High-ranking Chinese operative charged with economic espionage, theft of trade secrets

The US is intensifying its push to repress Chinese espionage efforts. A high-level Chinese intelligence officer from China’s major spy agency, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), was arrested in Belgium in April on charges of economic espionage and theft of trade secrets. He was extradited to the United States and will face trial in Cincinnati, announced the US Department of Justice last week.

Allegedly responsible for China’s state hacking operations, Yanjun Xu is a high-ranking director with the MSS’s Jiangsu State Security Department, Sixth Bureau, the agency responsible for foreign and domestic espionage operations. He is accused of stealing trade secrets from top companies in aviation and aerospace in the US. For example, he allegedly showed special interest in GE Aviation’s “system specification, design process,” writes The New York Times.

Since as early as December 2013, the operative had been targeting certain key companies and tricked experts from these companies into going to China, all expenses paid, by claiming they would hold presentations at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Xu would still communicate with the individuals following their return to the US.

According to Assistant Attorney General Demers, the case “is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense.”

“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Assistant Director Priestap.

According to the Washington Post, China responded that the accusations against Xu were “made out of thin air.”

Hacking charges were not brought against Xu, but sources claim the security industry is concerned that the arrest of a senior officer could trigger an increase in attacks from Chinese hackers.

More details on the method used to capture him can be read in the New York Times.

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