Chinese agent quits senior post at Twitter

The head of Twitter in China, Kathy Chen, has announced her resignation.  This is remarkable for two reasons.

The first is that Ms. Chen is closely affiliated with the Chinese People's Liberation Army.  The second is that Twitter is banned in China.  Yes, Twitter has a head of its China division even though it has no service in China.

All of this will make sense in a moment.

First of all, Twitter is banned in China.  The Chinese can't tolerate any form of free speech.  And yet Twitter has a branch in China and hired Ms. Chen to run it:

Twitter Inc.’s controversial China chief has departed after only eight months, the latest executive to leave amid a global reorganization. Ms. Chen, a former executive of Microsoft and Cisco, had raised eyebrows due to her former work for China government-related entities. Early in her career, she was as an engineer for a research institute attached to the Chinese army’s Second Artillery Corps. She also served for five years as CEO of an antivirus company backed by an arm of China’s Ministry of Public Security.

Twitter actually has a relatively small number of Chinese users who use the service illegally, but Ms. Chen's primary role was to get big spending Chinese companies to advertise on the American version of Twitter.  That's where her ties to the government come in.  Presumably, those ties would help her get ad buyers from government-affiliated companies.  The fact that she worked for a hostile military, and perhaps even the Chinese intelligence service, didn't seem to faze Twitter.  In fact, Microsoft and Cisco saw no security risk in hiring Ms. Chen, either.

The irony of Twitter, which has been accused of censoring conservative voices, of aligning itself with a country that censors its own citizens, cannot be lost on anyone.  No one knows why Ms. Chen is suddenly resigning.  Perhaps she has already downloaded the database of Twitter users or created enough "backdoor" openings for her real employer.

The funniest part of this is that all the reporting on this subject is not about Twitter employing a Chinese potential spy, not that Twitter has a China division when it is banned in China, but the fact that Ms. Chen resigned after eight other words, treating this as a routine personnel story while missing all the big issues.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at