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Katrina Leung
John Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, “These days, it seems, not a month goes by without an intelligence case involving alleged Chinese spies stealing American industrial secrets, or reports that China tried to pay an American to join the CIA, or Chinese hackers (perhaps from the government) breaking into the Gmail accounts of U.S. officials and human rights activists. Move over U.S.S.R., China is America’s espionage enemy No. 1. [Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, June 24, 2011]

According to a 2009 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, “China is the most aggressive country conducting espionage against the United States,” adding the that Chinese spying was “growing in scale, intensity and sophistication.” Beijing called the accusations “baseless, unwarranted and irresponsible....a Cold war fantasy.”

In November 2007, a U.S. Congress advisory panel said Chinese spying in the United States was the “No. 1 threat” to U.S. technology and called for a step up of counterintelligence activity. The warning, which stated that the Chinese spy to attain new technology “without investing time or money to perform research,” was directed as much towards the American business and industrial community as it was towards the military The Chinese government said the report was “misleading” and “insulting.”

According to French writer Roger Faligot, author of The Chinese Secret Service from Mao to the Olympics and 40 other intelligence related book, more than 2 million people work directly or indirectly for the Chinese intelligence services.

The FBI now regards China as the U.S.’s top spy threat. Among the secrets the Chinese are believed have stolen are neutron bomb designs, data on certain precise small-scale explosions, technical data on explosive used in nuclear weapons, guidance systems used in missiles, electromagnetic weapons for attacks on satellites and radar secrets on detecting submarines.

The Cox Report---named after Christopher Cox, a Republic congressman from California---concluded that over a 20 year period Chinese spies had stolen vital secretes on missiles and nuclear weapons from American weapons laboratories. China the report asserted "has stolen classified information on all of the United States's most advanced thermonuclear warheads." Wolfgang Panofsky, an expert in the Chinese military at Harvard, found the Cox report to be "so full of false assumptions, unsubstantiated claims and errors that it could not be a useful reference for anyone studying the Chinese military."

Book: Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War with China by David Wise (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 292 pp. $28). John Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, “The author of bestsellers on spies and counterspies, Wise is a master of page-turning nonfiction, and from that perspective “Tiger Trap” doesn’t disappoint. Wise has written an important book about the spy-vs.-spy games that are guaranteed to capture the imagination of the next generation of espionage aficionados. One can only hope someday to hear the Chinese side of the tale."


Chinese Spies in the United States

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J.J. Smith, caught in Leung's
Tiger Trap
The father of China's missile program Qian Xuesen was born in Shanghai and came to the United States during the Japanese occupation of China. He studied at M.I.T. and earned a doctorate at Cal Tech before taking a job at Cal Tech's Jet Propulsion Lab. In 1955 he was fired on suspicion of stealing secrets. He was invited to Beijing and took up the offer. It was never clear whether he actually stole secrets.

The Chinese government employs a diverse network of professional spies, students, scientists and hackers to systematically collect data that the Chinese government deems valuable. While military targets are the most valuable, commercial and industrial targets are also highly sought after. One intelligence analyst told the Washington Post, “Espionage used be a problem for the FBI, CIA and military, but now it’s a problem for corporations. It’s no longer a cloak-and-dagger thing. It’s about computer architecture and the soundness of electronics systems.”

China sends a lot of people to the United States to pick up trade and business secrets by visiting plants and talking to professionals and business leaders. According to Newsweek, China also "targets the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students, scientists and entrepreneurs living in the United States as part of a nationwide technology collection effort...Chinese consular officers in the U.S. maintain a computerized list of "Persons with Talent" outstanding Chinese students in science and technology studying at American universities. Each is contacted by a Chinese government official and encouraged to cooperate. Most don't...Often, the 'recruits' who do help out are unaware that are being asked to spy."

