Wednesday’s announcement by the Department of Justice was that it will end its China Initiative program, which was designed to prevent spying by China Communist Party members, and launch a new, more comprehensive approach.
Trump’s China Initiative was established in 2018 to defend U.S. national safety against Chinese spying on intellectual property and academia. According to the DOJ website, it is designed to identify and prosecute those involved in hacking, trade secret theft, and economic spying. It also protects our critical infrastructure from external threats via foreign direct investment and supply chain compromises.
This program is ending. The DOJ has replaced it with a Strategy for Countering National-State Threats.
This strategy aims to use all of our resources and authorities to combat the alarming increase in illegal activity by hostile nations. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen from the DOJ’s National Security Division stated that this is the goal. This includes threats to the United States, American businesses abroad, and growing threats to Americans.
Olsen stated that the current threat landscape requires a broader approach. He cited China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea.
He said that these nations are trying to undermine the core democratic, economic, and scientific institutions of America. They use a wider range of tactics to further their interests and harm the United States. The Department considers it a matter of national security that they must defend American institutions and values from these threats.
Olsen insists that the agency’s new approach doesn’t mean it is losing sight of the danger China presents.
Olsen stated that we will not be complacent in our defense of China.
The China Initiative was being reviewed by the DOJ and it was expected that changes would be made. After receiving input from the Asian American community, the DOJ was concerned about the anti-Asian bias that the old program created.
Activists and professors at universities had put pressure on Merrick Garland, Attorney General, and the Biden administration over this effort. They claimed it was affecting U.S. research competitiveness and unfairly targeting people based upon race.
Protesters gathered outside the DOJ last week to protest the unfair targeting of Chinese professors. Nearly 200 Yale professors signed a letter asking Garland to stop the initiative.
An ex-official from the Justice Department lamented the fact that the U.S. had stopped supporting the China initiative on January 20, 2021, when President Biden was inaugurated.
Fox News China reported that the former official had successfully framed the issue as one of racism bias and that the U.S. has stopped trying to counter it.
We gave up. The champagne corks are sure to pop at CCP offices. The disinformation campaign was won by them, said the ex-official.
The Brennan Center for Justice, a left-leaning think-tank, argued earlier this summer that the initiative should be canceled. This is partly because it harms the U.S. by scaring off Chinese and Chinese-American scientists.
Brennan Center authors Alex Liang and Michael German stated that China presents a legitimate threat to espionage and must be taken seriously by the FBI and Justice Department. Too often, however, cases brought under the China Initiative by the Justice Department have not focused on espionage and intellectual property theft by Chinese spy spies, but rather minor administrative violations by Chinese-ancestry scientists who aren’t suspected to be affiliated with the Chinese government.
Despite significant disagreements between Senate Democrats and House Democrats over what should be included, Congress is trying to pass legislation to fight China. Leaders in Congress are hopeful of reaching a compromise within the next few months to get China’s competition bill to President Obama.