June 23, 2023: Top intelligence and law enforcement officials in Washington warn American firms that the Chinese state wants to replace you.
That message comes in a new documentary, “China’s Corporate Spy War,” which details the increasing complexity of Beijing’s efforts to steal sensitive U.S. technology and corporate information.
For years, corporate America essentially saw theft by the Chinese government and state-run companies as an attempt to catch up with advanced U.S. technology. But officials now say the effort is more nefarious than generally understood, viewing an adversary that wants to eliminate the American companies they are targeting, not just narrow the gap between Chinese firms and their U.S. competition.
Asked whether the Chinese government wants to compete with or eliminate American companies, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “Well, their definition of competing, I think, involves embracing the idea of eliminating.”
In an interview, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned that U.S. companies are “committing long-term suicide” by doing business with China and risking their high-technology trade secrets.
“I think every major American corporation in any of these fields needs to assume that they are a target to be either replaced or gutted,” Rubio said.
His Democrat counterpart on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., admitted in an interview with CNBC that he brought an approach to China that has turned out to be wrong.
“I was part of the more consensus:, the more you bring China in the [World Trade Organization] … everything’s going to come along,” Warner said. “And that presumption that we were all working on, that the closer we all come together, it’s going to be kumbaya, I think, has proven to be factually wrong.”
“China’s Corporate Spy War” details an FBI sting operation that took down Chinese Ministry of State Security officer Xu Yanjun, a spy who targeted employees at icons of the U.S. aerospace industry, including GE, Boeing, and Honeywell.
In 2017, Xu Yanjun pursued an engineer at GE Aviation with valuable knowledge of the company’s jet engine composite fan blade technology. Posing as an academic official and using a fake name, Xu was introduced to the GE engineer who was visiting Nanjing, China, to give a speech at a prestigious university. Xu began a pressure campaign to get the engineer, who had family in China, to reveal more and more information about the engine tech the Chinese government had targeted.
But the FBI discovered the GE engineer’s travel and alerted GE, which confronted the engineer in a dramatic meeting at the company’s Cincinnati offices. FBI agents presented the engineer with a stark choice: He could face the consequences for his actions so far or cooperate with U.S. law enforcement in an operation to expose the Chinese process.