The Justice Department’s top national security official on Thursday called for a partnership between law enforcement and private businesses to battle Chinese corporate espionage.
“We’ve got to do this together,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security. “Most of the cases we have in this area are the result of the private sector stepping up and saying, ‘Hey I’ve got a problem.’”
Mr. Demers said most of the Chinese espionage cases brought by the Justice Department were initiated by tips from the private sector.
China’s rampant theft of intellectual property has cost U.S. companies between $225 billion and $600 billion a year, according to U.S. trade officials.
In 2018, the Justice Department indicted two companies based in China and Taiwan, saying they stole trade secrets valued at $8.75 billion from Micron Technology, a U.S. semiconductor company.
Mr. Demers cited the Micron case as an example of successful private-public cooperation.
As a result of Micron coming forward, the Chinese company was blacklisted by the Department of Commerce and barred from importing tools it needs from the United States to build its products.
“That means Micron is not facing the competition it would have otherwise been facing because the Chinese were trying to rob, replicate and replace Micron on the world market,” he said.
“We are not just slamming the door after the horse is out of the barn and maybe catching a defendant or two, but we are actually able to help you proactively,” he continued. “But it depends on whether you come forward to us in a timely fashion.”
China is using the same techniques to flip targets into spies in the private sectors as it is in the intelligence community, Mr. Demers said.
But private-sector employees are not trained for such methods, making law enforcement’s job that much more difficult.
“It’s hard sometimes for government employees to understand what’s going on and resist what’s going on,” he said. “It’s just that much harder for employees of companies that haven’t been trained in counterintelligence.”
Over the past year, the Justice Department has brought public charges against Chinese nationals and entities in 10 cases, according to The Washington Times’ review of Justice Department records.
That is up from three cases the previous year.
The Justice Department has intensified its scrutiny of China since it started a November 2018 initiative aimed at identifying and tackling cases of technology theft.
In recent weeks, the department has brought a slew of indictments against Chinese nationals pilfering U.S. technology.
Mr. Demers rebuffed questions on whether the Justice Department’s focus on China has been influenced by the Trump administration’s trade war with Beijing.
“I don’t do trade, and I try to keep our cases well part from what’s going on the trade front,” he said. “We didn’t bring one of these cases because what’s going on, on the trade front. We are going to stop doing cases about Chinese intellectual property theft when the Chinese stop doing intellectual property theft.”