SpyCast 8.8.23
Ep 597 | 8.8.23

“China’s Corporate Spy War” – with CNBC’s Eamon Javers

Show Notes


Eamon Javers (Twitter, LinkedIn) joins Andrew (TwitterLinkedIn) to discuss China’s Corporate Spy War. Eamon is the Senior Washington correspondent at CNBC. 

What You’ll Learn


  • Why go after corporate secrets? 
  • What’s at stake for the United States 
  • The case of Yanjun Xu and GE Aviation
  • Military implications of economic espionage


  • The innovation nation
  • Simple twists of fate

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week on SpyCast, Andrew is joined by CNBC’s Senior Washington Correspondent Eamon Javers to discuss his new documentary, China’s Corporate Spy War. The documentary focuses on the case of Yanjun Xu, an operative working for the Chinese Ministry of State Security who was convicted of espionage in 2022. Xu targeted large corporations like GE Aviation in an attempt to steal cutting edge American technology.

Corporate espionage is not a new phenomenon – for centuries now, nations have been stealing each other’s top trade secrets to advance their own economic prosperity. In the 21st century, this threat has only increased with the rise in tensions between the United States and the People's Republic of China. Eamon argues that what China is doing is different, because Chinese intelligence agencies and companies work together in ways that would not be tolerated in the United States. Tune in to this week’s episode to learn more. 


Did you know that one of your favorite cookies was a victim of economic espionage? In 2014, two men were convicted of stealing the secret recipe for titanium dioxide (TiO2) and selling it to Chinese companies for a sum of over 20 million dollars. What makes TiO2 so valuable? It’s the pigment that makes the Oreo cookie cream so white. 

Quotes of the Week

“I don't think people in corporate America knew that, fully understood the scale of the threat. They thought this was kind of an annoyance like shoplifting is, and that you kind of just build in some procedures and there's some sunk costs associated with that, and you move on. What these intelligence guys were describing was an entirely different threat. This was the elimination of major American brands from the global marketplace.” – Eamon Javers.




*Beginner Resources*



  • SPIES: The Epic Intelligence War Between East and West, C. Walton (Simon & Schuster, 2023)
  • The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage, M. Hvistendahl (Riverhead Books, 2020) 
  • To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence, J. Olson (GUP, 2019)
  • Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage, E. Javers (HarperCollins, 2010) 



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • The Second Letter from Père d’Entrecolles to Father Orry (1722) 
  • The art of porcelain making and selling was mastered under the Qing Dynasty. The West got curious and knew the form of pottery could be profitable to produce on their own. Because of the secrets shared by this Jesuit priest, China’s monopoly on porcelain production quickly toppled and the practice was spread across Europe.