China upgrades intelligence unit in Cuba amid global spy efforts

For years, China has maintained an intelligence unit in Cuba, which was upgraded in 2019 as part of Beijing’s global strategy to enhance its intelligence-gathering capabilities, according to a senior White House official. This revelation follows a recent Wall Street Journal report claiming that China had struck a covert agreement with Cuba to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island, just 160 kilometres from the southern United States.

The WSJ also reported that China intended to pay Cuba billions of US dollars as part of the deal. Both the US and Cuban governments have expressed significant doubts about the report. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a White House official stated that the WSJ’s portrayal “does not comport with our understanding.” However, they did not provide specific details on the report’s inaccuracies or address whether China was attempting to construct a new eavesdropping facility in Cuba.

The official noted that the matter predates President Joe Biden’s administration and is part of China’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its global intelligence collection infrastructure. “This is an ongoing issue and not a new development,” the official said. “The PRC [People’s Republic of China] conducted an upgrade of its intelligence collection facilities in Cuba in 2019. This is well-documented in the intelligence record.”

In response to the allegations, an official at China’s embassy in Washington, DC referred to a statement by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, who accused the US of “spreading rumours and slander” regarding a Cuban spy station and labelled it “the most powerful hacker empire in the world.”

Cuba’s government has also strongly criticised the claims. Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio took to Twitter to condemn the “slanderous speculation” that he believes is being promoted by certain media outlets to cause harm and alarm without adhering to basic communication standards or providing evidence to support their claims. Cossio has previously characterised the WSJ’s report as a fabrication by the US to justify its long-standing economic embargo against the island. He emphasised that Cuba opposes all foreign military presence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The allegations of Chinese spying from Cuba come at a time when Washington and Beijing are making cautious efforts to ease tensions that escalated after a suspected Chinese high-altitude spy balloon crossed the US mainland, prompting the US military to shoot it down off the East Coast in February. These efforts include a planned visit to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 18, which had been previously cancelled due to the spy balloon incident.

A Biden administration official stated that although former President Donald Trump’s administration was aware of the Chinese basing efforts in Cuba and made some attempts to address the issue.

“We were not making enough progress and needed a more direct approach.”

The official revealed that US diplomats had engaged with governments considering hosting Chinese bases and had exchanged information with them.

“Our experts assess that our diplomatic efforts have slowed the PRC down,” the official said. “We think the PRC isn’t quite where they had hoped to be.”

World News


With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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