Yanjun Xu - identified by the U.S.as an agent of the Ministry of State Security, which is China's intelligence and security agency - was arrested in the Belgium earlier this year, and extradited overnight to Cincinnati. Xu, who appeared Wednesday in federal court in Cincinnati, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio.
He stands accused of trying to steal aviation technology and faces up to 25 years in jail.
"We can not tolerate a nation's stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".
"Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognised as leaders in the aviation field", the Justice Department said in its announcement of the arrest.
The employee traveled to China in June 2017 and gave a presentation at a public university in Nanjing, they said.
Xu is a deputy division director with the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security [JSSD], a provincial arm of the MSS.
Xu also "sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace", said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers.
Last week Vice President Pence accused Chinese security agencies of "masterminding the wholesale theft of American technology".
Justice officials cast the arrest of Xu as part of the global fight against China's alleged campaign to steal U.S. economic secrets. GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric and one of the world's leading engine suppliers for commercial aircraft, has been named as one of the targets.
They remained in contact, and in February 2018, Xu persuaded the GE Aviation employee to send him a company presentation relating to aviation that included proprietary information, US authorities said.
The emails discussed China's attempts to obtain information on composite fan rotors for aircraft, and Xu urged one USA employee of a company to provide information on a computer flash drive. "The case did not involve a hack of GE information".
The activities took place in OH and involved Xu posing as a representative of the Jiangsu Science and Technology Promotion Association, a cover organization.
"No one begrudges a nation that generates the most innovative ideas and from them develops the best technology", Demers said. "But we can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".
A GE Aviation spokesman confirmed that the employee no longer works for the company, but declined to say if the departure was related to the investigation.
Late last month, the Department of Justice reported the arrest of a Chinese citizen in Chicago on charges he covertly worked for a high-ranking Chinese intelligence official to help try to recruit engineers and scientists, including some who worked as USA defense contractors.
He often concealed his identity by presenting himself as being associated with Chinese universities or organizations such as the Jiangsu Science and Technology Promotion Association.
Ji targeted individuals in science and tech industries, seven of whom worked for or recently retired from US defense contractors. The pair were said to have specifically targeted techies who were naturalized USA citizens born in China or Taiwan.