In an unprecedented case, a Chinese intelligence official has been arrested in the United States and will face trial for commercial espionage.
According to the press release announcing the indictment on the U.S. Department of Justice website, titled “Chinese intelligence officer charged with economic espionage involving theft of trade secrets from leading U.S. aviation companies”:
- Yanjun Xu, a deputy division director from the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) office in Jiangsu, China, has since “at least December 2013” sought to “commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies.”
- GE Aviation is the only named target. Xu “identified experts who worked for these companies and recruited them to travel to China, often initially under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation.”
- The indictment says that exactly this happened with an employee of GE Aviation — Xu introduced himself under a false identity and affiliation with a university in China, and compensated the employee $3,500 for traveling to China to give a technical presentation.
- Xu was then himself lured to Belgium, according to the full indictment, by the prospect of meeting for a second time with that employee from GE Aviation and gaining access to proprietary information from the company, such as its “use of unique materials to manufacture jet engine fan blades and fan containment structures.”
- Belgian authorities arrested Xu in April, and held him in the country until yesterday, October 9, when he was extradited to the U.S.
- He will face trial in Cincinnati, Ohio, where GE Aviation is based.
The assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers, stated, “This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense. We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow.”
This comes on the same day that FBI Director Christopher Wray came before the Senate Homeland Security Committee and testified about the severity of the threat the U.S. government sees from China:
“China in many ways represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counter-intelligence threat we face…Russia is in many ways fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union. They’re fighting today’s fight. China is fighting tomorrow’s fight.”