Two Chinese nationals have been charged in the U.S. with trying to steal trade secrets from an American manufacturer of insulation so they could start a competing plant in China.
Ji Li Huang and Xiao Guang Qi appeared in a federal court in (the midwestern city and state of) Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday. They are accused of trying to pay $100,000 for stolen trade secrets from the Sedalia, Missouri plant of Pittsburgh Corning Corporation, which produces material used to insulate industrial piping systems.
Federal agents arrested the men in their hotel room Sunday after they reportedly brought a bag of money to a secret meeting with a plant employee who was working with the FBI. The employee had allegedly agreed to provide the men with confidential information on the production process of the material known as Foamglas, which is in high demand in rapidly industrializing China.
The prosecutor’s statement says Huang and another uncharged co-conspirator were trespassing at the plant in June and allegedly made cell phone videos and photos of the plant. The following month, an employment advertisement was placed in the local newspaper calling for someone with experience at Pittsburgh Corning to lead a project to build a foam glass factory in the Asian market.
Washington has become increasingly critical of Chinese trade practices, including what some say is an increasing number of cases of Chinese companies stealing U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets.