The US justice department has announced charges of economic espionage against a suspected Chinese intelligence officer.
Yanjun Xu - identified by the U.S.as an agent of the Ministry of State Security, which is China's intelligence and security agency - was arrested in the Belgium earlier this year, and extradited overnight to Cincinnati.
From 2013 until he was arrested in April, Xu would recruit employees from major aerospace companies, including GE Aviation, and persuade them to travel to China under the guise that they would give a presentation at a university, prosecutors said. "But we can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow." said Assistant Attorney General John Demers in the press release.
They remained in contact, and in February 2018, Xu persuaded the GE Aviation employee to send him a company presentation relating to aviation that included proprietary information, US authorities said.
Assistant director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, Bill Priestap, said the "unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government's direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States".
Sometimes operating with the help of a coconspirator inside said companies, Xu offered to meet the engineers in China as well as cover their expenses and pay for their time, it is claimed. The employee's talk included details about engines that were designed and produced by his company.
Last week, Vice President Pence accused the Chinese of trying to orchestrate "the wholesale theft of American technology". Xu, who appeared Wednesday in federal court in Cincinnati, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio.
Testifying before a Senate panel on Wednesday morning, FBI Director Chris Wray said: "China in many ways represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counter-intelligence threat we face".
USA prosecutors have unsealed charges against a collared Chinese national, accusing him of stealing trade secrets from American aerospace companies.
On September 26 the USA charged electrical engineer Ji Chaoqun with knowingly acting as an agent of China, due to his contacts with an unnamed "high-level intelligence officer" from the Jiangsu State Security Department.
Xu was arrested after traveling to Belgium in April. The lifted materials were then passed by Xu to the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, it is alleged.
A spokesman for GE Aviation, a General Electric Co division based in suburban Cincinnati, said it had been cooperating for months with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a case that targeted a former employee. The company said it detected an uptick in Chinese hacking operations during the past year, uptick that placed China above Russian Federation in terms of number of attacks.
The indictment does not say if the employee was aware Mr. Xu was a spy or if they ever met in Europe.
According to The Washington Post, the case is linked to last month's arrest of 27-year-old Ji Chaoqun, a Chinese citizen living in Chicago, who was arrested for allegedly passing information to what the DOJ called a "high-level intelligence officer" with the MSS. All were naturalised United States citizens born either in mainland China or the self-governed island of Taiwan.