U.S. aims to halt all-out China’s espionage theft of tech

02.07.2020.

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The Trump administration has stepped up efforts to stop China’s extensive espionage operations in the United States.

The administration’s efforts thus far have ensnared a growing group of Chinese government officials, business people, and academics who were caught pursuing American secrets.

One main reason Chinese espionage, including extensive hacking in cyberspace, has expanded is that “China depends on Western technology and as licit avenues are closed, they turn to espionage to get access,” said James Lewis, a Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) analyst.

GeostrategyDirect.com reported on Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice arrested Harvard nanoscientist Dr. Charles Lieber for allegedly collaborating with researchers in China. A Chinese military officer linked to Lieber was also indicted but was able to flee to China before being apprehended.

Nick Eftimiades, a former U.S. counterintelligence official, said of the Lieber case: “The primary issues of concern are China using U.S. research paid for by the federal government and using it to build its own research capabilities in an area (nanoscience) that has thousands of military applications.”

Related: Nanotech research tied to Wuhan University involved Harvard professor, PLA officer, February 4, 2020

In 2019 alone, public records show U.S. authorities arrested and expelled two Chinese diplomats who allegedly drove onto a military base in Virginia. They also caught and jailed former CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency officials on espionage charges linked to China.

While previous U.S. administrations had long been aware of China’s efforts to steal American technology, ranging from military secrets to medical research, U.S. officials only launched a broad effort to stop Chinese espionage under President Donald Trump in 2018.

U.S. counterintelligence chief William Evanina said “the theft of American trade secrets by China costs our nation anywhere from $300 to $600 billion in a year.”

Of 137 publicly reported instances of Chinese-linked espionage against the United States since 2000, 73 percent took place in the last decade, according to CSIS. The think-tank’s data, which excludes cases of intellectual property litigation and attempts to smuggle munitions or controlled technologies, shows that military and commercial technologies are the most common targets for theft.

In the area of medical research, of 180 investigations into misuse of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds, diversion of research intellectual property and inappropriate sharing of confidential information, more than 90 percent of the cases have links to China, according to an NIH spokeswoman.