The FBI is actively seeking out Chinese spies, particularly on university campuses and in communities with large Asian populations. It has sent warnings to professors at MIT, Boston College and other universities, given them “espionage indicators” to help them identify foreign agents. It has also taken out advertisements in Chinese-language American newspapers, seeking information on Beijing-sponsored campaigns. One ad read: “We should like to talk t individual who have information about foreign intelligence service that would intend to harm our country, We especially welcome anyone who has information abut the Chinese [government] or State Security.”

"Some of today's 'agents' aren't really spies at all, but patriotic graduate students casually passing on tidbits they pick up during summer internship, or loquacious researchers talking a bit too freely at an academy conference. A lot of the information they impart isn't classified, but public---research papers, journal articles, websites.”

Chinese Spying in the United States

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Weh Ho Lee
ultimately found innocent
Among the military secrets obtained by China from the United States by espionage are: 1) classified US nuclear weapons information that probably accelerated China’s program to develop nuclear weapons by allowing the Chinese to focus successful designs and avoid less promising approaches to nuclear weapon designs; 2) basic design information on several modern US nuclear re-entry vehicles, including the Trident II (W88); 3) information on a variety of US weapon design concepts and weaponization features, including those of the neutron bomb. [Source: Dan Verton, The Jamestown Foundation, Asia Times, July 22, 2008]

It is not known completely how the weapons information was obtained. For example, we do not know whether any weapon design documentation or blueprints were acquired. It is believed that it is more likely that the Chinese used U.S. design information to improve their own program rather than to replicate US weapon designs. [Ibid]

China has unprecedented access to American academic institutions and industry. At any given time there are more than 100,000 PRC nationals in the United States attending universities and working throughout US industries. [Ibid]

There are few professional PRC intelligence operatives actively working on collecting US technology secrets compared to the number of PRC civilians who are actively recruited (either by appealing to their sense of patriotism or through other more coercive means) to routinely gather technology secrets and deliver those secrets to the PRC. [Ibid]

The Insider: A True Story and Black Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyber-Terrorism by Dan Verton (McGraw-Hill, 2003). He can be contacted at

Beijing's 16-Character Military-Industrial Policy

Nowhere is the nexus of the military-industrial complex in the PRC more evident than in the codification of the 1997 “16-character policy”, which makes it official PRC policy to deliberately intertwine state-run and commercial organizations. In their literal translation, the 16 characters mean as follows: A) Jun-min jiehe (Combine the military and civil); B) Ping-zhan jiehe (Combine peace and war); C) Jun-pin youxian (Give priority to military products); and D) Yi min yan jun (Let the civil support the military). [Source: Dan Verton, The Jamestown Foundation, Asia Times, July 22, 2008]

The 16-character policy provides commercial cover for military industrial companies to acquire dual-use technology through purchase or joint-venture business dealings, and provide cover for spies sent to the United States and other countries as employees of commercial parts of tehse enterprises. [Ibid]

The two primary PRC organizations involved in actively collecting US technological secrets are the Ministry of State Security (MSS) and the Military Intelligence Department (MID) of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The MSS, now headed by Minister Geng Huichang, relies on professionals, such as research scientists and others employed outside of intelligence circles, to collect information of intelligence value. In fact, some research organizations and other non-intelligence arms of the PRC government direct their own autonomous collection programs. [Ibid]

According to F.B.I. estimates, there are currently more than 3,000 corporations operating in the United States that have ties to the PRC and its government technology collection program. Many are US-based subsidiaries of Chinese-owned companies; while in the past they were relatively easy to identify, recent studies indicate that many have changed their names in an effort to distance themselves from their PRC owners. [Ibid]

China's Red Spider's Web

Recent cases investigated by the FBI have involved entire families of naturalized American citizens from China, prompting the bureau to take out a Chinese-language advertisement in San Francisco Bay area newspapers urging Chinese Americans to report suspicious activity. [Source: Dan Verton, The Jamestown Foundation, Asia Times, July 22, 2008]

