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Last Updated: Friday, 17 December 2004, 19:15 GMT
The fake communist who fooled Mao
Richard Nixon shakes hands with Mao Zedong
Boeve helped engineer Nixon's historic handshake with Mao
A Dutch secret agent who spent much of his life leading a fake communist party in the Netherlands and spying on Maoist China has revealed his story.

Pieter Boeve was recruited by the Dutch secret service after attending an international conference in Beijing in the 1950s. He was asked to convince the Chinese authorities he had become a committed communist.

Mr Boeve did so, and when Mao Zedong's China fell out with the Soviet Union - and the official Dutch communist party followed the Soviet line - the Chinese provided funds for him to form a breakaway Dutch Marxist-Leninist party.

It finally folded in the 1990s, and Mr Boeve has now gone public with his story.

"They invited me to come to China because they wanted me there as a student of Marxist-Leninism," he told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

Meeting Mao

Mr Boeve changed his name and took on a false identity as "Chris Petersen, Secretary-General of the Dutch Marxist-Leninist Party."

He says he was frequently given treats by the Chinese government and travelled around the world at their expense.

CIA headquarters
Boeve passed on China's interest in US relations to the CIA
"We got contacts with other European Marxist-Leninist parties," he said.

"What was important was that they saw me as the Marxist-Leninist leader of the Dutch people, the Dutch organisation - thinking, because we told them, that we had a big group of around 400 to 500 people.

"I was so well instructed that I could, if necessary, speak for an hour in a Marxist-Leninist way."

He recalled meeting Chairman Mao at a large gathering to which Marxist-Leninist "friends" from around the world had invited.

Although he could only shake hands with him - as Mao only spoke Chinese - the Dutch secret service was impressed with how far he had got.

Later, a special banquet in Mr Boeve's honour was prepared - headed by China's then foreign minister Chou Enlai.

"I had an interesting conversation about the developments in China, and about the possibility of maybe having, in future, a revolution in Europe with all those Marxist-Leninist parties present."

Most remarkable of all, however, was Mr Boeve's role in one of the pivotal episodes of the Cold War - the historic visit of US President Richard Nixon to Beijing in February 1972.

This came about after Mr Boeve was asked by the Chinese whether he would consider better relations with the US a good or bad thing.

The Dutch intelligence service then passed this information on to the CIA - indicating the Chinese were keen on thawing relations.

'I am proud'

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in 1989, Mr Boeve's fake party was disbanded.

Berlin Wall
The fall of the Berlin Wall spelled the end for Boeve's fake party
"It was no longer necessary to have a Marxist-Leninist party," he said.

"Mr Petersen also had no reason to exist any more - so we stopped with it.

"But in the meantime, it was the Chinese that always had paid for the publishing of our documents, for our travelling, for all the things we did... I think it must have been some 1m ($1.9m)."

He said that he had few regrets, despite having fooled a great many people.

"Some of them are not happy, but only a few," he said.

"I myself am very happy about it, because I think I really contributed to the end of the Cold War.

"That's not because I was so clever, but because our intelligence here helped me do it... now that I look back, I am very proud about what I have done."

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