‘China Initiative’: US ends Trump-era targeting of Chinese professors

The US justice department is scrapping the name of a Trump-era initiative that was intended to crack down on economic espionage by China but has been criticised as unfairly targeting Chinese professors at American colleges because of their ethnicity.

The decision to abandon the “China Initiative” and to impose a higher bar for prosecution of professors was announced on Wednesday by the department’s top national security official.

It follows a months-long review undertaken after complaints that the programme chilled academic collaboration and contributed to anti-Asian bias. The department has also endured high-profile setbacks in individual prosecutions, resulting in the dismissal of multiple criminal cases against academic researchers in the last year.

Assistant attorney general Matthew Olsen said the department would still “be relentless in defending our country from China” but no longer would group its investigations and prosecutions under the China Initiative label, in part out of recognition of the threats also facing the US from Russia, Iran, North Korea and others.

“I’m convinced that we need a broader approach, one that looks across all of these threats and uses all of our authorities to combat them,” he said.

The programme was established in 2018 under then-attorney general Jeff Sessions as a way to thwart what officials said were aggressive efforts by China to steal American intellectual property and to spy on American industry and research.

Olsen told reporters he believed the initiative was prompted by genuine national security concerns. He said he did not believe investigators had targeted professors on the basis of ethnicity, but he had to be responsive to concerns he heard, including from Asian American groups.

“Anything that creates the impression that the Department of Justice applies different standards based on race or ethnicity harms the department and our efforts, and it harms the public,” Olsen said.

Olsen said that by…

Read full story at the guardian.com

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