A brief history of Chinese-American espionage entanglements

Since the institution of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, intelligence providers in each Beijing and Washington have vied to uncover secrets and techniques in each other’s international locations, and to safeguard their very own secrets and techniques, in pursuit of navy, financial, and technological benefit. Many bona fide spies on either side have been caught; many innocents have been unfairly implicated. What follows is a brief history of key occasions on this battle.

Qian Xuesen



Qian Xuesen, co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and professor at Caltech, is stripped of his safety clearance for alleged connection to the communist celebration. Qian, who had questioned Nazi rocket scientists on behalf of the united statesgovernment after World War II and labored on the Manhattan challenge, resigns from Caltech and asks to depart the US for China, at which level he’s held beneath home arrest for 5 years. In 1955 the US deports him and Qian is greeted as a hero in China and goes on to change into the daddy of Chinese rocketry, serving to jumpstart China’s area and missile packages. No substantive proof has ever been launched that he was a Chinese spy. Deporting Qian was “the stupidest thing the country ever did” in keeping with Dan Kimball, Undersecretary of the Navy on the time of Qian’s arrest.

Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping shakes arms with President Jimmy Carter on the White House.


January 1 1979

The United States normalizes diplomatic relations with China. Three years later there have been already 10,000 Chinese college students within the U.S. and the FBI started directing discipline places of work to recruit college students for counterintelligence operations.

October 11 1996

Congress passes the Economic Espionage Act, which makes stealing commerce secrets and techniques both for the profit of a overseas energy or with the intent of damaging the corporate, a federal crime.

Protesters carry portraits of Chinese journalists killed in NATO’s bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, throughout an illustration outdoors the U.S. Consulate in in southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou.


May 7 1999

US bombers destroy the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia, killing 3 Chinese journalists. US authorities investigations discover the incident to be an accident, a declare the Chinese authorities rejects.

September 13 2000

Wen Ho Lee, an American citizen born in Taiwan, pleads responsible to 1 depend of illegally possessing authorities information associated to nationwide safety and is launched for time served. The authorities’s case alleging Lee as an excellent spy who helped China develop a next-generation nuclear warhead collapsed and the decide overseeing Lee’s case apologizes for the best way Lee was handled (together with solitary confinement). Though many of Lee’s actions stay mysterious, few suspect he was ever a Chinese spy. Lee received a $1.6 million settlement from the federal government and several other information organizations for leaking and publishing his identify earlier than he was formally charged. The supposed mole who stole nuclear secrets and techniques has by no means been discovered.

December 11 2001

China joins the World Trade Organization, agreeing to stick to multilateral guidelines enforced by supranational arbitration panels. The settlement was heralded as China absolutely getting into the worldwide order.

October 28 2005

Chi Mak, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in China, is arrested after his brother was stopped at Los Angeles International Airport carrying encrypted disks containing info from Chi. In March 2008 Chi Mak is discovered responsible and sentenced to 24 years in jail for conspiring to export navy expertise to China, amongst different crimes. The prosecution argued that Chi was a sleeper agent when he got here to the U.S. within the Nineteen Seventies and labored his method up as an engineer at a protection contractor. Many of the alleged secrets and techniques weren’t revealed however Mak is believed to have handed intelligence associated to quieting submarine propulsion to keep away from detection.

February 8 2010

Dongfan “Greg” Chun is the primary particular person convicted beneath the Economic Espionage Act and sentenced to fifteen years in jail. Starting within the Nineteen Seventies Chun handed categorised info on the B-1 bomber, F-15 fighter jet, the Chinook helicopter, US Space Shuttle program, and Delta V rocket whereas working for Rockwell and, later, Boeing. Chun, who was discovered to have made hundreds of thousands of {dollars} promoting secrets and techniques to China, claimed he was merely a pack rat hoarding categorised paperwork.


China unravels the CIA’s community of spies within the nation and executes over 20 individuals for espionage. While a mole could have performed a job, a Yahoo! News investigation later claims that the CIA’s poorly secured communications community was doubtless hacked by the Iranians and later traded to China.

The laptop computer, thumb drives, cell telephones, and different objects confiscated from Wengfeng Lu throughout his 2012 arrest as he tried to board a airplane to China.


November 2012

Wengfeng Lu is arrested earlier than boarding a airplane to China the place he deliberate to begin an organization that mimics medical system expertise he stole from two earlier employers. In January 2019 he’s sentenced to 27 months in jail.


December 2013

Mo Hailong, a Chinese nationwide working within the US, is arrested for conspiring to steal commerce secrets and techniques: proprietary seeds made by Dupont Pioneer and Monsanto. He is ultimately sentenced to three years in jail.

May 19 2014

The U.S. Justice Department broadcasts the indictment of 5 Chinese troopers, half of Unit 61398, with hacking into U.S. firms’ networks to help competing Chinese state-owned firms. The troopers have been accused of stealing mental property, enterprise plans, and negotiation methods from firms corresponding to Westinghouse and U.S. Steel.