China has clearly taken a long-term view of espionage against the US technology industry, handling some agents for decades. For example, Dongfan “Greg” Chung, a former Boeing engineer who now stands accused of giving China proprietary information about several US aerospace programs, including the space shuttle, was first approached with intelligence collection requirements in 1979. He collected data until he was arrested on February 2008. [Ibid]

Many PRC domestic intelligence activities are directed against foreign businessmen or technical experts. The data elicited from unsuspecting persons or collected by technical surveillance means is used by Chinese state-run or private enterprises. Prominent Beijing hotels, such as the Palace Hotel, the Great Wall Hotel and the Xiang Shan Hotel, are known to monitor the activities of their clientele. [Ibid]

Chinese government-owned companies have stolen the intellectual property of US companies by using the corporate equivalent of sleeper cells - foreign executives hired by US companies on work visas, as well as naturalized American citizens who then establish US companies for the purpose of gaining access to the proprietary data of other US firms. [Ibid]

Pressured Chinese Spies and Sleeper Cells

In 1993 involved a man named Bin Wu, was convicted of transferring restricted night vision technologies developed in the United States to his MSS superiors in China. Wu, a pro-Western professor who once taught in China, had been given the option by the MSS of either helping them acquire sensitive technologies or going to jail for supporting the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989. He chose freedom and was instructed to travel to the United States and establish himself as a legitimate businessman. Wu founded several front companies in the Norfolk, Virginia, area. He then actively solicited information from various US companies and made many outright purchases of advanced technologies, including night vision equipment. The technologies were then shipped to the PRC. [Ibid]

U.S. investigations found that Wu was part of a much larger community of PRC sleeper cells. Many were not professional spies. Rather, they were simply business professionals or academics who were managed by MSS agents and given collection requirements based largely on the US military critical technology list. In fact, during the 1990s these sleeper cells were used to establish front companies that would eventually target the Aegis missile system. In particular, the PRC seems to have been interested in acquiring the proprietary software that formed the basis of the command and control system for the Aegis. [Ibid]

Clandestine Acquisition of American Weapons Technology

The Chinese military reportedly has a huge organization in the U.S. whose objective is to purchase high technology with military applications from American companies. Even though there has been an embargo on the sale of weapons technology to China since Tiananmen Square in 1989, the Chinese have managed to get their hands on optical tubes which can be used in night vision scopes for tanks, oscilloscopes used in nuclear-weapons simulations, jet engines for cruise missiles, super computers and advanced software and telecommunications equipment used by military command posts. [Source: Newsweek, April 21, 1997]

In the 1980s, the FBI identified China as "the most active foreign power engaged in illegal acquisition of American technology. One U.S. government official told Newsweek, "Beijing aims to modernize its armed forces by surreptitiously acquiring state-of -the art American technology."

Silicon Valley has been called the East Berlin of the post-Cold-War era. One diplomat told Newsweek, "China has set up hundreds of front companies in Silicon Valley and "they have hundreds of people in those companies."

China gained sensitive missile technology through the launching of an American satellite. When Chinese rockets crashed and burned in 1995 and 1996, with American satellites, the American companies Loral and Hughes Electronic Corp provided information that not only helped the Chinese build better rockets but also better missiles as well.

Stealing Secrets of a W-88 Warhead

United States intelligence became alarmed when China detonated a nuclear weapon in September 1992 that was very similar to the W-88, a hydrogen bomb warhead that was so compact eight of them could placed into the nose cone of a submarine-launched Trident II missile.

United States intelligence suspected that Chinese spies had obtained designs for the W-88. One Congressional report declared it would have been "virtually impossible" for the Chinese to build the warhead without the help of secrets stolen from the United States. China also supposedly used classified material to develop a neutron bomb

The incriminating evidence were some crude Chinese hand-drawings of the nose cones of W-88, W-87, W-78, W-76, W-62 and W-56 warheads and a description of watermelon-shaped trigger sent in package to American officials in 1995. The packages were believed to have been sent under instructions of Chinese intelligence by why the package was sent is a mystery.

