Chinese-American engineer charged with stealing GE technology

August 2, 2018
The FBI said they arrested Xiaoqing Zheng, a General Electric engineer, and found a handbook explaining 'resources' China would people who provided it with technology

A Chinese-American engineer faces charges of stealing valuable technology from General Electric, sneaking it out hidden in a picture of the sunset to take to China, the US Justice Department said.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that Xiaoqing Zheng, 56, be released Friday on $100,000 bond and placed under electronic monitoring while surrendering his passport, according to the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of New York.

Zheng, a US citizen also believed to have Chinese nationality, had been arrested Wednesday by the FBI, which also searched his home. The agency allegedly found, among other things, a handbook detailing "resources" Beijing would grant to individuals providing certain technologies, court documents say.

Zheng's arrest comes as President Donald Trump intensifies his trade war with Beijing, largely over complaints the country steals US technology or obliges American companies to share know-how in exchange for doing business in China.

Trump imposed punishing tariffs on tens of billions in Chinese imports and plans more to ratchet up the pressure on Beijing to correct the pervasive industrial espionage.

General Electric said Thursday it had been cooperating with the FBI for "some time" on the case.

"At GE, we aggressively protect and defend our intellectual property and have strict processes in place for identifying these issues and partnering with law enforcement," a spokesman said.

Working for Chinese competitors

US investigators said Zheng may have begun stealing thousands of files containing GE's industrial secrets as far back as 2014, according to court documents.

And Zheng worked for or owned Chinese companies dealing in the same technologies produced by GE Power, which produces and markets energy generation techniques around the world, the FBI found.

"The GE proprietary technologies on which Zheng works would have economic value to any of GE's business competitors," FBI Special Agent MD McDonald said in an affidavit.

GE monitored Zheng as he allegedly transferred files containing turbine technology to his personal email account while hiding the data within the binary code of a digital photograph of a sunset, a process known as "steganography," according to McDonald.

Following a search of Zheng's home in Niskayuna, New York, FBI agents said they retrieved the reward handbook and a passport showing five trips to China in the past two years.

FBI agents questioned Zheng on Wednesday and say he acknowledged taking GE's proprietary information using steganography on around five to 10 occasions.

Charged with a single count of theft of trade secrets, Zheng faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 as well as three years of supervised release, although punishments are frequently imposed at less than that.

Explore further: Survey: Companies in China feel pressure to give up tech

Related Stories

China, US to discuss cybersecurity at forum

July 5, 2013

China is ready to discuss strengthening cybersecurity with U.S. officials at a high-level forum next week and wants Washington to help settle territorial disputes in East Asia, officials said Friday.

China criticizes US trade probe as protectionism

August 24, 2017

China's Commerce Ministry on Thursday criticized a U.S. decision to launch a trade probe of Beijing's technology policy as an attack on the global trading system and said it will "resolutely defend" Chinese companies.

Top China weather expert warns on climate change

March 22, 2015

China's top weather official has issued a stark warning on climate change, saying that rising temperatures could have "huge impacts" on the world's most populous country, state media reported Sunday.

Recommended for you

Under-fire Apple removes 25,000 apps in China

August 20, 2018

Apple said Monday it had removed many gambling-related apps from its Chinese app store as the US giant comes under scrutiny amid trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Robots as tools and partners in rehabilitation

August 17, 2018

In future decades, the need for effective strategies for medical rehabilitation will increase significantly, because patients' rate of survival after diseases with severe functional deficits, such as a stroke, will increase. ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

thebiggourdhead
not rated yet Aug 05, 2018
This is how China operates. They do this in all free, industrialized nations. I don't think China has a creative bone in their entire body. Disgusting.
antialias_physorg
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2018
Well...to be fair: This is how the US has operated (and still operates) with its allies, too.

Soooo....bit hard to complain about someone else just copying the style, eh?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.