The People’s Republic of China (PRC) “appetite for information and technology appears to be insatiable, and the energy devoted to the task enormous.” This was one of the many conclusions of the 1999 report by the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China. Recent convictions in this area serve as a clear reminder that things have not changed much in the ten years since publication of the unclassified version of the Cox Report. Export control reformers in Congress should also take note.
Stemming from the Chi Mak case, last week the Justice Department announced the arrest and conviction of Dongfan “Greg” Chung for delivering to Chinese government officials restricted technology related to the U.S. space shuttle program and Delta IV rocket. Designed for the U.S. Air Force, Delta rockets help put satellites in orbit in a more cost-effective and efficient manner. As was the case in 1990s, China steals U.S. technology in this area to improve its various satellite launch and other propulsion programs.
According to the Justice Department press release, the former Rockwell and Boeing engineer was found “guilty of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, six counts of economic espionage to benefit a foreign country, one count of acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China and one count of making false statements to the FBI … Chung, a native of China who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, held a “secret” security clearance when he worked at Rockwell and Boeing on the Space Shuttle program … At trial last month, the government proved that Chung took and concealed Boeing trade secrets relating to the Space Shuttle and the Delta IV rocket, materials he acquired for the benefit of the PRC.” This marks the first conviction by trial under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA).
While this conviction does not appear to touch the Export Administration Act (EAA) or the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the facts in the case seem related-enough to warrant a second look by policy-makers and staff in the Congress seeking to reform U.S. export control laws. As demonstrated by these and other cases since the release of the Cox China Report in 1999, China and other countries have intensified efforts to steal sensitive U.S. civilian and defense technologies. The legal regime is interrelated and reforms, or preferably updates, should be done holistically and not in an ad hoc or parochial manner.