According to the court indictment, Xu, who went by aliases, including Qu Hui and Zhang Hui, was assigned by the MSS to obtain technical information, including trade secrets, from USA and European aviation and aerospace companies, for the interests of the Chinese government.
Xu made his initial appearance in federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Wednesday. He could be given a prison sentence of up to 25 years in addition to fines if charged and convicted, the Justice Department said.
"We can not tolerate a nation's stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".
As far back as 2013, Xu targeted key aviation and aerospace companies around the world, including GE Aviation inside the United States, on behalf of China's Ministry of State Security, according to the Justice Department.
On September 26 the U.S. charged electrical engineer Ji Chaoqun with knowingly acting as an agent of China, due to his contacts with an unnamed "high-level intelligence officer" from the Jiangsu State Security Department.
The indictment said Xu was the deputy division director with the Ministry of State Security's Jiangsu State Security Department.
"We can not tolerate a nation's stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower", said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.
The charges come as Washington increases pressure on Beijing over its trade policies and alleged theft of USA intellectual property.
Concerns about Chinese espionage were echoed in the US Treasury department's announcement on Wednesday that the federal government will tighten rules on foreign investment in high tech industries including aviation next month.
The US authorities have charged a Chinese intelligence officer with stealing technology secrets.
He was arrested in Belgium earlier this year and on Tuesday extradited to the US.
Only one of the companies, GE Aviation, was named by the US Justice Department.
Yanjin Xu, a senior operative with China's Minister of State Security, was arrested in Belgium on April 1 and extradited to the US on Tuesday, the release said.
Officials say Yanjun Xu tried to steal trade secrets from United States aviation and aerospace companies on behalf of China.
He sought to recruit sources in and around the company and bring them to China, to woo their support and gain inside information on GE's technology.
"We can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower". "We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow".
A spokesman for GE Aviation, a General Electric Co division based in suburban Cincinnati, said it had been cooperating for months with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a case that targeted a former employee. Ji was accused of passing information on eight Americans to Chinese intelligence officers for possible recruitment.
Ji targeted individuals in science and tech industries, seven of whom worked for or recently retired from U.S. defence contractors. The pair were said to have specifically targeted techies who were naturalized United States citizens born in China or Taiwan.
Even if there is no evidence Xu was involved in China's cyber operations, it is now a general opinion among many infosec pundits that China does not abide by the terms of the Obama-Xi agreement anymore [1, 2], and the arrest of one of its top MSS directors would unleash hacking efforts on the same level as they were before the pact.