Suspected Chinese Spy Targeted California Politicians

Tiffany Meier
By Tiffany Meier
December 10, 2020China in Focus

An exclusive investigation by Axios reveals a suspected Chinese spy in California. This happened in an area with ideal conditions for foreign intelligence.

The woman at the center of the operation, a Chinese national named Fang Fang or Christine Fang, targeted up-and-coming local politicians in the Bay Area and across the country who had the potential to make it big on the national stage.

Through campaign fundraising, extensive networking, personal charisma, and romantic or sexual relationships with at least two Midwestern mayors, Fang was able to gain proximity to political power, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials and one former elected official.

Even though U.S. officials do not believe Fang received or passed on classified information, the case “was a big deal, because there were some really, really sensitive people that were caught up” in the intelligence network, a current senior U.S. intelligence official said.

Private, but unclassified information about government officials such as their habits, preferences, schedules, social networks, and even rumors about them is a form of political intelligence. Collecting such information is a key part of what foreign intelligence agencies do.

Chinese spies have been known to approach local-level politicians because Beijing knows they may rise to higher-level positions in the future.  It’s also common practice for female agents to engage in sexual relationships with targets to obtain blackmail materials.

Among the most significant targets of Fang’s efforts was Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).

According to a statement from Swalwell’s office provided by Axios, Swalwell met Fang 8 years ago, but hasn’t seen her in nearly 6 years.

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