China insists they came up with the design on their own. To back up this assertion some scientists point out that the Chinese developed a camera for photographing nuclear explosions that is more sophisticated than one made by the United States.

Inability of the American Government to Catch Chinese Spies

John Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, “David Wise concludes in his new book, “Tiger Trap,” the federal agencies arrayed to protect the United States have handled the threat with astounding incompetence. His book paints a sobering, sometimes pathetic picture of American law enforcement and counterintelligence forces that appear woefully incapable of coping with the challenge from China. Some of the cases Wise details seem right out of the Keystone Kops.

Wise ties the unraveling of a half a dozen cases to bureaucratic wrangling, bad decisions by government agents and prosecutors, investigative incompetence, and possible racism, among other problems. FBI probes have upended the lives of innocent Americans and destroyed the career of at least one loyal FBI agent, a Chinese American woman. At the same time, Wise concludes that over the past 30 years, China’s spies have learned an enormous amount about what he calls the most advanced weapon in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the W88, a powerful warhead so small that several can be placed on one missile. Wise reports that details about the W88significantly hastened the modernization of China’s own strategic forces. Chinese spies also have burrowed deep into the FBI’s counterintelligence operations and might have uncovered U.S. attempts to bug then-President Jiang Zemin’s private aircraft in 2001.

Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, “U.S. agencies mishandled a Chinese “walk-in” who approached a U.S. Embassy in Southeast Asia with a load of documents in 1995. The “walk-in,” who identified himself as a Chinese intelligence agent, had a detailed file on the W88, apparent proof that China had obtained a trove of American military secrets. Amazingly, the CIA brushed off the “walk-in” as a “dangle”---a spy term for a bogus turncoat---after he failed a lie-detector test. But the FBI disagreed, and the two sides bickered about the importance of the document drop. Wise argues that the walk-in should have immediately sparked a massive investigation to determine the source, or sources, of the leak. But the U.S. government waited three years before acting, and its probe ended in uncertainty.” [Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, June 24, 2011]

Super Spy Wu-Tai Chin

Wu-Tai Chin is regarded as one of the damaging spies ever. A translator for the CIA, he fed information to Beijing for more than 40 years and provided them with information that changed the course of history. He informed the Chinese government, for example, on U.S. President Richard Nixon’s secret decision to re-establish tows with China two years before it was announced.

Chin began his career as a spy in 1948 after he started working at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai as an interpreter. He was recruited by a Communist official who introduced to him by his room mate. In 1952 he helped interrogate Chinese soldiers captured in the Korean War and sold the information obtained by the Americans to the Chinese, who demanded the forced reparation of all Chinese prisoners as a condition to end the war. This demand is believed to have extended the war at least a year.

As a CIA employee, Chin sold super-secret CIA national estimates and analyses on China and Southeast Asia. He translated all the documents stolen by CIA spies in China and thus helped the Communists ferret out the spies who revealed the information. A large number of people are believed to have lost their lives due to Chin’s revelations.

Chin received more than $1 million in payments and used that money to build up a fortune in real estate. He was arrested in 1985, four years after he retired, based on information provided by a Chinese defector. Two weeks after being convicted on 18 counts of espionage, conspiracy and tax evasion Chin committed suicide in his jail cell through asphyxiation by tying a trash bag around his head with his shoelaces.

Wen Ho Lee Spy Case

Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwan-born U.S.-educated scientist at Los Alamos laboratory, was suspected of giving the Chinese secret information about the W-88 warhead in the mid 1980s and transferring large amounts of secret data on nuclear weapons in the late 1980s and early 1990s to computers that could accessed by the Chinese.

Lee was fired from his job in March 1999 and the story of his case was printed on the front pages of newspapers across the United States. He was imprisoned without bail in December 1999 after being indicted on 59 counts (none of them espionage). He spent 279 days behind bars and spent much of the time in solitary confinement. It is believed that Lee was singled out as a suspect in part because of his ancestry, his visits to China and the fact that his wife often entertained Chinese officials. Lee steadfastly maintained he was innocent.

