The denial is meaningless and would be expected at this stage in any event. However, Hua Chunying did leverage the question to throw a soft jab back at the United States:
China’s foreign ministry has dismissed speculation that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden might have spied for Beijing as “completely groundless”.
Spokeswoman Hua Chunying, speaking at a regular press briefing on Monday, also urged the US to “pay attention to the international community’s concerns and demands and give … the necessary explanation” of its surveillance activities.
Her remarks were in response to questions from two state media organisations. She had previously declined to comment on the 29-year-old’s case, or his claims that the US had hacked targets in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland.
Even if we put this question aside, and it is far too early to do that, others remain. If we assume that Snowden has had no contact with Chinese intelligence, and he eventually choses to defect to China, the spying question is rather pointless (except to the counterintelligence folks). Giving up the goods is a prerequisite for defection.
It could also be said that (again assuming no relationship between Snowden and Chinese intelligence) with Snowden’s very public initial revelations and carefully crafted communications that present China as a victim of U.S. intelligence operations he’s already engineered the sort of counterpropaganda campaign that Chinese intelligence could only dream of orchestrating.
Getting to the heart of this matter may take time. We are left to speculate in the absence of a smoking gun. I am still optimistic that the truth will surface but getting there might take a very long time. In the meantime, Edward Snowden and Chinese officials will continue to take very damaging shots at the United States. He may, or may not be a spy, but he is definitely no hero.