were to factor in your analysis and conjecture, I think the problem would be much more serious than previously thought. But it's pure speculation; even if it is accurate, what could we do about it? Your classmates aren't just scattered around the country, but none of them are in the MSS. Even if they were, we couldn't go around telling them, one-by-one, to watch out, we'd scare the snakes out of the grass if you know what I mean. I can see that taking care of isn't going to be easy."
I'm quite glad to hear Director Zhou agrees with my analysis. Then I think it might be that they've been aware of the situation all along, that Director Zhou's just been hearing me out and nothing more. I suddenly think back to Tian Haipeng's suggestion of rounding up the classmates for a party. In excitement, I jump up: "but it could be, Director Zhou, it could be very easy!"
"What you got in mind?"
“It's like this. We've been out of college for more than ten years already, yet we've never had a class get-together. I can get in touch with one a few guys in Guangzhou and we'll plan a reunion. We'll have everyone together in the same place."
"If you were all together, it might just work. I could send a few specialists to go with you, lay low in case you need backup. We could even put in a few bugs. I think you've got the skills to get the feel for some basic details by yourself, to see which of your classmates act strange, which ones act a little too normal. It's a great idea! Little Yang, just between you and me, I'll even throw in some to cover the costs for the party."
"No need, Director," I laugh. "One of the guys has made somewhat of a fortune for himself these last two years. He's been waiting for a chance to show some of that money off to everyone. Let me take care of everything."
"Fine, let's do it. Oh right, Little Yang, you just said something about your old classmate Li Jianguo being sent overseas by MSS, where'd you hear about that?"
"Ai-ya, Director Zhou, you actually think any of us keep secrets from each other? Didn't I just spend the whole night talking about this?"
"No, you're not getting it. I'm asking, where did you hear this? If he told you himself, then you must have his phone number or address, right?"
"Of course it was him that told us. Though these days we all keep in touch on e-mail," I laugh, thinking back to what Tian Haipeng said.
"Then can you give me his e-mail?" Director Zhou looks straight at me, "you trust me, don't you?"
I pull out the e-mail address that Tian Haipeng gave me and write it down for Director Zhou.
Then, with Director Zhou's permission, I call Tian Haipeng right up and tell him the reunion party plans are on; all I hear in response is a loud, excited holler. I hang up and start feeling excited myself. I turn to tell Director Zhou it's a go, only to see him asleep on the sofa.
I don’t blame him, he plans stuff like this every day and this particular operation must seem quite silly. I gently place a blanket down over him and quietly slip out of the room.