China Initiative

Democrat lawmakers are pushing back against a potential revival of the controversial China Initiative, originally introduced during the Trump era to counter Chinese theft of scientific and technological secrets.

Over a dozen legislators, led by Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Judy Chu, and Sen. Mazie Hirono, are urging congressional leaders to block the reinstatement of the initiative, which expired in 2022.

The lawmakers expressed their concerns in a letter shared with NBC News, specifically targeting language in the explanatory materials accompanying the House spending bill, H.R. 5893.

The materials, drafted by GOP lawmakers, criticized the decision to end the initiative as “deeply irresponsible” and “unwise.” They called on the National Security Division of the Justice Department to establish an office with a similar mission.

The China Initiative

In response, the Democrat lawmakers argued that restarting the China Initiative would misallocate resources and compromise civil rights.

Rep. Grace Meng warned that the initiative, known for questioning the loyalty of innocent Asian Americans, could put a target on their backs.

She emphasized that the initiative led to negative stereotypes and must not be resurrected.

The letter highlighted the lack of transparency from the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the initiative’s implementation. It cited an unacceptably high number of cases ending in dropped charges, dismissals, and acquittals due to a lack of evidence.

It also mentioned the false accusations faced by Asian American academics, including hydrologist Sherry Chen and MIT professor Gang Chen, who experienced significant consequences.

A 2021 study by the nonprofit Committee of 100 revealed that over 50% of scientists of Chinese descent in the U.S. felt considerable fear and anxiety about government surveillance.

In a 2022 speech at George Mason University, Matthew Olsen, head of the National Security Division at the DOJ, acknowledged concerns about discrimination and racial profiling, leading to the decision to end the China Initiative.

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