Thursday, 15 November, 2018

U.S. charges Chinese companies with stealing trade secrets

Chinese company charged with stealing trade secrets from US chipmaker Trump administration charges Chinese companies with spying on U.S.
Gerardo Duncan | 04 November, 2018, 10:32

Tensions over trade in particular have exacerbated relations between the two world powers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new Department of Justice initiative on Thursday, created to address Chinese cyberattacks and corporate spying on USA companies.

The indictments claim those charged, all former Micron employees, stole trade secrets on DRAM chip design and manufacturing from Micron and brought it to Taiwanese firm United Microelectronics Corporation.

Last year, Micron sued both Fujian Jinhua and the Taiwanese company United Microelectrics Corp for stealing trade secrets.

In addition to the criminal charges announced Thursday, the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit to block imports of any UMC and Fujian Jinhua products using stolen Micron technology.

"The Chinese government's complicity in intellectual property theft hurts American manufacturers, workers, and consumers, and undermines the ability of USA businesses to operate in China", Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an emailed statement.

"China wants the fruits of America's brainpower to harvest the seeds of its planned economic dominance", Assistant Attorney General John Demers said. UMC said it regretted not having the opportunity to discuss the matter with US authorities and will respond to the allegations accordingly, adding it expected no impact from the charges on its finances or business.

It was Chen, Sessions alleged, who orchestrated the theft of trade secrets from Micron worth up to $8.75 billion.

Among other things, the initiative will be responsible for the department's review of foreign investments and licenses in USA infrastructure and telecommunications, as well as its enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act "to counter covert efforts to influence our leaders and the general public", Sessions said.

The United States also Thursday sued to block the transfer of trade secrets and to prevent the companies from exporting to the US any products that they manufacturing by exploiting stolen information.

USA officials have been sounding the alarm about Chinese economic espionage for some time.

"Taken together, these cases and many others like them paint a grim picture of a country bent on stealing its way up the ladder of economic development and doing so at American expense", Session said.

But it's this Chinese government's interference to protect its investments as part of its Made in China 2025 economic plan that got USA authorities to act, first through an export ban, and now through today's charges. A Justice Department spokesman said the defendants were served summonses in Taiwan and that none is in USA custody. "The Chinese government's complicity in intellectual property theft hurts American manufacturers, workers, and consumers, and undermines the ability of US businesses to operate in China", Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., responded.

The two countries have imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other's goods, and U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on the remainder of China's $500 billion-plus exports to the United States if the disputes can not be resolved.

Mr Sessions noted during Thursday's news conference that this was technology that Chinese firms did not have until recently.

The criminal case is USA v. The US has taken an increasingly tough and confrontational stance toward what it characterizes as China's "predatory" economic policies.

"Obviously, that commitment has not been kept". The Trump administration imposed restrictions on technology exports to Fujian as part of the crackdown.

"China is back as the most prolific nation-state actor conducting industrial espionage via cyber and non-cyber means", he said.

"This initiative is an important set of hammer blows against China's efforts to disadvantage American companies, steal their intellectual property, and exercise unwanted influence in our universities and political system", said James Mulvenon, a China expert and general manager of SOS International LLC's Special Programs Division, which provides consulting services to intelligence and defense agencies.

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