Man charged with illegally exporting anti-submarine devices to China

A Chinese national has been charged in the United States for conspiring with an entity affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to illegally ship devices used in anti-submarine warfare to China.

Shuren Qin, a permanent resident of the United States living in Massachusetts, was purportedly tasked in 2015 by the Xi’an-based Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU) — which authorities call a “Chinese military research institute” — to “obtain items used for anti-submarine warfare from the United States.”

Federal prosecutors allege that the 41-year-old Qin shipped 78 hydrophones — devices used to detect or monitor sound underwater — to the NWPU from July 2015 to December 2017.

Qin was arrested on Thursday last week and indicted Tuesday on one count of conspiracy to violate US export laws and regulations and two counts of visa fraud.

According to the NWPU website, the university is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. It claims to be “the only multidisciplinary and research-oriented in China that is simultaneously developing education and research programs in the fields of aeronautics, astronautics, and marine technology engineering.”

The US Department of Commerce identified NWPU as a potential national security risk in 2001 for its close dealings with the (PLA).

Court documents show that Qin is the president of a company headquartered in Qingdao that imports underwater and marine technologies into China and then re-sells them.

CNN reached out to attorneys representing Qin late Tuesday night and NWPU Wednesday for comment.

‘Industrially significant technology’

The news comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump is preparing to crack down on Chinese investment in “industrially significant technology” in the United States and bar some technologies from being exported to China.

The White House previously said that details of the investment restrictions, as well as “enhanced export controls” limiting Chinese acquisition of US technology, will be announced by June 30.

The United States has for years enjoyed a significant advantage when it comes to submarine technology. The development of China’s own domestic submarine technology is now threatening to challenge that advantage.

Countries throughout the Indo-Pacific region are acquiring modern underwater capabilities, many for the first time. By 2035, about half of the world’s submarines will operate in the Indo-Pacific, the Australian Defense Department estimates.