The US Justice Department Is Ending a Trump-era Initiative Aimed at Countering Chinese Threats.

US Justice Department Is Ending a Trump-era

The United States Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it will discontinue a program aimed at combating Chinese espionage and intellectual property theft, shifting from what one official described as a “myopic” emphasis to handle threats from a broader range of hostile nations.

Critics have said that the project, implemented during former President Donald Trump’s administration, amounted to racial profiling and fostered a fear-based atmosphere that has stifled scientific research.

According to Matt Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, the decision, the contents of which were revealed by Reuters earlier this month, is a recognition that the focus on China was too limited.

“We see states like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea growing more aggressive and capable in their malicious conduct than ever before,” Olsen said at George Mason University’s National Security Institute. “Our new strategy is based on threats.”

The US Justice Department Is Ending a Trump-era Initiative Aimed at Countering Chinese Threats.

The department’s “China Initiative,” which began in 2018, has drawn intense scrutiny from civil rights groups and some members of Congress for its broad investigation into professors at American universities over whether they disclosed financial ties to China when applying for federal grant funding and visiting Chinese scholars from military-affiliated universities.

“By focusing on one country, what the China initiative did, it generated in some ways a bit of a myopic approach that I don’t think really reflects the nature of the threat landscape,” said Olsen, who spoke with reporters ahead of his address about the revisions.

As part of the China Initiative, at least 20 academic academics have faced prosecution, including Charles Lieber, a Harvard University professor convicted in December of lying about his ties to China in connection with federally funded research.

Several of the department’s investigations, however, were dropped owing to errors in the evidence or the premise, including one against Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Gang Chen, who was accused of concealing ties to China while applying for federal grant monies.

“Anything that gives the perception that the Agency of Justice applies disparate standards based on race or ethnicity undermines the department, our efforts, and the public,” Olsen said.

In the future, the Justice Department will set a far higher bar and perform more thorough oversight before initiating such criminal proceedings against academics, according to Olsen.

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Olsen went on to say that the department will not “take any instruments off the table” in terms of launching any future cases involving researchers, nor will it drop any of its outstanding actions against academics.

“The department will continue to support the cases we are already prosecuting,” he said. In an interview with Reuters, U.S. Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California and an opponent of the project, said he was delighted the Justice Department was revising its approach and would “no longer be focused on things that have nothing to do with spying and espionage.”

“This reform will result in less racial profiling of Asians and Asian Americans, which is positive,” he said.” Now we have to keep an eye on it and see what happens as a result of the alteration.”

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Linda Ng, national president of the OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates, similarly stated that her organization is “cautiously optimistic” about the revisions, but cautioned that it should not be viewed as a “rebranding exercise.”

The Justice Department’s new strategy will primarily focus on cases in a few key areas: protecting the nation from espionage, export control, and sanctions violations; protecting corporate intellectual property, private information about Americans, and supply chains; and defending democracy from rising threats posed by authoritarian regimes.

“Make no mistake, we will be tenacious in our defense of our country against China,” Olsen added.

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