Monday, March 7, 2022

C&EN: Department of Justice to end China Initiative

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, coverage of the ending of the Department of Justice's China Initiative (article by Andrea Widener): 
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will drop its controversial China Initiative and adopt a broader strategy to address economic espionage. Many in the Asian American community met the move with cautious optimism.

The DOJ has been criticized for using the initiative to charge many academic researchers not for stealing secrets but for failing to report connections to China.Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a speech Feb. 23 that after reviewing the program, he had “concluded that this initiative is not the right approach.” Instead, he said, the department will examine the espionage efforts of a number of nations, including Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Asian American advocacy groups were happy about the shift but worry that Chinese scientists could still be targeted. “Having thousands of professors and scientists sign on to a petition asking to end the China Initiative made a difference,” John C. Yang, executive director of Advancing Justice–AAJC, said in a webinar on the change. “We’re going to ask for all of your help, again, in making sure that DOJ lives up to its promises.”

In his speech, Olsen recognized that the initiative “fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias” that had a chilling effect on researchers, especially those of Chinese descent, and damaged the scientific community. He also vowed that the DOJ would take a more active role in reviewing cases against academics to ensure that people are not improperly charged. 
I'm not surprised by this development - pretty clear that the the Justice Department has been telegraphing this move for a while. I still think what I think at the beginning of this: the People's Republic of China will take what American IP they can get that isn't nailed down, and that the FBI and/or the Department of Justice is poorly positioned to understand what is "worth stealing" and what isn't. Here's hoping this retooling will be both good for Chinese scientists working in the United States and for American national security interests.... 

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looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20