Secrets China Is Stealing From Us

These are the secrets China stole from us all!

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Since the early 2000s, China have stolen a mind boggling $600 billion of American trade secrets every single year. That’s a whopping $12 trillion over the last 20 years and they’ve got spies everywhere from tech firms to the military. Let’s find out what secrets the Chinese government have been stealing from us.

China's J-20 Stealth Fighter

In 2007, a Chinese cyber espionage unit called the Technical Reconnaissance Bureau stole heaps of incredibly sensitive U.S. aircraft data before passing that information on to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. And those weren’t any old aircraft parts. China scooped precious intel on the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets, which have the absolute apex of stealth technology to avoid enemy detection.

F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II

Fast forward to 2016 and China unveiled their own stealth fighter, the Chengdu J-20. Sounds familiar? It’s not a carbon copy and the J-20 is slightly narrower and longer than the F35, and has much greater range, internal fuel capacity, and internal weapons capabilities.

J-20

We don’t know exactly how much of the stolen F-35 technology made it into the J-20. At a guess, the sensor fusion and network integration, which are the onboard computer systems that enable aircraft parts to communicate with each other, aren’t as advanced as the American aircraft.

That’s because those took the most time, money, and effort for the U.S. to develop. So, what came of the hackers anyway? For the most part, not a lot. But in 2016, Chinese national Su Bin admitted to his part in a years long espionage program stealing military technical data.

He got 46 months in prison for telling Chinese hackers which files to steal and the significance of the stolen information. However, just under four years in prison for jeopardizing prized national security information seems a little lenient.

Stealth Ship

At a convention in Abu Dhabi in 2017, China unveiled models for their latest naval vessel, and it bears a striking resemblance to American littoral combat ships. Just like with the J-20, the Chinese copycat ship isn’t an exact replica. The U.S. frigate is 417 feet long, however the Chinese ship is fifty feet longer, with a larger crew capacity and much, much heavier artillery.

But all that extra baggage comes at the expense of speed, with a max of just 35 knots, or 40 miles per hour, opposed to the littoral ship’s 46 miles per hour. Both ships feature the same trimaran design, with the hull split into three separate parts for better stability in stormy seas.

American littoral combat ship and Chinese copycat
American littoral combat ship and Chinese copycat

What made that really surprising, though, was that China had already started producing a similar frigate design, albeit with a monohull, the Type 054A Jiangkai II. So, why suddenly switch? Well, that’s not really clear. It could be that the wider platform provided by the new tri-hull design allows for side by side aircraft hangars.

PLANS Huanggang

That might suggest China’s new, long-term military strategy is to employ more manned and unmanned aircraft. Or maybe they’re just trying to better understand the enemy by copying their arsenal. Whatever the reason, it seems like China are trying to close the gap on the U.S.’s military advantage. We might still be winning the race for now, but for how long, who knows?

Leaked Nuclear Weapon Secrets

In a redacted report released to the public in 1999, US Representative Christopher Cox accused China of using illicit tactics to access information on nuclear weapons. In his report, Cox claimed that China had acquired massive amounts of classified information in a long term spying campaign over the prior twenty years.

China’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs, had been seriously lacking compared to American missiles. However, by 1992, China had conducted successful tests on missiles which used modern thermonuclear designs. Those designs shrunk hydrogen bombs down so that many can fit atop a single missile and be fired from trucks and other mobile platforms.

Dongfeng 5B head China Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

How China achieved that level of technological advancement, which took the United States decades, millions of dollars, and rigorous testing, is a mystery. So the question is, China just stole it? Well, maybe not. China responded to the report calling it racist and claiming the intel they’d acquired on nuclear weapons was readily available public information.

It seems unlikely that one could walk into the local library and learn how to build a nuclear warhead, but that’s not to say it isn’t true. And considering no one has ever been formally accused of stealing the information, it’s hard to tell who’s lying. Also, America’s track record of accusing political enemies about weapons of mass destruction in the late 90s and early 2000s hasn’t exactly aged well.

