AI spying shock overshadows Wang Yi’s media briefing

Chinese national had access to ‘building blocks’ of Google’s cutting-edge tech, US prosecutors reveal 

Spouting diplomatic drivel has become the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy under Communist Party big boss Xi Jinping. But there are always dangers that fabricating the facts will backfire.  

For Foreign Minister Wang Yi, you could visibly see the metaphorical egg dripping from his face after moaning that “the United States continues to have a wrong perception of China.”

His comments came during a 90-minute Q&A briefing on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing with major state-run and foreign media organizations on Thursday.  

Just hours earlier, it had been revealed that a Chinese national had been charged with stealing Google’s “AI crown jewels,” while “covertly working for China-based companies.”

“Today’s charges are the latest illustration of the lengths affiliates of companies based in the People’s Republic of China are willing to go to steal American innovation,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

“The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences,” he added.

The case comes as tensions have increased [between China the US].

Financial Times

Behind the headlines:

  • Software engineer Ding Linwei, 38, also known as Leon Ding, has already been charged by the United States Justice Department, the Financial Times reported.
  • He was hired by Google in 2019 to work on the software used in its supercomputing data centers, the FT pointed out.
  • Ding now faces “four counts of federal trade secret theft,” with “each punishable by up to 10 years in prison,” the ABC news network revealed.
  • He is alleged to have stolen more than 500 confidential files, including the “building blocks” of Google’s AI infrastructure, US prosecutors said. 
  • “A lawyer listed as Ding’s defense attorney had no comment as of Wednesday evening, ABC reported.

Reaction to the news: “After an investigation, we found that this employee stole numerous documents, and we quickly referred the case to law enforcement,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Big picture: Artificial Intelligence has become a major battleground between China and the United States in Cold War 2.0 along with state-of-the-art semiconductors that will power the AI revolution.  

Delve deeper: “The case comes as tensions have increased over Silicon Valley’s links to China. [Washington] has moved to ban some US investment into China’s quantum computing, advanced chips and AI sectors,” the Financial Times stressed.

Between the lines: “[This is seen as] an effort to stop the Chinese military from accessing American technology and capital,” the FT added.

China Factor comment: Beijing has launched a massive industrial espionage operation since 2000 that is threatening the economies of the US and its allies in Asia and Europe. Against that backdrop, Foreign Minister Wang’s comments lack credibility.