China's extensive espionage revealed: US only started thorough cleanup as of 2018

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 06, 2020, 05.50 PM(IST) Written By: Nikhil Pandey

File photo: US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Be it medical research or military secrets, China's efforts to steal unclassified American technology have long been thought to be extensive and aggressive.

American authorities have initiated an aggressive campaign to root out Chinese espionage operations in the US and have caught a group of Chinese government officials, business people and academics pursuing American State secrets. There is reason to believe that the strength of this group is increasing rapidly as more people align themselves with its cause.

Public records show that in 2019, US authorities arrested and expelled two Chinese diplomats who claimed to have driven onto a military base in Virginia. Caught and jailed were CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency officials due to espionage charges linking them to China.

Also read: Russia expels Japanese journalist in military espionage row

William Barr, US Attorney General with FBI Director Christopher Wray and US Counter-Intelligence Chief William Evanina addressed a conference on the government's efforts to counter Chinese “economic malfeasance” involving espionage and the theft of US scientific and technological secrets.

Be it medical research or military secrets, China's efforts to steal unclassified American technology have long been thought to be extensive and aggressive. That US officials only launched a broad effort to stop alleged Chinese espionage in the United States in 2018 seems to contradict this notion.

73 per cent of the 137 publicly reported instances of Chinese-linked espionage against the United States took place in the last decade alone, as per reports from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The Chinese Embassy in Washington is yet to comment on these revelations.

Also read: Chinese Communist Party presents central threat of our times: Pompeo

Citing data from the think tank, military and commercial technologies are the most common targets for theft, excluding cases of intellectual property litigation and attempts to smuggle munitions or controlled technologies. Out of the 180 investigations into misuse of National Institutes of Health funds, inappropriate sharing of confidential information and more, around 90 per cent of the cases are linked to China.

CSIS experts have postulated that a principal reason for China to invest in such levels of espionage, including extensive hacking in cyberspace, roots from the nation's dependence on Western technology. As legal avenues remain closed, espionage remains a viable option.

Federal prosecutors in Boston announced three new criminal cases involving industrial spying or stealing, including charges against a Harvard professor in January alone.

Harvard's Charles Lieber is accused of lying to the Pentagon and NIH about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan - a Chinese government scheme that offers mainly Chinese scientists working overseas lavish financial incentives to bring their expertise and knowledge back to China. Another accusation levelled against the academic is his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology.

Court documents show that Leiber was a "principal investigator" working on at least six research projects funded by US Defense Department agencies during the time he was signed up with the Chinese university. 

There has been no comment from Leiber or his legal team as of yet.