Eftimiades noted that China has been involved in more than 600 espionage cases over the past decade. These cases included theft of trade secrets, illegal export of key technologies for national security, cyberhacking and traditional spying.
More disturbingly, western governments have mostly been ignoring these for years. Talking to The Epoch Times, he said that the U.S. and other Western countries ignored his warnings about Chinese espionage when he first wrote about the subject in his 1994 book titled “Chinese Intelligence Operations.”
It was only during the current administration of President Donald Trump that the country started to understand the threat from China. Given that America’s response against Chinese espionage had been “lacking” for the past decade, intelligence and enforcement agencies have had to catch up.
The intelligence analyst said there was almost no way of finding out the full extent of Beijing’s spy efforts and noted that it could range from tens of thousands of cases up to hundreds of thousands.
Eftimiades explained that China has adopted a “whole-of-society” approach to obtaining foreign intellectual property (IP) through state agencies, state-owned enterprises, private enterprises and individual researchers. A substantial chunk of the foreign IP theft focused on aviation, information technology, energy and new materials – key sectors mentioned in the Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” industrial policy.
According to Eftimiades, America's response to Chinese espionage has “not been very good.” He cited multiple instances of intelligence officers being recruited to spy for the communist country.
Federal authorities arrested Baimadajie Angwang, a naturalized U.S. citizen, last September for allegedly spying for China. Angwang used his position as a New York City Police Department officer to report on the activities of ethnic Tibetans at the behest of Chinese Consulate officials. Later that month, a federal judge denied bail to the former police officer over concerns that Angwang will seek protection from the Chinese Consulate if released from custody.
Less than a year before Angwang’s arrest, authorities bagged a naturalized citizen who planned to share sensitive information with China. Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a former officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, was sentenced to 19 years in prison in November 2019. The Hong Kong-born Lee pleaded guilty in May to the charge of conspiring to deliver information to Chinese agents – who promised to take care of him “for life” if he provided the information they needed.
Aside from recruiting individual operatives, the Chinese government has performed cyber-espionage efforts using both technology and human agents. Eftimiades described these efforts as “masterfully executed.”
The private sector, however, has yet to come to grips with the extent of Chinese espionage.
“Western industries as a whole remain quite ignorant of what’s happening,” Eftimiades said, adding that he was “routinely surprised” by the “lackadaisical” response of industries not related to defense technology.
He cited a report by U.S. cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike outlining an operation by Chinese hackers, intelligence officers and company staff members to obtain key aviation technology data. Orhcestrated by a branch of China’s Ministry of State Security, the operation managed to get data from a number of aviation companies over a five-year period. (Related: 5 Chinese nationals charged with hacking more than 100 companies worldwide.)
Despite moves by federal authorities to stop Chinese espionage, Eftimiades said that the U.S. is still likely “very deeply penetrated.”