The Wall Street Journal looks at the case of imprisoned American geologist Xue Feng, and the culture of secrecy in China:
Mr. Xue is one of the latest foreigners to fall afoul of Chinese laws that classify as espionage what much of the rest of the world considers normal market research.
Even as China’s economic pulse is felt through the world—it is the world’s No. 1 consumer of energy—Beijing seems determined to block independent efforts to measure it.
China doesn’t clearly define secrets but its state security apparatus makes clear a danger zone exists: the prosecutor’s basic charge against Mr. Xue wasn’t simply that he found secret data, but that he facilitated its movement out of China. Mr. Xue’s lawyer, Tong Wei, said his client has little hope of succeeding in his appeal.
China’s culture of secrecy is at odds with its invitation to foreign companies to help modernize its business sector. They face an economy increasingly consolidated around massive government-owned business groups, a situation that has blurred the lines between commercial and official data. Some foreign companies say China’s official secrecy compounds distrust of Chinese data in general. It has also hindered Chinese companies intent on pursuing international business opportunities, for instance, by road-blocking due diligence efforts that are basic to deal-making.
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