A Chinese Operative Was Extradited to the U.S. for Attempted Theft of Trade Secrets—a National First

October 11, 2018, 5:04 PM UTC
Justice Department
Assistant U.S. Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers speaks during a news conference October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong—Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice extradited a Chinese spy on Tuesday, one of the first cases where a foreign indictment of economic espionage against a Chinese operative will result in an American trial.

Yanjun Xu (also known as Qu Hui or Zhang Hui) was charged with attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets, specifically targeting U.S. aviation corporations. He was arrested in Belgium in April, according to the Department of Justice, and brought to the United States this week to face trial in Cincinnati.

As an operative for the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), China’s intelligence and security agency, Xu attempted to recruit corporate insiders at major aviation companies, The Washington Post reports. Since at least December 2013, Xu has been targeting experts from companies such as GE Aviation, inviting them to China with the impression they’d deliver a university presentation.

“This case is not an isolated incident,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, in a statement. “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.”

Xu’s charges were released Wednesday, following his extradition. The move came just before White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow says President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping may meet next month to reach an compromise in the ongoing trade war.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence accused China of trying to orchestrate “the wholesale theft of American technology,” NPR reports.