Yanjun Xu, a Chinese Ministry of State Security spy, was found guilty of acquiring trade secrets from American aircraft companies and GE. As far back as 2013, Xu utilized aliases to try to steal intellectual technology. He is the first Chinese intelligence official to be convicted in the United States. Xu is charged with impersonating a researcher to get knowledge on GE Aviation’s composite aircraft engine fan.
Xu is one of 11 Chinese nationals charged with stealing technology from GE Aviation and the Safran Group in a five-year pilot. For each of the counts, he could face up to 15 years in jail. In April 2018, Xu was detained in Belgium and extradited to the United States in October to stand prosecution. According to the Justice Department at the time, a Chinese state-owned aerospace business was attempting to create an engine for use in Chinese-made aircraft.
According to an FBI officer, China’s state-sponsored economic espionage is intended to steal American technology and throw Americans out of work. “This should be a wake-up call for anyone who questions the PRC’s true aims,” says Alan E. Kohler Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
In March 2017, Xu pressured a GE Aviation employee for specific information, resulting in his arrest in Belgium and extradition to the US. According to the Justice Department, Xu’s conviction demonstrates that the US is serious about preventing China from stealing American industrial secrets.
Trade secret theft is critical to the People’s Republic of China’s ambitions to develop its industries, said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen. The conviction also sends a message to China and other countries that the US would not stand by while they steal. Hopefully, these developments will alert more companies to China’s activities.