June 28 2014

Su Bin, a Chinese nationwide who ran an aerospace firm in Canada, is arrested in Canada on behalf of the US authorities for serving to two Chinese troopers steal info on the C-17 cargo airplane and F-22 and F-35 fighter jets. Su Bin ultimately is extradited to the United States and pleads responsible to participating within the hacking operations from 2008 to 2014 and sentenced to 46 months in jail. The Chinese cargo airplane Xian Y-20 unveiled in 2014 shows a exceptional resemblance to the C-17.

September 5 2014

T-Mobile information a lawsuit in opposition to Huawei alleging their staff stole software program and {hardware} from a T-Mobile lab, together with a chunk of a robotic hand, that was used to check smartphones. In 2017 a jury finds Huawei responsible of “misappropriation” of commerce secrets and techniques however says the theft wasn’t directed by Huawei. They order Huawei to pay $4.8 million for breach of contract. In 2019 the U.S. Justice Department prices Huawei with purposefully stealing commerce secrets and techniques from T-Mobile and produces emails exhibiting Huawei provided staff bonuses for stealing tech from different firms.

October 20 2014

Sherry Chen, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service, is arrested for allegedly stealing secrets and techniques about U.S. dams and hiding contacts with Chinese authorities officers. Five months later all prices are dropped in opposition to Chen, who was born in China however grew to become an American citizen. Chen had met with a Chinese authorities official to assist a good friend in China along with his enterprise, and had despatched just a few emails to the identical official answering a query about how dams have been funded within the U.S.

Dr Xiaoxing Xi and Sherry Chen at a press convention in Washington DC on Sept 16, 2015.


May 21 2015

FBI brokers raid the home of Xi Xiaoxing, chair of Temple University’s physics division, for allegedly sending to China schematics of a pocket heater, a key piece of expertise utilized in superconductor analysis. By September, the Justice Department drops all prices after it was revealed that the FBI had mistakenly recognized the schematics as a pocket heater, when, in truth, it was a wholly totally different system that Xi had invented. Xi is now suing the lead FBI agent.

June 4 2015

The Office of Personnel Management broadcasts an enormous safety breach that ultimately is proven to have an effect on over 20 million individuals who had undergone background checks for federal jobs since 2000. These information included delicate info like psychiatric history in addition to over 5 million units of fingerprints. Chinese navy unit 61938 is suspected of conducting the hack. The information are extremely worthwhile to the Chinese as a database of authorities staff to focus on as informants, aided by the delicate info on these staff.

June 2017

Ex-CIA officer Kevin Mallory is arrested for passing categorised supplies to Chinese intelligence brokers utilizing a cellular phone given to him throughout a visit to Shanghai. Mallory, who volunteered some info to FBI and CIA brokers earlier than being arrested, claimed to be a double agent serving to the U.S. authorities, however after the FBI cracked his cellphone he was proven to have hidden info. Mallory, who was behind on his mortgage and in debt, acquired $25,000 from the Chinese. In June 2018 a jury finds him responsible of espionage and he’s later sentenced to twenty years in jail.

January 2018

Ex-CIA agent Jerry Chun Shing Lee is arrested at JFK airport and charged with giving Chinese brokers categorised info from his days on the CIA, together with the actual names and areas of belongings in China. In May 2019 Lee pleads responsible to receiving a whole lot of 1000’s of {dollars} in alternate for info and is sentenced to 19 years in jail. Prosecutors argued Lee’s info helped dismantle the CIA’s China community in 2010.

June 2018

Ron Rockwell Hansen, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, is arrested at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport carrying categorised details about navy readiness plans. In March 2019 Hansen pleads responsible and admits to agreeing to move navy secrets and techniques to Chinese brokers in alternate for a whole lot of 1000’s of {dollars}. He is later sentenced to a lowered 10 years in jail as a result of he cooperated with the FBI after his arrest.

October 10 2018

Yanjun Xu, an intelligence officer for the Chinese Ministry of State Security is arrested in Belgium and extradited to the United States for trying to steal jet fan blade designs from GE. The FBI had lured him to Belgium to choose up the knowledge.

February 14 2019

You Xiaorong, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is charged with stealing analysis on BPA-free coatings for bottles from her employer, Coca-Cola. The Justice Department alleges You was aspiring to arrange a competing agency in China to duplicate the supplies. The case is ongoing.


April 2019

MD Anderson Cancer Center fires three senior researchers after the National Institutes of Health flags them for failing to reveal overseas ties. All the researchers flagged we Asian, once more elevating considerations the FBI is concentrating on Asian-Americans.

May 15 2019

President Trump points an govt order successfully banning U.S. firms from promoting gear to Huawei as a result of it poses a threat to nationwide safety.

Harvard University professor Charles Lieber is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston.


Jan 28 2020

Charles Lieber, head of Harvard University’s chemistry division, is charged with mendacity about receiving cash from the Chinese authorities whereas receiving $15 million in grants from US companies. A pioneer in nanotechnology, Lieber is the best profile educational to be arrested in reference to Chinese-American technological rivalry .

July 24 2020

The Trump administration orders the closure of China’s consulate in Houston, “in order to protect American intellectual property and American’s (sic) private information,” alleging that the consulate was getting used to coordinate industrial espionage in opposition to the US. China closes the American consulate in Chengdu in retaliation.

Alexander Holt is a author in Washington, DC.

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