A new report from Axios details how a suspected Chinese agent named Fang Fang or Christine Fang cultivated relationships with up-and-coming politicians in California through political fundraising, personal charisma, and affairs before abruptly leaving the United States in 2015. She fled after federal investigators closed in on her alleged participation in an espionage campaign for China’s leading intelligence agency.
Among other politicians, Fang acted as a bundler for Rep., and future presidential candidate, Eric Swalwell (D-CA), spearheading a successful fundraising effort within the Asian American community to facilitate Swalwell’s meteoric rise. Fang then placed at least one congressional intern in Swalwell’s office, who was allegedly a plant.
While this suspected operative’s activities appear to have ended during the Obama administration, concerns about Beijing’s influence operations have spanned President Trump’s time in office and will continue to be a core focus for U.S. counterintelligence during the Biden administration.
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.
A statement from Swalwell’s office provided to Axios said: “Rep. Swalwell, long ago, provided information about this person — whom he met more than eight years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years — to the FBI. To protect information that might be classified, he will not participate in your story.”
Authorities alerted Swalwell to their concerns in 2015. Fang returned to Beijing around the same time.
Authorities reported at least two sexual liaisons between Fang and two midwestern mayors, one of whom occurred under FBI surveillance. It’s unclear how extensive — not to mention successful — Beijing’s campaign to infiltrate political circles in the United States has been.