US charges Chinese 'spy' with trying to steal aviation secrets

Chinese soldiers attend a flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square in Beijing this month

Chinese soldiers attend a flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square in Beijing this month

A report by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, a DNI component, made public last summer said China is engaged in aggressive cyber operations to steal valuable USA technology and economic secrets.

One of the companies allegedly targeted by Xu was GE Aviation, a unit of General Electric Co. "But we can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".

In March 2017, Xu and others recruited a GE employee to travel to Nanjing City, near the eastern coast of China, to give a presentation on GE Aviation's "signature material design and manufacturing technology", according to the indictment.

Justice officials cast the arrest of Xu as part of the global fight against China's alleged campaign to steal United States economic secrets.

Xu "targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field" to include GE Aviation, which specializes in aircraft engines, according to the indictment.

On September 26 the U.S. 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.

The two have also feuded over U.S. support for Taiwan, Chinese weapons purchases from Russian Federation and China's territorial claims in the South China Sea - where the U.S. says a Chinese destroyer came aggressively close to a U.S. Navy ship late last month, forcing it to maneuver to prevent a collision. "It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers. "We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow".

The company has provided engines for large Boeing and Airbus planes, and is also working on a new generation of engines for commercial planes and heavy-lift military helicopters.

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The ministry of state security is China's intelligence and security agency, responsible for counterintelligence, foreign intelligence and political security.

Xu was arrested after traveling to Belgium in April.

Responding to the arrest of Mr Xu, former USA state department official Chris Painter - who negotiated the agreement - said it was "not surprising that now the relationship has deteriorated, so has the agreement".

FBI Counterintelligence Assistant Director Bill Priestap said the arrest and extradition are unprecedented and "exposes the Chinese government's direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States". After his appeals failed, he was extradited to the United States on Tuesday and is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He made contact with experts and recruited them to travel to China, often for the initial goal of delivering a university presentation and paying their costs and a stipend, the Justice Department said.

GE Aviation cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and as a result did not lose proprietary information to the Chinese, according to the Justice Department statement.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage in the USA is 15 years, and it is 10 years for conspiracy and attempts to steal trade secrets.

The extradition comes amid US suspicion of Chinese intelligence gathering campaigns against the well as an escalating trade war between the two countries. "The cooperation and GE Aviation's internal controls protected GE Aviation's proprietary information", the department said.

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