The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage

Mara Hvistendahl. Riverhead, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1428-6
This fascinating and well-researched study from Hvistendahl (Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men) centers on Robert Mo (aka Mo Hailong), who, as an executive for the Chinese agribusiness DBN, routinely engaged in spying. In a somewhat bumbling scheme, Mo and others from DBN spent weeks driving through central Iowa, stealing corn seeds from farms that used proprietary seeds by giants Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer and shipping them to China. In 2011, a call from a farmer to a sheriff’s deputy to report three Asian men in an SUV hanging around a field sparked a two-year FBI operation that crisscrossed the country and involved an informant consulting for DBN. The stakes were high, Hvistendahl notes, as intellectual theft was costing American companies millions, but, according to the author, there was also racism in the FBI, which had long tracked Chinese scientists in the U.S. Ultimately, only Mo paid a price, pleading guilty to theft of trade secrets and spending three years in prison. His sentence served, he’s currently awaiting deportation to China. Those looking for insights into the current tensions with China will be rewarded. Agent: Gillian MacKenzie, MacKenzie Wolf Literary. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 10/29/2019
Release date: 02/04/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-0-7352-1430-9
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