For weeks China has claimed that four Rio Tinto (RTP) executives engaged in espionage to get secrets about Chinese iron ore prices. One wild claim was that the espionage cost the world's most populous nation over $100 billion. Once it became clear that the figure was impossibly high, it was withdrawn.
Now the Chinese have officially arrested the four managers of the British-Australian mining company. A number of media sources report that they have been charged with bribery and stealing state secrets. Of course, there have been suspicions for some time that the move is in retaliation for the failure of a deal between China metals company Chinalco and Rio Tinto. The deal would have given the state-owned Chinalco about a 20 percent interest in Rio. Australian officials, worried that iron ore is a "strategic" asset, did not want the communist country to be in any position to control Rio Tinto decisions.