On October 11, 2020, a special series aired on Chinese state television. The subject was scandalous — the confessions of captured Taiwanese spies in China. Their crimes were numerous, including “harming the Mainland,” “endangering cross-strait relations,” and “defaming China.” Several individuals claimed their orders had come directly from Taiwan’s Military Intelligence Bureau. This televised spectacle was a calculated push, part of China’s Thunder-2020 campaign, a sustained effort by Chinese security agencies to root out Taiwanese spy networks in China. 

The espionage war between China and Taiwan is heating up. By all reasonable metrics, Taiwan is an independent country, possessing an elected government, currency, passport, and military. Yet, the Chinese government views Taiwan as a rogue province. This is the central issue of the espionage war between China and Taiwan: national sovereignty and unification versus independence. 

Zhou Hongxu was a typical Chinese exchange student in Taiwan. In 2009, Zhou arrived in Taiwan as a fresh-faced 21-year-old, enrolling in the business and finance program at Tamkang University. As a young man, he enjoyed the typical activities of youth, eating street food at Taiwan’s famous night markets and playing computer games at internet cafes. In September 2012, he enrolled in the MBA program at the prestigious National Chengchi University (NCCU) and graduated four years later. He returned to China upon graduation.

But Taiwan continued to allure him and in September 2017, he returned, this time on an “investment and business” visa to work at a Taipei firm.