Huawei 5G Scandal

You’ve probably heard of Huawei, a giant Chinese tech corporation who make everything from computers and cell phones to large scale communication equipment. However, Huawei isn’t the most popular kid on the block. Even though they say they’re a private company, no company in China is truly independent of what the government tells them to do.

If the Chinese government order Huawei to act in a harmful way, let’s just say the law’s the law. When the UK government built their new 5G network, an estimated 41% of the components came from Huawei. In 2020, and with plenty of U.S. encouragement, the UK banned any new Huawei technology from the 5G wireless network and ordered the removal of all Huawei products by 2027.

While there’s no evidence of Huawei currently abusing their position in the network to collect information, it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future, something Britain knows all too well.

In 1957, they reached a secret agreement with Ghana’s government in waiting to develop encrypted communication systems for them. Ghana lacked the money to do it themselves, so on the face of it that was a nice move, right? Not quite. Because Britain had developed the code they knew how the messages were scrambled, so Ghana’s private coms were fair game for them to spy on.

M-209 mechanical cipher machine

So, is Britain only scared now because they did the exact same thing in the past? Seems a little hypocritical as everybody’s out there spying. Even though Huawei were never caught abusing their position in the British network, they’re not innocent either.

During a 2004 tradeshow in Chicago, an alleged Huawei spy was caught snooping around a competitor’s booths in the middle of the night taking photos of the insides of the devices. According to the man’s ID his employer was “Weihua”, in other words, Huawei.

Huawei spy was caught snooping around

Another 2010 lawsuit claimed former Motorola employees Hechun Cai and Jinzhong Zhang flew to China in 2003 and gave trade secrets to Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei. How do we know they were trade secrets? They wrote “Motorola Confidential Proprietary” on every page. Not very subtle. Those are just two of hundreds of flagrant allegations, but you get the picture and we can’t see that slowing down anytime soon.

TikTok Security Concerns

You must have heard about the controversial social media app TikTok. It’s literally the most popular app in the world. But in 2023, President Biden threatened to ban TikTok unless their Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sold it.

It’s not so much about what you do on TikTok, but everything TikTok does to you. Like many “free services” TikTok makes money from advertising and to tailor adverts the app needs users’ data, no problems there. But they also let third party trackers, meaning not you or TikTok, aggressively collect users’ personal information.

Anytime you like, comment, or watch a video, those third party accounts collect your information. And it doesn’t stop there. TikTok also enables them to gather information about your faceprint, voice, and location data.

tiktok collects personal data

And for all those TikToks you’ve got sitting as drafts you’ve never posted, they collect data on those too. And once those third party sites have your information, it’s very hard to know where it goes.

Reports in August 2021 revealed the Chinese government had taken a 1% stake in ByteDance and one of three board seats controlling the company. That means they have direct access to personal information on the staggering 150 million Americans who use the app every month. That’s almost half the population. While TikTok are taking steps to protect U.S. data, who’s to say those third party sites aren’t still sharing it?

So, Sleepy Joe says he’s protecting everyday Americans as a matter of national security, but he’s also worried that hashtags like “militarytiktok” could provide the Chinese government with heaps of information about our troops. Essentially, what we see as a fun video sharing app has the potential to be a giant spy tool for the Chinese government.

View post on TikTok

However, that isn’t just a TikTok problem. Meta, Google, Microsoft, Apple all collect vast amounts of user data. The difference is that those companies are American. Biden’s probably restricting ByteDance from operating in the US to try and force them into selling TikTok to an American company. That way China’s access to the precious data is gone, but the U.S. can access whatever they want, just like they already do with Meta, Apple, and Microsoft.

Wave Technology

Despite looking like a bomb, an attenuating wave converter is a machine that creates electricity from the movement of the ocean. The joints along the machine move with the shape of the waves, pushing against hydraulic rams as they do so.

In turn, those rams pump high pressure oil through motors that drive electrical generators. The resulting electricity is then fed down a cable to the seabed, where it’s linked up with the shore. That's how you’ve got ocean power.