In September 2000, Lee was set free, after all but one often 59 counts were dropped (he pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information), with an apology from the judge, who called Lee's imprisonment "draconian" and "unfair" and said he had been "mislead" into treating Lee as a dangerous spy. A few weeks earlier an FBI agent recounted part of his testimony.

In June 2006, Lee was awarded $1.6 million from the U.S. government and five news organizations in a privacy lawsuit. The government gave him $895.000 for legal fees and associated taxes in the 6½ year lawsuit. AP, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and ABC television paid $750,000 to stop contempt of court proceeding for refusing to disclose sources.

Katrina Leung Spy Case

In April 2003, Katrina Leung, a Los Angeles-based Chinese-American businesswoman and socialite, who was accused of being a double agent for China and was arrested on espionage charges after she was caught copying classified documents. Regarded as one of the FBI’s best sources of information on China and known by the code name Parlor Maid, she was paid $1.7 million by the United States government for services related to national security. It turns out, however, she had deliberately been feeding the FBI disinformation and stealing secrets about FBI counterintelligence operations against China by having affairs with two FBI men.

Leung came to the United States from southern China when she was 15. A successful entrepreneur who made a name for herself as a donor and fund raiser for political campaigns, she was recruited by the FBI in 1982 and was regarded as an important source of information on the Chinese leadership, with which she said she had excellent contacts. The information that she turned over to the FBI was so highly valued that it won a special CIA prize for her handler---one of the FBI men she had an affair with.

In a review of David Wise’s book, “Tiger Trap,” John Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, Leung “rose to prominence in Southern California with the help of $1.7 million in payments from the FBI. Leung was run as a source for more than a decade by FBI special agent J.J. Smith, a famed counterintelligence officer in Los Angeles. First problem: She became his lover and the lover of another FBI agent, Bill Cleveland, who battled Chinese spies in San Francisco. Second problem: While collecting information about China for the Americans, Leung was also working for the Ministry of State Security in Beijing as a double agent. [Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, June 24, 2011]

Leung did provide some useful intelligence to the FBI. But according to Wise, she also pilfered classified information from Smith’s briefcase after trysts in his San Marino home and passed it to her spymasters in Beijing. The FBI got to the bottom of the Leung case in 2003 after sending in one of its best investigators. But the case fell apart in court when federal prosecutors engaged in what Judge Cooper called “willful and deliberate misconduct.”

Leung reportedly compromised highly sensitive espionage investigation on the Chinese neutron bomb and revealed to the Chinese that bugs had been planted in a Boeing plane intended for use by Chinese leaders. Leung was indicted in May 2003. She pleaded innocent to the charges and was ultimately cleared of most of them. In December 2005, she sentenced to three years” probation, 200 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine for lying to the FBI. After she was read er sentence Leung said, “I love America.” Pomfret wrote, "Leung’s reaction made sense. By all accounts, her case constituted the most sensational example ever of the penetration of the FBI by Chinese intelligence. And all she got was a rap on the knuckles. J.J. Smith, a 20 veteran of the FBI who had a 20 year affair with Leung, was also arrested. He allegedly removed documents---including one marked “SECRET” that detailed FBI electronic communication about Chinese fugitives and provided information on an FBI investigation called the “Royal Tourist”---from FBI headquarter and fed them to Leung.

Chi Mak

In March 2008, 67-year-old Chinese-born engineer Chi Mak, was sentenced to 24½ years in prison for conspiracy to export U.S. military technology to China. Mak, a U.S. citizen who worked on naval propulsion systems, was arrested in 2005 after FBI agents found three encrypted CDs in the luggage of his brother and sister as they prepared to board a flight for China. The CDs contained documents pertained to submarine propulsion systems and power electronics. Four of Mak’s relatives, including his wife, pleaded guilty to spying charges. Mak’s lengthy term was considered a warning.

