What happened: An indictment by the Justice Department unsealed on Tuesday reveals that two Chinese nationals, former General Electric (GE) engineer Zheng Xiaoqing and businessman Zhang Zhaoxi, have been accused of spying on the company to benefit China, allegedly with the Chinese government’s “financial and other support.” The charges for economic espionage and trade secret theft claim that Zheng encrypted proprietary data on GE’s turbine design and embedded them in a picture of a sunset, before sending them to Zhang, who was based in China. The indictment alleges that they used the information at two turbine manufacturing companies in China, through which they also received the support of the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that Zheng confessed the theft and the government’s involvement in July 2018.
Why it’s important: This is the latest in a series of cases pursued by the Justice Department, as the Trump administration tries to crack down on Chinese theft of corporate secrets to hamper China’s technological and economic power. In their view, such tactics enable “Chinese companies to replace the American company first in the Chinese market and later worldwide,” John Demers, the justice department official who runs the China initiative, told the Financial Times.