Marquel, TPVs NYTimes I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy Section correspondent, was playing I Spy with his little nephew, when he read .
The unlikely story of Mr. Duan is one of a series of reports in the Chinese news media over the last year about street-level agents recruited online by foreign countries or organizations, reflecting heightened concerns over espionage. A taxi driver spy. What would he know? But some country hired him to spy, according to Chinese authorities. He might know short cuts. In case of a military crisis that might come in handy, thought Marquel. Especially if an invasion took a lot of taxis.
Marquel spoke to the Chinese consul in Manhattan. “Why would a country hire a taxi driver for intelligence? What would he know?”
“Secret short cuts that don’t show up on satellite surveillance.” Said the consul.
Marquel licked a finger and told himself, “score one for me.” But there must be more. “Do foreign countries often recruit spies like this?” He asked.
“Oh yes. They recruit all sorts. Many of the dim sum carts in Tiananmen Square are working for foreign governments.” He asserted.
“But what would they know?” I asked.
“The price of cabbage.” He said.
“Is that valuable information?” I asked.
“Apparently,” he answered, with a shrug.
“So who else is for hire?” I asked.
“The ticket takers at the cinema. They are all on the payroll of one particular country. I can’t tell you which one.” He said.
“They know what movies are playing. They also know when the trailers end, so you wouldn’t waste your time, I guess.” He said.
“Doesn’t sound like important intelligence,” I commented.
“It is if you like movies.” He said, somewhat cryptically.
“But why are they hiring all these low level workers?” I asked.
“That’s capitalism. You see, they want cheap labor, so they hire all these poor merchants. That creates surplus labor in the rest of the market. People in government, people in our intelligence services, are frozen out of the market.” He said.
“That’s a good Marxist analysis of the situation but how do the intelligence agencies of foreign governments profit from this?” I asked.
“First all that surplus labor would surely work cheaper than they would otherwise. So they have lowered wages. Typical capitalist ploy. With lower wages and higher unemployment, the market now favors the capitalist. We learn this in third grade.”
“But I don’t see the unemployment. Even less unemployment created by the foreigners. These would be government officials, maybe private sector workers, but they’re all employed.” I argued.
“You are myopic,” he said through his bottle-thick glasses. “This is partial unemployment, or underemployment but it’s the same thing to a national economy. Even the US is worried about partial unemployment or underemployment.” He said.
“That’s true. But I don’t see how in the end foreign intelligence services will get what they want.” I said.
“With prices for spying driven down, important spies will have to sell their services more cheaply, approaching the level of a cinema clerk, say. What a bargain!” He exclaimed.
“But I don’t see why, let’s say a cabinet minister who is well paid, would want an extra income so paltry at such a risk.” I said.
“Easy. It’s never enough. First of all, the minister is embarrassed that Western powers have hired ticket takers and taxi drivers instead. It’s embarrassing. Then, when his wife says, ‘let’s go to Goa and gamble’ and he says he can’t afford it. She says, ‘why not pick up a little extra for spying?’ and he really can’t argue against it. Then the western powers have our intelligence info for the price of a movie, and they also know all the taxi short cuts and how long the trailers last at the best shows. Sounds like a winner to me.” He said.
“Better than dropping bombs,” I said. We shook hands and bowed a hundred times, indicating he was in total agreement.
By MARQUEL: I Spy with My Little Eye