GE Aviation finds itself at the epicenter of China-United State espionage thriller. A Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative was arrested in Belgium, extradited to the United States and charged with attempting to steal industrial secrets from American aerospace companies, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said on October 10, 2018.

Yanjun Xu, also known as Qu Hui or Zhang Hui, was arrested on April 1, 2018, in Belgium and extradited on October 9, 2018, to the United States, where he was charged with "attempting economic espionage," according to the official statement from the DOJ.

Starting from 2013 until his arrest, the agent is accused of having stolen “trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies”, including the engine manufacturer General Electric Aviation. He would have identified experts employed by these companies and would have attracted them to China under the pretext of university lectures.

“This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense," said Assistant Attorney for National Security John Demers, adding “we cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower.  We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow”.

Yanjun Xu should be judged in Cincinnati, Ohio, where GE Aviation's headquarters are located, and risks up to 15 years in prison on charges of conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage.

In September 2018, another Chinese citizen named Ji Chaoqun was arrested in Chicago on similar charges. The FBI found out that the man tried collecting informations on eight US citizens, all scientists and engineers born in Taiwan or China. Some of them were working for Defense companies. US authorities suspect that the Chinese government tried to acquired confidential documents through those eight people. Ji Chaoqun risks a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.