Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The US Justice Department on Tuesday charged a Chinese engineer and his partner with “economic espionage” for allegedly stealing technology from General Electric.

It was a “textbook example of the Chinese government’s strategy to rob American companies of their intellectual property,” John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement.

The government also charged Xiaoqing Zheng, 56, of Niskayuna, New York, and Zhaoxi Zhang, 47, of Liaoning Province, China, with stealing GE’s trade secrets including designs for gas and steam turbine technology.

Zheng, an engineer at GE Power & Water in Schenectady, New York, “exploited his access to GE’s files by stealing multiple electronic files, including proprietary files involving design models,” and emailing them to Zhang in China, according to the statement.

“We will not stand idly by while the world’s second-largest economy engages in state-sponsored theft,” Demers said.

The incident comes as American and Chinese officials say they are nearing the end of negotiations on a new trade deal, which Washington has said will place heavy emphasis on the enforcement of rules, particularly those protecting intellectual property.

Before the charges were announced, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “The degree of unfair and unlawful trading practices engaged in by China for decades has to stop. It has to stop.”

He added that he is “cautiously optimistic” about a deal but stressed “it has to be enforceable.”

– with reporting by AFP

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