An intelligence officer of the Chinese Communist Party earned himself a 20 year sentence in a United States prison after being convicted of stealing trade secrets from America’s aviation industry.
Xu Yanjun was convicted by a Cincinnati court in November of 2021 for activities conducted during his role as a Deputy Division Director of the CCP’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).
In playing out his machinations, Xu used aliases such as Qu Hui and Zhang Hui while representing himself as an associate of the Jiangsu Science and Technology Promotion Association while targeting companies such as GE Aviation, a division of General Electric.
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Xu would invite his marks to mainland China under the pretext of idea exchange or to give presentations.
The method was successful enough that one GE Aviation engineer actually presented cutting edge engine schematics to attendees at a Chinese university in 2017.
Aviation industry magazine Simple Flying explained in a Nov. 18 piece that in specific, the CCP sought to obtain details on a class of materials called ceramic matrix composites (CMC), described as “twice as durable as conventional materials yet one-third of the weight.”
The compounds were so valuable that General Electric had sunk at least $5 billion into research and development to produce them.
According to a Nov. 16 Department of Justice Press Release on the sentencing of the now-42-year-old MSS agent, the plan had been underway since at least 2013 and had the formal backing of the regime.
“The scheme was executed with full coordination between the MSS and China’s aviation entities. Xu worked with others in the MSS to hack or copy computers in hotel rooms while the aviation employees – his ‘guests’ – were taken to dinner by the MSS,” the note read.
According to the missive, Xu was caught red handed when in January of 2018 the the FBI and GE Aviation used the same employee to execute a sting wherein “the employee emailed a two-page document from the company that included a label that warned about the disclosure of proprietary information.”
Xu arranged in February to meet with his mole in Belgium in April. After Xu traveled to Belgium complete with cash and a photo of his mark in hand, he was arrested at the airport and extradited to the United States with the blessing of Belgium authorities.
The agent was also a handler. In a related case referenced in the DOJ’s report, Ji Chaoqun was likewise convicted of crimes committed while serving as Xu’s subordinate.
Ji was originally a Chinese student living in Chicago, who was formally registered as a MSS agent by Xu in 2014.
Ji not only attempted to recruit targets provided by Xu, but even joined the United States Army under a program that allowed legal aliens with skills such as language fluency to join.
“Ji reported to an undercover FBI agent that he had access to all military bases with his military ID and volunteered, without prompting, to take pictures of aircraft carriers for the MSS,” the Release stated.