Pelamis at EMEC

It’s so cool that in 2011 the Chinese Vice Premier, alongside a delegation of sixty people, travelled to the Pelamis facility in Edinburgh, Scotland where that machine was made. Seems a little out of the way for a work trip but it gets weirder.

Just two months after the vice premier’s visit, there was a break in at Pelamis Wave Power and five laptops were stolen from the facility. Initially the crime was written off as there was no way to figure out who did it, and there wasn’t any great loss.

Pelamis Wave Power laptop stolen

That is until a few years later when pictures started surfacing of China’s brand new attenuating wave machine, Hailong 1. China strongly denies outright stealing it. They claim that the Hailong 1 is based on independent research by China’s Shipbuilding Corporations and that there are “huge differences” in the design, appearance, and structure of the machine.

China might as well have pulled it out the ocean, strapped it to a ship and sailed away with it. And it seems more than a little fishy that a high ranking Chinese diplomat would visit some random factory in Scotland just weeks before it was broken into.

GhostNet Cyber Espionage Operation

America and Britain aren’t the only targets of Chinese spying tactics. In 2009, a massive surveillance program was uncovered which targeted important individuals, organizations, and governments all around the world. It was named Operation GhostNet.

In total, a shocking 1,295 computers across 103 countries were found to be compromised by a trojan horse, a malicious software that gains access to a computer by disguising itself as something else. Once inside, a hacker can remotely monitor the computer’s activity.

This software was initially discovered in India at the office of the Dalai Lama, the foremost spiritual leader of Gelug Tibetan Buddhism, who was exiled from China in 1959. After that, compromised computers were discovered in the embassies of South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany, and Pakistan. In other words, everywhere!

When cyber security experts traced the origins of the virus, the IP address, which identifies any device within a network, traced it to Hainan. And it just so happens that Hainan is home to the 3PLA, China’s military department specializing in computer network operations and intelligence.

So, what were they after? That’s the tricky part. There’s really no way of knowing what kind of intel was gathered. In fact, it’s not clear if that was even a government run program. It could’ve been a patriotic citizen. Obviously the Chinese government aren’t admitting to anything, but that only makes us all the more suspicious.

Spy Balloon

In early 2023, a giant spy balloon was shot down under orders from President Biden after it was spotted flying over North American airspace. China apologized and said it was a stray weather balloon that blew out of control. With limited self steering capabilities, the balloon had ventured into areas it shouldn’t have.

You would thing that it's a simple mistake. But the balloon China said got shot down and the balloon that actually got shot down couldn’t be more different. Typically, weather balloons are about 20ft wide.

However, a colossal 200ft of soggy balloon was pulled from the wreckage. And beneath the balloon was a huge technology bay about the length of 2-3 busses, full of sensors and ariels for transmitting data. Either China was trying to check the weather on Neptune, or they were lying again.

Chinese surveillance balloon

Later, it transpired that the lack of self steering capabilities was also a lie. The balloon had rudders and propellers that were more than suited to helping it move great distances. It really makes us wonder, how valuable was the information that balloon was collecting that they’d risk getting caught and losing an expensive piece of tech? Or maybe the balloon was just a distraction for something much more serious.

China Steals Biodata Of 80% Of Americans

According to reports published in 2021, China might’ve compromised a huge amount of biodata on everyday Americans. From hacking healthcare companies to the smart technology in our homes, they’ve been very busy.

Seriously, up to 80% of US adults have had their healthcare information and DNA profiles accessed by the Chinese government. DNA contains your unique genetic code as well as loads of sensitive information like what dangerous diseases you’re susceptible to, including certain types of cancer.

On the one hand, China’s breach could pose no threat. Due to their aging population, cancer in China is up 80% in 30 years, and they might intend to use the stolen DNA data to try and develop a cure. It wouldn’t be the first time China has done something like that.

