Benjamin Glassman, U.S. attorney for Ohio's southern district, said no military information was targeted, but any attempt by other countries to "grow companies at America's expense" is considered a threat to national security. He reportedly tried to steal trade secrets from GE Aviation. "But we can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of OH said at a press conference Wednesday that Xu would invite the employees to travel to China for a so-called exchange of ideas and would offer to pay for their travel.
On September 26 the USA charged electrical engineer Ji Chaoqun with knowingly acting as an agent of China, due to his contacts with an unnamed "high-level intelligence officer" from the Jiangsu State Security Department.
John Demers, the assistant U.S. attorney general for national security, said the case was not an isolated incident.
Beginning in 2013 and continuing through his arrest in April, Mr. Xu recruited the executives to travel to China under the guise of delivering a presentation on their companies' technology at a top Chinese university, even paying travel costs and a stipend, officials said.
The charges come at a time of raised tension between the United States and China. "We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow".
Ohio-based aircraft engine giant GE Aviation was identified as one of the targets of the alleged operation.
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Assistant director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, Bill Priestap, said the "unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government's direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States".
The MSS is a civilian spy agency responsible for counterintelligence, foreign intelligence and domestic political security.
The extradition comes amid USA suspicion of Chinese intelligence gathering campaigns against the U.S.as well as an escalating trade war between the two countries. The employee, under Xu's directions, downloaded company materials and traveled to Belgium in April to pass that data to Xu, the indictment alleges. The indictment and complaint were unsealed Wednesday - the same day that Xu appeared in federal court in Cincinnati.
Demers said the case was a "significant economic espionage matter" and was the latest proof that China is trying to steal information from American companies.
A spokesperson for GE Aviation told The Associated Press that the company has been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for months and that the impact to the company is "minimal thanks to early detection, our advanced digital systems and internal processes, and our partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation". It also said he made contact with experts working for the firms and recruited them to travel to China, often for the initial objective of delivering a university presentation and paying their costs and a stipend.
Xu could face a maximum sentence of 15 years for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage, and an additional maximum sentence of 10 years for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets.