On Friday, a federal jury convicted a U.S. citizen working at General Electrics of conspiracy to commit economic espionage and trade theft.
Chinese Economic Espionage
Xiaoqing Zheng worked at General Electric Power & Water in New York from 2008 to 2018. According to the Department of Justice, the 59-year-old engineer used his position in General Electric Power & Water to conspire to steal trade secrets on General Electric’s steam and gas turbine technologies. He did so with the knowledge that he would be benefitting the People’s Republic of China.
“Zheng conspired to steal trade secrets from his employer, GE, and transfer this information to his business partner in China, so they could enrich both themselves and companies receiving support from the PRC government. This is the kind of exploitation of our economy and open society that the Department will continue to counter relentlessly,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in a press release.
Zheng is facing up to 15 years in prison, a fine of $5 million, and a term of supervised release of up to three years. The sentencing should come in the next months.
“Those who conspire to steal technology from a U.S. business and transfer it to China can cause tremendous damage. Good-paying jobs could be lost, and communities can suffer. These actions help China become more of a threat to our national security. This is why the FBI puts so much effort into investigating cases of economic espionage,” Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division stated.
The jury, however, acquitted Zheng on two counts of economic espionage and two counts of trade secret theft.
The trial lasted for four weeks.
“Dr. Zheng used his status as a trusted engineer with GE to conspire to commit economic espionage on behalf of the People’s Republic of China. This conviction should send a strong message that the FBI will continue to vigorously investigate economic espionage cases and pursue prosecution in partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office to ensure the protection of American technology and American jobs,” Special Agent in Charge Janeen DiGuiseppi of the FBI’s Albany Field Office said.
By Whatever Means
The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to surpass the U.S. in every sector. To do so, Beijing is applying a whole-of-country approach, using a mix of military, business, intelligence, and academic efforts.
Indicative of the Chinese intelligence operations in the U.S. is the number of open cases. The FBI opens a new counterintelligence investigation related to Chinese activities every 10 hours, with more than 2,000 active cases. The vast majority of these investigations concern economic espionage, which has seen a 1,300% increase in the last few years.
And Chinese economic espionage is having a devasting effect on the U.S. economy and business. According to the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), Beijing’s economic espionage costs the U.S. between $200 billion and $600 billion a year in stolen intellectual property. And this has been going on for at least 20 years, meaning that China has stolen anywhere from $4 trillion to $12 trillion.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.