A spy from the Chinese Ministry of State Security was convicted on Friday for attempting to steal trade secrets from General Electric and other US airlines, the Justice Department said.

Yanjun Xu, a 41-year-old Chinese citizen, was the first Chinese intelligence officer ever extradited to the United States for trial, according to federal officials. A federal grand jury found him guilty on all counts, including conspiracy and attempting to commit industrial espionage and attempting to steal trade secrets.

“This was state-sponsored PRC industrial espionage aimed at stealing American technology and making Americans unemployed,” said Alan E. Kohler Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s Defense Department. “This should be a wake-up call to those who doubt the PRC’s true goals; they are stealing American technology to benefit their economy and military.”

Xu was identified as the deputy division head in the Chinese Ministry of State Security. According to court documents, Xu used various aliases dating back to 2013 to steal trade secrets from leading air carriers based in the US and abroad.

The judges found that Xu had attempted to steal information about GE Aviation’s proprietary composite aircraft engine fan. The Justice Department said GE worked closely with the FBI during its investigation.

“This conviction of an intelligence agent with a card for industrial espionage underscores that trade secret theft is an integral part of the government’s plans to modernize its industries,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “But this belief also serves to ensure that the United States will not watch as China or any other nation state tries to steal instead of researching and developing key technologies.”

Federal prosecutors said Xu will try to recruit airline company experts to travel to China, often on the pretext that they have been invited to give a lecture at a university. The spy and his staff offered to cover the travel expenses and pay a grant for the trips.

In March 2017, a GE Aviation employee was invited to a presentation at a Chinese university and introduced to Xu during the trip.


In the following months, Xu asked the employee to provide information on “System Specification, Design Process”, according to the DOJ press release. He also tried to set up a meeting with the representative in Europe and requested information from his PC.

Xu was arrested in Belgium in 2018 and extradited to the United States. He faces a prison sentence of up to 25 years and a fine of more than $ 5 million.