The Department of Justice stated in an October 10 news release that a Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative, Yanjun Xu, had been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. Xu was extradited to the United States on October 9.
The release stated that Xu is a Deputy Division Director with the MSS’s Jiangsu State Security Department. The MSS, which is China’s intelligence and security agency, is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security. MSS has broad powers in China to conduct espionage both domestically and abroad, the release noted.
The indictment against Xu stated that going back to at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, the Chinese national targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field, including GE Aviation, based in Ohio.
“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “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.”
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin C. Glassman stated, in part: “A Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire [U.S.] hard-earned innovation through theft. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities can not only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators. The defendant will now face trial in federal court in Cincinnati.”
An NBC News report quoted Perry Bradley, a spokesman for GE Aviation, the target of Xu’s espionage, who said the impact was minimal “thanks to early detection, our advanced digital systems and internal processes, and our partnership with the FBI.”
“The case did not involve a hack of GE information systems,” Bradley continued. “No sensitive information relating to military programs was targeted or obtained.”
The Washington Post cited government officials who said Xu’s extradition is apparently the first time a Chinese government spy has been brought to the United States to face charges.