Mak was described by prosecutors as the “perfect sleeper spy.” He lived quietly with his wife in a Los Angeles suburb and slowly and steadily worked his way to higher positions with a U..S. defense contractor, earning higher clearance and more access to top secret materials as he advanced. His coworkers regarded him as hard working and unassuming. After his arrest Ma admitted he had been placed in the United States more than 20 years earlier but insisted he was not a spy and said the information he allegedly took was available from non-classified sources on the Internet.

A key piece of evidence use to convict Ma was a “to do” list of intelligence targets written in Mak’s hand. The list had been shredded and was retrieved from Mak’s garbage and painstakingly put together.

Low End of Chinese Espionage

Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker, “At the low end is the case of twenty-eight-year-old Glenn Duffie Shriver, a former international-relations student at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, who admitted in federal court last week that “he was befriended by Chinese intelligence officers while studying in Shanghai, agreed to spy for them and was finalizing a job at the C.I.A. when U.S. authorities found out what he was doing,” according to the Detroit Free Press. Shriver had answered a newspaper ad seeking someone to write an article for a hundred and twenty dollars on U.S.-China relations. Then, he was approached by a pair of guys---Wu and Tang, in court documents---who mapped out a plan in which they would pay Shriver and he would get a job in the U.S. government, and voila!” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 26, 2010]

“Alas, for him, it didn’t go smoothly: He tried to get into the State Department Foreign Service, but flunked the exam twice. Then he applied for a job in the C.I.A.’s National Clandestine Service in 2007, at which time the game was up. Even so, his handlers paid him seventy thousand dollars along the way. He has settled on a plea agreement that carries four years in prison. (The Chinese embassy has reacted with umbrage). Any attempts to defame China with fabricated allegations will prove futile,” a spokesman said---though I’m not clear if the defamation is the suggestion of espionage or the suggestion of such a ham-fisted attempt at it.)” [Ibid]

Other Cases of Chinese Spying in the U.S.

The CIA has issued warnings that China might launch a major computer attacks using hackers and viruses. In one scenario they might disrupt computers and communications in Taiwan and the United States during an invasion of Taiwan. See Computers and Internet and Military

In July 2004, seven Chinese-born suspects were charged with illegally exporting U.S. military technology to China. The suspects worked for two technology firms in New Jersey. Among the items they were accused of exporting were equipment used in smart weapons, advanced radar and electronic warfare.

In August 2010, Noshir Gowadia, an American engineer working on the B-2 stealth bomber, was convicted of selling secrets to China in return for $110,000 in cash which he used to pay for a mortgage on multimillion-dollar beach view house in Maui, Hawaii. Gowadia gave the Chinese the design for a cruise missile component and then showed its effectiveness when compared to United States’s air-to-air missiles.

Other espionage cases that involved China in 2008 include: 1) the sale of “controlled power amplifiers, devices with military applications, by an American company called Wavelab; and 2) the theft of information on the space shuttle, Delta IV rocket and Air Force C-17 by a former Boeing engineer named Dongfang Chung.

In May 2011, Chinese national Yi Qing Chen was given a 25 year sentence in the United States under post 9-11 terrorism laws for trying to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into the U.S. from China. He was arrested after he tried to sell the missiles to an undercover FBI agent.

American Spies Helping China

In September 2009, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Fondren was found guilty of selling classified documents to a Chinese spy, a Taiwanese, New-Orleans-based furniture salesman Tai Shen Kuo. Fondren turned over classified information while working as civilian in the Pentagon.

In February 2008, weapons systems policy analyst Gregg Bergersen was charged with spying after he sold classified defense materials---data on every planned U.S. weapons and technology sale to Taiwan to Tai Shen Kuo who then passed on the information to the Chinese government.

In January 2011, Indian-born Noshir Gowadia, a former B-2 stealth bomber engineer, was given 32 years for selling military secrets to China. A Honolulu court said he helped China design a stealth cruise missile in return for money to help pay his $15,000 a month mortgage for a house overlooking the ocean in Haiku on Maui.

