As the title suggests, Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping covers a lot of ground, from the 1930s to the 2010s. When you take more 80-plus years of a famously secretive government, add the unfamiliarity of Chinese names, and compound it with shifting foreign alliances, you have an uphill slog. Happily it's occasionally leavened with fascinating factoids, such as an anatomically explicit explanation of how a French diplomat was fooled into an 18-year love affair with a Chinese opera singer who was actually a man, and who produced a child whom M. Boursicot believed to be his son. Out of love for his paramour, he passed classified documents to "her" until he was outed and jailed in the 1980s. Gems like that kept me slogging through M. Faligot's book. (A French investigative journalist, his book was translated by Natasha Lehrer) There's the vast "underground city" beneath Beijing, intended to shelter the population during a nuclear war, but used in 1989 to rush 200,000 troops to Tiananmen Square to crush the democracy movement, with the British ambassador giving a "minimum estimate" of 10,000 dead. And of course there are the spies -- studying and teaching at American universities -- working at American corporations no less than for quasi-private Chinese firms like Huawei -- salted through the population of Hong Kong -- spies everywhere and always. I came away with the conclusion that the People's Republic has been at war with the whole world, and especially with the United States, ever since Mao Tse Tung took control of China in 1949. Blue skies! — Dan Ford
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