Chinese Defector Reveals Beijing’s Secrets U.S. intelligence is debriefing brother of former presidential aide, translating documents Ling Jihua, pictured, provided sensitive documents to his brother, defector Ling Wancheng / AP A defector from China has revealed some of the innermost secrets of the Chinese government and military, including details of its nuclear command and control system, according to American intelligence officials. Businessman Ling Wancheng disappeared from public view in California last year shortly after his brother, Ling Jihua, a former high-ranking official in the Communist Party, was arrested in China on corruption charges. Ling Wancheng, the defector, has been undergoing a debrief by FBI, CIA, and other intelligence officials since last fall at a secret location in the United States, said officials familiar with details of the defection who spoke on condition of anonymity. The defector is said to be a target of covert Chinese agents seeking to capture or kill him. Among the information disclosed by Ling are details about the procedures used by Chinese leaders on the use of nuclear weapons, such as the steps taken in preparing nuclear forces for attack and release codes for nuclear arms. Other secrets revealed included details about the Chinese leadership and its facilities, including the compound in Beijing known as Zhongnanhai. That information is said to be valuable for U.S. electronic spies, specifically for cyber intelligence operations targeting the secretive Chinese leadership. Spokesmen for the White House, FBI, CIA, and Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the case. Other officials said Ling defected sometime in the summer of 2015 after his brother, once the senior administrative aide to former Chinese leader Hu Jintao, came under suspicion for leaking state secrets. Intelligence officials said Ling, if confirmed as a legitimate defector in debriefings over the next several months, would have the most privileged information of any defector from China to the United States in more than 30 years. “This is an intelligence windfall,” said one senior official. The events surrounding Ling’s defection and his brother’s arrest appear to be part of a complex internal power struggle in China led by current leader Xi Jinping targeting hundreds of Party leaders and officials. Under the guise of a nationwide anticorruption drive within the Chinese leadership, Xi is said to be systematically removing rivals from previous administrations. Officials said Ling Wancheng is being kept under tight security after U.S. intelligence agencies detected the activity of covert Chinese agents tasked with tracking down Chinese nationals sought by the government. The defection was triggered by the arrest of Ling’s brother, Ling Jihua, a former presidential aide who secretly obtained some 2,700 internal documents from a special Communist Party unit he headed until 2012. The unit was in charge of storing and archiving classified documents. Ling Jihua then gave the documents to his brother, who owns a $2.5 million residence in Loomis, California, near Sacramento. The classified documents were transferred between the brothers as a safety measure: They were intended to be used as leverage to dissuade Chinese authorities from taking action against Ling Jihua. According to the officials, Ling Wancheng, the defector, kept the documents for safekeeping and was directed to release them to U.S. authorities in the event Ling Jihua were arrested. China announced in July it was prosecuting Ling Jihua for disclosing secrets, taking bribes, conducting illicit sexual affairs, and using his position to benefit relatives. The former official is currently undergoing harsh interrogation in China. Ling Jihua reportedly has been a main source for corruption investigations that helped bring down China’s security czar, Zhou Yongkang, as well as two senior military officials Ling Jihua held the post of chief of the secretariat of the Party’s Political Bureau under Hu Jintao until 2012. The position is equivalent to that of the White House chief of staff, with broad access to the most sensitive details available exclusively to senior Chinese leaders. In August, after the New York Times reported the Chinese government had asked the Obama administration to return Ling Wancheng, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Ling was not suspected of criminal activity. “I’m not aware that he’s suspected of breaking any U.S. laws, but that’s a matter for the FBI or for other domestic law enforcement agencies,” Toner said Aug. 3. Last month, Liu Jianchao, the Chinese official in charge of Beijing’s anti-corruption campaign, told Reuters that Ling was in the United States. “As for the case of Ling Wancheng, the Chinese side is handling it and is communicating with the United States,” Liu said Jan. 14. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Beijing with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi last week and discussed “law-enforcement, pursuit of fugitives and their illicit money,” according to state-run media reports. A State Department official said the Ling case was not discussed during Kerry’s meetings in Beijing. The Chinese have looked at the case as a criminal case while the U.S. government is treating the defection as an intelligence matter, making Ling’s repatriation to China unlikely. Michael Pillsbury, a China specialist with the Hudson Institute, said Chinese defectors with access to secrets are rare and usually need careful protection. Pillsbury’s 2015 book The 100-Year Marathon draws on data provided by five Chinese defectors. “Over the last three decades, Chinese defectors have been a vital source of insights about the secrets Beijing wants to keep from Washington,” said Pillsbury. “Very few defectors wrote about it or gave interviews,” he added. One important defector was Yu Qiansheng, an official with the Ministry of State Security, who defected in 1985 and revealed that CIA analyst Larry Wu-Tai Chin was a spy for China. Yu is the brother of current Chinese Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng, currently one of the most powerful leaders in China. More recently, China’s leading dissident, the astrophysics professor Fang Lizhi, revealed details about secret internal debates in a book. “Let’s hope more defectors come out to reveal Beijing’s secret debates,” Pillsbury said. Former State Department China hand John J. Tkacik said Ling likely can provide new details of Chinese power struggles, such as the cases of ousted security chief Zhou Yongkang and imprisoned regional Party chief Bo Xilai. “But the most important intel he could provide would be on the inner workings of China’s global financial strategies, the extent to which the Chinese have infiltrated both global financial markets, both with human assets and network penetrations, and have used these tools to fuel their incredible accumulation on wealth,” Tkacik said.