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U.S. accuses 10 Chinese nationals of stealing aerospace technology

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The U.S. Justice Department has accused 10 Chinese nationals, including two intelligence officials and six hackers, with stealing American and European aerospace technology secrets. Here is the department’s press release; click here to download the full indictment.

  • This is the second indictment the Justice Department has unsealed against China this month — earlier, a Chinese intelligence official was extradited to the U.S. for the first time ever from Belgium, and put to trial, also for stealing aerospace secrets.
  • Like the earlier case, the Chinese spying allegedly centered around the Ministry of State Security (MSS) office in Jiangsu Province.
  • Zha Rong and Chai Meng are the named intelligence officers. The indictment says that they conspired with a team of five hackers — Zhang Zhang-Gui, Liu Chunliang, Gao Hong Kun, Zhuang Xiaowei, and Ma Zhiqi — and two Chinese employees at a French aerospace company in Suzhou, China. A separate conspiracy involved Zhang Zhang-Gui and a sixth hacker, Li Xing.
  • The French company might be Safran Aircraft Engines — Bill Bishop notes (paywall) that they have an industrial park in Suzhou, though the indictment does not confirm the name of the company.
  • The spies and hackers broke into computers at the aerospace company in Suzhou, and also the computer networks of a dozen other companies. These range from a “Massachusetts-based aerospace company,” to an “Oregon-based aerospace supplier,” to an “Australian domain registrar,” the indictment says.
  • The hacks occurred from 2010 to 2015, and targeted jet engine technology, the indictment indicates.

The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that more indictments are expected soon:

Prosecutors are also expected to announce charges in coming days against another set of hackers linked to the Chinese government. Those hackers have allegedly targeted information-technology service providers for the purposes of espionage and intellectual-property theft, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.