A French journalist and longtime China watcher, Faligot has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of China’s spy agencies. In an area where so much of even the distant historical record is strictly off-limits, his extensive research will be useful to academics. Although some general readers might be put off by the meticulous descriptions of different bureaus and their responsibilities, it also contains many fascinating stories.
Faligot’s book is fluently translated by Natasha Lehrer and is impressive in its level of detail, although the understandable lack of named sources is frustrating at times. It leaves the reader in limbo as to what will be the real significance of China’s growing spy network in the next few years. During the Cold War, the struggle was between hugely different western and Soviet models of the world, with each seeking to convert the other. Faligot’s account implies that the Chinese have more limited purposes.