CHINA / DIPLOMACY
Washington's 'China Initiative' to find 'Chinese spies' at universities abuses concept of national security, said Chinese FM, as 177 US professors call for an end to the campaign
Published: Sep 14, 2021 10:28 PM
The FBI's J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building in Washington. Photo: AP

The FBI's J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building in Washington. Photo: AP



US President Joe Biden hasn't yet ended the "China Initiative" started by the Trump administration to find so-called Chinese spies at US universities, and has now sparked a backlash from 177 prominent American professors who are urging an end to the racial-profiling hysteria that has harmed US research and technology competitiveness.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Tuesday in response to the petition signed by the 177 Stanford University professors, that the joint letter once again proves that more people in the US have realized that the "China Initiative" campaign is essentially a tool for anti-China forces to abuse the concept of national security to contain and suppress China.

The campaign has not only severely impacted China-US relations, but also aggravated racial discrimination in the US and seriously harmed people of Asian descent in the country, said Zhao. 

He urged Washington to earnestly correct its mistakes and stop interfering with normal exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in science, technology, culture and other fields.

The "China Initiative," launched in late 2018, aimed to prevent US technology theft by China but has since "deviated significantly from its claimed mission," according to the September 8 letter signed by the Stanford faculty members and made public by them on Monday, Reuters reported.

However, the campaign usually set handling targets before investigating them, in disregard of judicial justice will only lead to unjust, false and erroneous cases, Zhao quoted media reports as saying.

As of the end of March, none of the "typical cases" listed on the website of US' Department of Justice involved intellectual property or commercial theft, with charges ranging from fraud, misrepresentation and tax evasion, according to Zhao. 

"[It] is harming the United States' research and technology competitiveness and it is fueling biases that, in turn, raise concerns about racial profiling," the petition letter said.

That letter is now being supported by about 140 University of California, Berkeley professors, who have signed on since late last week, according to the Reuters.

Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Asian scientists especially those from East Asia have become an indispensable strength in US' scientific research.

Although the Biden administration announced that it was easing restrictions for Chinese and other students traveling to the US this fall, the situation for Chinese academics and scientists especially those in STEM has not been improved, Lü noted.

Although Lü has nothing to do with "sensitive fields," his visa was revoked by the US government in late 2018, without any explanation. 

Before his visa was cancelled, Lü said he had been harassed by the FBI for more than half an hour at a US' airport when waiting for his flight back to China. "The FBI agents stopped me and said they wanted to talk with me at a private place. I refused and then they questioned me about 30 minutes," Lü recalled, noting that his visits were at the invitation of formal, mainstream think tanks and academies.

"Such harassment by the FBI is common among Chinese academics," Lü said.

"Even if the US authorities renewed my visa in the future and I get new invitations for cultural exchanges to the US, I would literally think twice before heading to the country," said Lü, adding that his big concern was for his personal safety in the US.

If the Biden administration doesn't end the campaign, the US would only shoot itself in the foot and it become more isolated and backward in the age of globalization, Chinese observers warned.

"Objectively speaking, the campaign could help China retain more talents in their own country given that China's research environment is getting much improved," Lü noted.
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