According to the US Department of Justice, Xu, also known as Qu Hui and Zhang Hui, attempted to steal trade secrets from "multiple US aviation and aerospace companies", including GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric and one of the world's leading engine suppliers for commercial aircraft.
"We can not tolerate a nation's stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower", said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security. "But we can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow." said Assistant Attorney General John Demers in the press release.
Prosecutors said from 2013 to his arrest in April, Xu would recruit experts from aviation companies to travel to China under the false pretense they would give educational presentations at a university. Mr Xu, for instance, invited U.S. engineers and experts at key companies on all expenses paid trips to present talks in China, asking them to meet local scientists and to bring specific documents with them. According to the indictment, the Ministry of State Security officers worked to "protect and hide the true nature of the information they were seeking" and paid for the experts' travel, lodging and stipends.
Last month, the USA justice department confirmed the arrest of a Chinese citizen in Chicago on charges he was an undercover agent for a high-ranking Chinese intelligence official who was trying to recruit engineers and scientists.
Xu faces a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment for economic espionage charges and 10 years for charges pertaining to theft of trade secrets.
Xu allegedly ran a five-year operation trying to steal trade secrets from Ohio-based GE Aviation - one of the world's leading aircraft engine manufacturers - and other aviation companies, including U.S. military suppliers. Some of those defendants were charged with trying to steal everything from wind turbine technology to engineered rice and corn, which provides a sense of the breadth of what USA officials say Beijing is looking to acquire.
The arrest of a Chinese intelligence officer is unprecedented: the U.S. has indicted PLA officers in the past for allegedly hacking American companies, but that's where it ended, as the individuals reside in China.
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Industries targeted by Treasury's new regulations also include telecommunications and semiconductors, aluminium production, computer storage devices, guided missiles and other military equipment in addition to aviation manufacturing.
"Innovation in aviation has been a hallmark of life and industry in the United States since the Wright brothers first designed gliders in Dayton more than a century ago", said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin Glassman.
Xu made his initial appearance in federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Wednesday.
"U.S. aerospace companies invest decades of time and billions of dollars in research". In contrast, according to the indictment, a Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire that same, hard-earned innovation through theft.
A GE Aviation spokesman confirmed that the employee no longer works for the company, but declined to say if the departure was related to the investigation.