U.S. worried about China industrial espionage activities during World's Expo

were also mentioned as a “high-threat environment” in the 2008 intelligence report to Congress.

Bowman told Levine that while economic espionage is the greatest threat facing Americans who might travel to the World’s Expo, countries hosting global events may also try to recruit new spies. It is unclear exactly how common it is for an American to be recruited or “assessed” while traveling overseas, but it has happened before.

As for China, a federal law enforcement official who deals with intelligence matters said the nation “continues to pose a threat,” particularly an economic espionage threat, and a State Department official said the U.S. government has “concerns for all Americans traveling to China under all circumstances.”

Although the Expo may concentrate more business people together during a short time period, that does not change the risk,” said the State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The official, though, said that Americans from U.S. firms have likely taken precautions, since “most of those companies have been doing business in China for years and know the drill.”

In addition, the State Department’s Overseas Advisory Council warns and educates private businesses about potential threats and methods for protecting sensitive information.

China has spent $45 billion to host the World’s Expo, which opens Friday night with a ceremony and fireworks display. The United States has spent more than $60 million to participate and build a pavilion representing America, with financial support from several major U.S. companies, including Boeing, PepsiCo, General Electric, and Proctor and Gamble.

In a letter to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it is “crucial for the United States to be present” and support the Expo’s environmental theme of “Better City, Better Life.”

Meanwhile, the World Expo’s promotional video said China “loves international communication and world peace.” “Because China is undergoing a reform and opening process, it needs to expand exchanges and learn from the development experiences of other countries by hosting this successful and unforgettable World Expo,” the video said.

Levine quotes the U.S. intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for 2010 that China is likely to become the world’s second largest economy later this year. Presenting the assessment to Congress in February, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair noted that China has played a “central role” in the response to the global economic crisis. “[China] has served as one of the key engines for global recovery, reinforcing perceptions of its increasing economic and diplomatic influence,” he said.