A Chinese-American scientist pled guilty to providing China with U.S.
rocket technology. Quan-Sheng Shu, a 68 year old naturalized citizen who was
born in China, was president of AMAC International Inc., a technology company
with offices in the United States and China. Shu bribed Chinese officials to award a $4 million contract, for rocket
technology, to his company. Shu was attempting to export technology to China
without the required permits (that he knew he would not get.) Shu could receive
up to ten years in jail, plus millions of dollars in fines. But he has a plea bargain
agreement which prevented his wife from being prosecuted for her part in the
transaction. The plea deal will probably get Shu a shorter jail term.
The Shu case
is another example of the Chinese effort to use industrial espionage to turn
their country into the mightiest industrial and military power on the planet.
For over two decades, China has been attempting to do what the Soviet Union
never accomplished; steal Western technology, then use it to move ahead of the
West. The Soviets lacked the many essential supporting industries found in the
West (most founded and run by entrepreneurs), and was never able to get all the
many pieces needed to match Western technical accomplishments. Soviet copies of
American computers, for example, were crude, less reliable and less powerful.
Same with their jet fighters, tanks and warships.
believes they can avoid the Soviet error by making it profitable for Western
firms to set up factories in China, where Chinese managers and workers can be
taught how to make things right. At the same time. China allows thousands of
their best students to go to the United States to study. While most of these
students will stay in America, where there are better jobs and more
opportunities, some will come back to China, and bring American business and
technical skills with them. Finally, China energetically uses the
"thousand grains of sand" approach to espionage. This involves China
trying to get all Chinese going overseas, and those of Chinese ancestry living
outside the motherland, to spy for China, if only a tiny bit.
approach to espionage is nothing new. Other nations have used similar systems
for centuries. What is unusual is the scale of the Chinese effort. Backing it
all up is a Chinese intelligence bureaucracy back home that is huge, with
nearly 100,000 people working just to keep track of the many Chinese overseas,
and what they could, or should, be to trying to grab for the motherland. It
begins when Chinese intelligence officials examining who is going overseas, and
for what purpose. Chinese citizens cannot leave the country, legally, without
the state security organizations being notified. The intel people are not being
asked to give permission. They are being alerted in case they want to have a
talk with students, tourists or business people before they leave the country.
Interviews are often held when these people come back as well.
might be coming in contact with useful information are asked to remember what
they saw, or bring back souvenirs. Over 100,000 Chinese students go off to
foreign universities each year. Even more go abroad as tourists or on business.
Most of these people were not asked to actually act as spies, but simply to
share, with Chinese government officials (who are not always identified as
intelligence personnel) whatever information they obtained. The more ambitious
of these people are getting caught and prosecuted. But the majority, who are
quite casual, and, individually, bring back relatively little, are almost
impossible to catch.
Russians, the Chinese are also using the traditional methods, using people with
diplomatic immunity to recruit spies, and offering cash, or whatever, to get
people to sell them information. This is still effective, and when combined
with the "thousand grains of sand" methods, brings in lots of
secrets. The final ingredient is a shadowy venture capital operations,
sometimes called Project 863, that offers money for Chinese entrepreneurs who
will turn the stolen technology into something real. No questions asked. If you
can get back to China with the secrets, you are home free and potentially very
Shu was just
trying to do some business, but he was also ensnared by this enormous Chinese
espionage operation that has had far more successes than failures.