Chinese-American Spies Helping China

In July 2009, Dongfan “Greg” Chung, a Chinese-born American engineer who worked for Boeing and Rockwell International, was convicted in the United States of stealing trade secretes for China on aerospace programs as unregistered agent for the Chinese government.

In May 2006, an ex-Lockheed employee, Moo Ko-Suen of Taipei, pleaded guilty yo to plotting to ship to China advanced U.S. weapons, including 5-16 fighter engines and nuclear-capable cruise missiles.

In December 2006, Xiaodong Shelden Meng, a Chinese-Canadian engineer and a California resident formally from Beijing, was charged with 36 counts of “economic espionage” for stealing trade secrets, , including sophisticated visual simulation software used to train military fighter pilots, from Silicon Valley company that made military training software. In August 2007 Meng pleaded guilty to selling military software to China.

Espionage cases that involved China in 2007 included 1) the imprisonment of one Philip Chi for two years for exporting infrared cameras to Vietnam; 2) the arrest of Bing Xu of Nanjing, China for attempting to export night vision goggles; 3) the arrest of a man named Noshor Gowadia in Hawaii for transmitting information on technology related to making cruise missile exhaust hard to detect; and 4) the arrest of Qing Li for conspiracy to export military-trade accelerometers, which are used in smart bombs.

In February 2010, former Boeing engineer Dongfan “Greg” Chung, a naturalized U.S. citizen, found guilty of economic espionage and acting as an agent for China and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the United States for passing space shuttle secrets to the Chinese.

Americans Arrested as Spies in China

In February 2001, Li Sjaomin, a U.S. citizen and professor at the University of Hong Kong was picked up and detained for five months on charges of spying for Taiwan.

In September 2003, 51-year-old David Wei Dong, also known as Dong Wei, a U.S. citizen who had been doing business in China for more than a decade, was detained on charges for spying for Taiwan. He was still being held 10 months later.

In August 2004, Wang Fei-Ling, a Chinese-born, naturalized U.S. citizen and professor at the Georgina Institute of Technology, was detained for two weeks on charges of spying. Wang claimed his detention was “harsh and inappropriate.”

In August 2005, Xie Chunren, a Chinese-born, naturalized U.S. citizen and business executive, was arrested on charges of spying for Taiwan.

In July 2010, U.S. geologist Xue Feng was detained and tortured and then sentenced to eight years in jail on charges collecting intelligence for overseas and illegally providing state secrets. Three Chinese nationals were given prison sentences of 2½ to six years in connection with the case. Xue, who was born in China and educated at the University of Chicago, angered authorities by arranging the sale of a detailed commercial database on China’s oil industry to the Colorado-based energy firm IHS Energy. Xue initially disappeared in 2008 and news of his arrest was not announced until November 2009.

See Dissidents

In China, spies are tried behind closed doors.

American Bugging the Chinese Leader’s Plane

The National Security Agency and the FBI and other intelligence operation planted bugs in a Boeing 767 used by the President of China while the plane was being refitted in the United States. Twenty-seven listening devices were found, including ones in headboard of the bed and in the bathroom used by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, after the plane was delivered in 2001.

The devices were very advanced. They needed to be triggered by satellite communications. Most were in the presidential suit, which contained a bedroom, sitting room, bathroom with a shower and a 48-inch television.

The revelation was as much of an embarrassment for Chinese security as it was for the Americans. The Chinese had no fewer than 20 security agents and soldiers guarding the plane while it was being worked on in San Antonio Texas. The Chinese reaction was muted when news of the bugging was made public in 2002. There was no diplomatic outburst. U.S. President George Bush’s trip to China around the same time went ahead as scheduled. Perhaps one reason for this is that were originally going to pay $20 million for the refitting job but only paid $10 million.

Spy Plane Incident

See U.S.-China Relations

Image Sources: 1) Katrina Leung, Newsweek; 2), Smith, Raleigh Spy Conference; 3) Weh Ho Lee, Weh Ho Lee org

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2011

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