Mar 8, 2019 - World

1 big read: Cracking a Chinese spy case

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In October, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment of Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative Yanjun Xu for allegedly attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies.

What's happening: Xu is awaiting trial in U.S. custody, after he had been lured to Belgium, arrested, and then extradited to the U.S. One of his targets was reportedly GE Aviation, and this week local Cincinnati WCPO provided new details on the case in their report...

On May 25, 2017, the 41-year-old engineer loaded five GE Aviation documents to the hard drive of his personal laptop, then drove from Cincinnati to Detroit, where he boarded a flight to China...
WCPO is not naming the engineer because he has not been charged with a crime. He has not responded to our requests for comment...
What follows is the most detailed public chronology of the events leading to Xu's arrest, events that shed new light on how brazenly China shops for America's corporate secrets and the kind of effort required to keep these alleged spies from ringing up a sale.

Why it matters: Xi's exhortations to achieve "self-reliance" and "control core technologies" increase the pressure on the PRC bureaucracy to work even harder to obtain those core technologies by any means necessary.

The other side: At the same time, the DOJ under Trump has more aggressively publicized these cases and for the first time extradited a serving MSS operative to the U.S. Regardless of what happens with the trade negotiations, this is an area where U.S.-China tensions look set to increase markedly.

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