Biden Administration to Shut Down China Initiative
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
26 February 2022
The DOJ announced on Feb. 23 that it was ending the China Initiative program, which was spearheading an unprecedented crackdown against economic espionage, trade theft, and technology transfer by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against the United States. The program was launched in 2018 by the Trump administration.
Under the initiative, the FBI was conducting roughly 1,000 investigations by February 2020 across 56 regional offices into China’s attempted theft of trade secrets, FBI Director Christopher Wray said at the time. China has also been implicated in about 80 percent of all economic espionage charges brought forward by the DOJ, and the country is connected to 60 percent of all trade-secret theft cases. The initiative has led to dozens of prosecutions since its inception, according to the DOJ’s 2021 year-end report.
But there have been growing concerns from the civil rights community that the program was fielding “a narrative of intolerance and bias,” Olsen said. He also said the academic and scientific community had raised concerns over the department’s prosecutions of certain fraud cases involving research grants, alleging that the prosecutions could ultimately “lead to a chilling atmosphere for scientists and scholars” and threaten academic research and economic development in the long term.
As such, the program will be replaced by a broader, new approach to tackle threats “from a range of hostile nation-states,” and the DOJ “will continue to prioritize” threats from the CCP, Olsen said.