American universities are a soft target for China’s spies, say U.S. intelligence officials

Ken Dilanian:

It was a brazen scheme to steal another company’s product, according to a federal criminal complaint.

University of Texas professor Bo Mao, prosecutors say, took proprietary technology from an American Silicon Valley start-up and handed it over to a subsidiary of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications conglomerate.

But what makes the case against Mao particularly noteworthy is how he was accused of carrying out the theft: By using his status as a university researcher to obtain the circuit board under the guise of academic testing.

Mao, who has pleaded not guilty, is among the latest defendants in a string of U.S. criminal cases alleging Chinese spying in the academic world. In late January, the chairman of Harvard’s chemistry department was arrested by FBI agents in his office, charged with lying about a lucrative relationship with a Chinese talent recruitment program. The same day, a former Boston University student was accused of visa fraud after she allegedly failed to disclose her status as a lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army.