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Statement: Stop AAPI Hate Raises Concerns That the “China Initiative” Will Continue Under a New Name

Today, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen announced not the end of the China Initiative, but rather the program’s expansion under a new name — ‘Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats.’ While we recognize the work of advocates in the AAPI community and lawmakers in opposing the China Initiative, we’re concerned that this new program will continue to target academics in the U.S. of Chinese heritage through grant fraud cases, as well as through new civil and administrative approaches. 

The China Initiative was ostensibly created to investigate and prosecute economic espionage and the theft of trade secrets. Under the pretense of national security, the China Initiative has subjected Chinese American scientists and others to racial profiling, surveillance, and wrongful prosecutions, where no evidence of such espionage or trade secret theft exists. 

No public policies should result in the villainization and racial profiling of people living in the United States. The China Initiative has unfairly targeted academics and researchers of Chinese descent in the U.S. An investigation by MIT Technology Review found that only about one-fourth of defendants charged under the China Initiative had been convicted and that 90% of the defendants charged were of Chinese heritage. 

Such policies have painted people of Chinese descent as being untrustworthy, contributing to the racism against AAPIs. Chinese Americans report hate incidents at the highest rate, accounting for 42.7% of the over 10,000 hate incidents reported to our site — facing verbal and physical attacks, bullying and discrimination. 

We join civil rights and community groups in advocating for the end of Justice Department practices that racially profile people of Chinese descent in the U.S.. Although the changes announced by the Justice Department today appear to take positive steps toward ending such practices, we remain concerned that the new ‘Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats’ program will not put an end to the damage the China Initiative has caused.