Zaosong Zheng, a medical student in Boston, Massachusetts, was caught smuggling stolen vials of cancer cells in his sock which he’d pinched from a lab. And another researcher, Hua Jun Zhao stole three vials of a possible cancer drug from a professor’s desk at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Chinese medical student caught stealing DNA samples

However, on the other hand, it gets really tricky. While the information could help develop cures for future diseases, China has a very sketchy history around using DNA samples to identify and persecute the Uyghur people, an ethnic minority native to Xinjiang. And that is the really scary thing. In the wrong hands, the same DNA data that can be used to save lives can abet taking them too.

Stolen Corn Seeds

In 2016, Chinese citizen Mo Hailong was sentenced to three years in prison for stealing valuable corn seeds from farms in Iowa. Those weren’t your run of the mill corn seeds, they’d been genetically modified to be re-plantable year after year.

The appeal is that if you can reuse the seeds you’ve got a practically endless supply of corn. Mo was trying to get his hands on those seeds to send them to his employer, a corn company back in China.

chinese man caught stealing corn seeds in Iowa

Only, the seeds were a trade secret belonging to U.S. companies DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto. And Dupont’s estimates say that theft would’ve led to company losses of $30 million and five to eight years of research.

Invisibility Cloak

The entrepreneur Liu Ruopeng, sometimes called China’s Elon Musk, did his PhD at Duke University in North Carolina. But after completing it and returning to China was accused of stealing an invisibility cloak from the university.

View post on X

Before your imagination get's any further, just know that thing isn’t invisible to the naked eye. It’s invisible from certain microwave signals. The device creates a filter, which shifts one frequency of light to another as it passes through the object. Once the light has passed through it phases back to its original state.

That might not be useful to most of us but the real concern is how that tech could give a huge advantage to certain military technologies, such as aircrafts. Because radar uses microwaves to detect enemy military activity, a stealth plane kitted with the cloaking technology in question could become completely invisible to current systems. And Liu knew that.

So, when he was a student at Duke University, he convinced his supervisors to allow some of his former colleagues over. When they arrived, they took photographs of plans and equipment which allowed Liu to replicate the invisibility materials back in China. Just like his namesake, China’s Elon Musk also made a name for himself by taking credit for other people’s innovations.

Watch on YouTube

LED Filament Patent Infringement

In 2019, a group of researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara filed a lawsuit against Walmart, Amazon, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond for selling retro style filament lightbulbs without proper authorization. The bulbs in question were developed by the university and have become incredibly popular in recent years due to their cool vintage look.

Unlucky Inventors Heinrich Goebel light bulb

Except, the technology behind them is patented by the university, meaning they own the legal rights to it. So, when Chinese manufacturers had the bright idea to steal the technology, produce bulbs en masse, and have Amazon sell them as their own products, the university knew something was afoot.

If China stole it, why is it the American companies’ fault? Ultimately they’re responsible for making sure the goods they sell to unwitting buyers aren’t in violation of any property theft. And the technology behind the lightbulb belongs to the university.

Could that just be a mistake on the retailer’s part? Sure. But sales in the US of those bulbs were expected to top $1 billion in 2019 alone. It seems a little convenient that they’d just not look into the origins of their “own brand” products.

Space Tech Theft

Since its launch in 1998, the International Space Station has been visited by a tremendous 266 astronauts from over 20 different countries. Surprisingly, China isn’t one of those countries.

In 2011, U.S. congress actually banned China from the ISS altogether due to “national security concerns.” And that might have some justification, because the US have accused China of trying to steal satellite secrets before.

In 2008 physicist Quan Sheng Shu pled guilty to selling rocket technology to the communist state. Unsurprisingly, China denied stealing the technology, but Shu literally admitted he’d sold information regarding hydrogen propelled rockets and cryogenics equipment.

physicist Quan-Sheng Shu pled guilty

And the trend of theft didn’t stop there. In 2019, Chinese national Pengyi Li was arrested at Honolulu airport for trying to smuggle microchips and other sensitive spacecraft components out of the U.S. and back to China. Many of those materials are banned from sale in China as they could give the country a very real advantage in military satellites and missiles.

I hope you were amazed at these secrets China is stealing from us. Thanks for reading!

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