The U.S. Department of Justice has charged the chair of Temple University’s physics department with four counts of wire fraud for funneling a U.S. superconducting device to China.
Xi Xiaoxing, a 47-year-old superconductivity expert and naturalized U.S. citizen, allegedly tried to create a scheme in which he would trade highly sensitive technological information for prestigious university appointments in China, The Associated Press reports.. Starting in 2002, Xi took a sabbatical, deciding to engage in research for a U.S. company that was working on a superconductivity device.
Two years later, Xi purchased that device with a grant from the Department of Defense, even though the company took some persuading and did not want to give up the device without a firm agreement: Xi was to hold the device for a year and only use it for testing purposes. He was not allowed to sell or transfer or reproduce it.
However, he broke the 2006 agreement with the support of Chinese postdoctoral students, at which point he tried to use the device as a bargaining chip with the Chinese government to gain a university appointment.
In the emails he sent, he promised to build a world-class laboratory.
The scheme didn’t work, and on Thursday, Xi was released on $100,000 bail. The name of the U.S. firm was withheld.
The story is a familiar one. Several days ago, the Department of Justice indicted six Chinese citizens for stealing mobile phone technology from two U.S. companies. Of the six, two were university professors. Washington continues to harangue China about repeated attempts to steal coveted trade secrets in both civilian and military sectors.
“We are aware of the charges and look forward to talking with Dr. Xi about the matter,” a Temple University spokesman told Philadelphia Business Journal in a statement.