The FBI made this movie to convince you not to become a Chinese spy

Your tax dollars at work, reminding you not to commit treason.


Aaron Sankin


Published Jun 27, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 1:30 am CDT

?There is an old Chinese proverb: Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move. And to win the game, you must often sacrifice your pawns.”

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So begins a video uploaded to YouTube in April of this year by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This video is very different from others that the bureau has uploaded to its page. The FBI typically posts clips from press conferences about its efforts to bust child sex slavery rings or videos detailing new additions to its famous Most Wanted list.

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This particular clip, entitled Game of Pawns, is something wholly new. The half-hour-long movie is a surprisingly high-quality dramatization aimed at educating young Americans college students about whether or not they should become Chinese spies.

Yes, the FBI made a movie and, honestly, it’s not terrible. It’s not great, but it’s far from the worst film ever produced.

Game of Pawns tells the story of Glenn Duffie, an American college student spending a year studying abroad in Shanghai. Enamored with the city’s bustling glamor—not to mention its supply of attractive women—Duffie decides to stay in China instead of returning home and ends up taking a job from the Shanghai government writing papers on Chinese-American relations as a way to obtain the work visa necessary to stay in the country.

Needless to say, Duffie’s job description doesn’t stay focused on writing papers for long. After accepting envelopes full of cash as a sort of ?scholarship” and then being told to keep the payments a secret, Duffie ends up applying for a job at the CIA at the bequest of his Chinese bosses, who were hoping to get a double agent lodged into U.S. intelligence.

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We won’t spoil the ending for you—but considering that the film was made by the FBI, you can probably guess how it all plays out.

The Bureau also posted this companion video featuring an interview with the real-life Duffie conducted inside of a federal prison, which should also be a clue.

It’s not Oscar-worthy, but if the story were stretched out over the course of a couple seasons on the CW, it’d probably generate a least a modest following—and maybe some fandom about the will-they-or-won’t-they romantic tension between Duffie and his Chinese handler, Amanda.

The entire thing is based on a true story and is aimed a convincing American college students studying abroad that, at some point, the government of whatever country they’re studying in will probably attempt to turn them. Like beer pong or pulling an all-nighter right before the big organic chemistry midterm, fending off the advances of foreign intelligence agencies is just another part of the college experience.

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In a press release accompanying the video, the FBI gave some helpful tips for how to avoid [SPOILER ALERT] going to jail for treason:

  • Be skeptical of “money-for-nothing” offers and other opportunities that seem too good to be true, and be cautious of being offered free favors, especially those involving government processes such as obtaining visas, residence permits, and work papers.

  • Minimize personal information you reveal about yourself, especially through social media.

  • Minimize your contact with people who have questionable government affiliations or who you suspect might be engaged in criminal activity.

  • Properly report any money or compensation you received while abroad on tax forms and other financial disclosure documents to ensure compliance with U.S. laws.

H/T Your Slow News Day | Photo by Dave Newman/Flickr

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*First Published: Jun 27, 2014, 10:00 am CDT