US Arrests Alleged Chinese Spy

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The US authorities have arrested and charged an alleged officer in China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) with trying to steal aviation secrets from American firms, in a move likely to enrage Beijing.

The charges were announced on Wednesday and reveal the alleged intelligence officer as Yanjun Xu (aka Qu Hui, aka Zhang Hui), a deputy division director with the MSS Jiangsu State Security Department, Sixth Bureau.

They claim that from at least December 2013 until his eventual arrest in Belgium, Xu targeted experts working at US aviation firms including GE Aviation. He recruited them to travel to China, often under the pretense of giving a university presentation, before paying travel costs and stipends.

The individuals were then allegedly asked to provide blueprints and other materials, which were handed over to engineers at a leading Chinese university.

“Innovation in aviation has been a hallmark of life and industry in the United States since the Wright brothers first designed gliders in Dayton more than a century ago,” said US attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Benjamin Glassman

“US aerospace companies invest decades of time and billions of dollars in research. This is the American way. In contrast, according to the indictment, a Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire that same, hard-earned innovation through theft. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities can not only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators.”

The arrest of a Chinese intelligence officer is unprecedented: the US has indicted PLA officers in the past for allegedly hacking American companies, but that’s where it ended, as the individuals reside in China.

The latest move will do little to calm boiling tensions between the two superpowers, which are involved in a de facto trade war, amidst widely disputed reports that Chinese spies have infiltrated the supply chain for server components in a major espionage campaign against government and corporate targets.

If the news is true, it would seem to sound the death knell for an agreement between former President Obama and Xi Jinping in which China agreed to cease economic cyber-espionage.

Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of CrowdStrike, confirmed China's re-emergence as the world's most prolific cyber-espionage actor.

"From a cyber perspective, China is actively engaging in targeted and persistent intrusion attempts against multiple sectors of the economy, including biotech, defense, mining, pharmaceutical, professional services, transportation, and more. Currently, the MSS is the primary government agency engaged in the majority of cyber-attacks ... CrowdStrike has observed multiple intrusions demonstrating their sophisticated tradecraft," he explained.

"We believe China poses a long-term and strategic threat to the global economy, and today’s arrest of a senior MSS officer responsible for industrial espionage is an important deterrence tool in keeping the perpetrators accountable.”

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