In September 2011, sheriff’s deputies noticed three ethnic Chinese men near an Iowa cornfield. What started as a trespassing inquiry turned into a two-year FBI operation in which investigators bugged the men’s rental cars, used a warrant intended for foreign terrorists and spies, and flew surveillance planes over corn country – all to protecting Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer trade secrets. In The Scientist and the SpyMara Hvistendahl describes the unusually far-reaching investigation, which pitted a veteran FBI special agent assigned to fight a national-security priority against Florida resident Robert Mo, who after his academic career faltered took a questionable job with a Chinese agricultural company as a way to support his family.

Industrial espionage by Chinese companies, a real issue, is among the reasons that the Trump administration gives when explaining the genesis of the U.S.-China trade war, and a top counterintelligence target of the FBI. Have efforts to address the problem been successful?  With what collateral damage?

Author Mara Hvistendahl joined the National Committee on July 30, 2020, for a virtual program to discuss her book and the issues it raises for the United States, Sino-American collaboration in the sciences, and U.S.-China relations. The event was moderated by National Committee board member and Dorsey & Whitney attorney Nelson Dong.

To purchase a copy of the book, please click here.

About the Speakers