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U.S. Indicts Chinese National Who Allegedly Stole Farming Software from Employer

Monsanto logo is displayed on a screen where the stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The U.S. has charged a Chinese national with stealing trade secrets for China, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

Haitao Xiang, 42, attempted to board a flight to China with proprietary farming software in 2017 before he was stopped by federal officials. Xiang was an employee of Monsanto, an American agricultural biotechnology company based in Missouri, from 2008 to 2017. Monsanto was acquired in 2018 by German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG.

“The indictment alleges another example of the Chinese government using Talent Plans to encourage employees to steal intellectual property from their U.S. employers,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers in a statement.

China inaugurated its “Thousand Talents Plan” in 2008, ostensibly meant to recruit scientific researchers. U.S. officials have termed the Talent Plan a threat to national security due to China’s use of the plans to steal intellectual property.

Xiang was recruited to the plan later on.

“Xiang promoted himself to the Chinese government based on his experience at Monsanto,” Demers said. “Within a year of being selected as a Talent Plan recruit, he quit his job, bought a one-way ticket to China, and was caught at the airport with a copy of the company’s proprietary algorithm before he could spirit it away.”

Xiang has lived in the U.S. for 17 years and has a wife and daughter in the country.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang denied that China uses talent plans to engage in theft of intellectual property.

“We resolutely oppose the U.S. using this single case as a pretext for saying China has groups that organize and plan steal intellectual property from the U.S.,” Shuang said at a Friday press conference. “China’s technological achievements did not come from theft,”

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