A former employee at a GE Power plant in New York state stole trade secrets on behalf of the Chinese government, according to a Department of Justice press release.
The agency announced that Xiaoqing Zheng — who worked at GE Power from 2008 to 2018 — worked with others and “conspired to steal GE’s trade secrets surrounding GE’s steam and gas turbine technologies, knowing or intending to benefit the People’s Republic of China and one or more foreign instrumentalities, including China-based companies that research, develop, and manufacture parts for turbines.”
GE Power is owned by General Electric — an S&P 500 company that has links to aviation, health care, and energy. The company had $74.2 billion in revenue last year.
“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,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division explained in the press release. “This is the kind of exploitation of our economy and open society that the Department will continue to counter relentlessly.”
“Today’s verdict holds Xiaoqing Zheng accountable for betraying his employer and trying to help China cheat in the global marketplace,” U.S. Attorney Carla Freedman for the Northern District of New York added. “With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals who connive to steal trade secrets and valuable technology from the innovative companies doing cutting-edge work in our district.”
Corporate espionage is only one facet of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to tap into American technology. Indeed, elite universities are a primary target for the regime.
Last year, Harvard University chemistry and engineering professor Charles Lieber was indicted and charged with making false statements to federal authorities about his participation in the Thousand Talents program — a Chinese-run initiative that seeks to lure American scientists to advance China’s technological development.
The communist government also applies pressure to Chinese students’ behavior to ensure that they are not speaking negatively of their home nation’s regime. In one such incident, the family of Zhihao Kong — a student at Purdue University — was visited by government agents after Kong participated in an online rehearsal commemoration for the Tiananmen Square massacre. Purdue President Mitch Daniels later sent a letter to students, staff, and faculty explaining that administrators had learned about the incident.
“We regret that we were unaware at the time of these events and had to learn of them from national sources,” Daniels wrote. “That reflects the atmosphere of intimidation that we have discovered surrounds this specific sort of speech.”
“Any such intimidation is unacceptable and unwelcome on our campus. Purdue has punished less personal, direct and threatening conduct. Anyone taking exception to the speech in question had their own right to express their disagreement, but not to engage in the actions of harassment which occurred here,” Daniels continued. “If those students who issued the threats can be identified, they will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. Likewise, any student found to have reported another student to any foreign entity for exercising their freedom of speech or belief will be subject to significant sanction.”