“After dinner, he came back to his hotel room and found two beautiful, naked Chinese girls in his bed.”
– from interview with a former Canadian diplomat
The use of seduction to conduct espionage is nothing new. What is unique to the Chinese Communist Party is the scale of its usage as well as the unprecedented number of ways the CCP can capture honey trap liaisons for leverage.
In a typical scenario, a Western official or businessman visiting China is either willingly lured into a sexual situation or has his drink spiked at dinner and then ends up in a hotel room with a woman. The two are filmed in action, and the video, now in the hands of the CCP, is then held over the foreigner’s head to ensure compliance with future demands.
These men are threatened with trumped up charges of rape or sex with a minor and must cooperate or face jail. In China, “virtually all” hotels are rigged with video cameras and microphones.
Compounding the problem is the CCP’s ability to recruit and deploy young women for this purpose. The phenomenon is so pervasive that foreign governments and companies often issue formal warnings, even trainings, to help staff avoid honey traps while traveling in China. The UK’s MI5, for example, published a manual urging British businessmen to be on alert.
According to a staff member of a U.S. diplomat, honey trapping was a constant problem for American businessmen and politicians in China. “We would get calls all the time to our office,” the staff member says. “We first ask them, ‘did you go to a banquet or event last night?’ and ‘did you meet someone?’ Invariably, they said yes and were desperate for help.”
Historically, China’s honey trap resources were focused on high-flying businessmen or professors running top science laboratories in the U.S., such as the scenario depicted in Richard Gere’s 1997 movie “Red Corner.” In more recent years, however, the CCP’s honey traps have expanded into the political sphere with many city, state, and federal officials targeted and not just in China, but in the United States.
In December, 2020, multiple news outlets reported that California Congressman Eric Swalwell had an affair with an alleged Chinese spy, who has since fled the country. Swalwell, who ran for President in 2019 and sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, had started the affair when he was a city councilman, demonstrating the CCP’s long-term approach to target local officials in the hopes they will prove more useful as they rise to higher offices.