Dropping MIT prof’s case shows US’ ‘China Initiative’ self-destructing
Published: Jan 21, 2022 11:00 PM Updated: Jan 22, 2022 01:13 AM
Chen Gang Photo:Courtesy of MIT

Chen Gang Photo:Courtesy of MIT

 The dismissal of all charges against a Chinese-born MIT professor by the US Justice Department is a "good sign," and shows some in the US have realized the "China Initiative" is nothing but academic racism and a self-destroying plan to politically persecute scientists, Chinese observers said, noting that the US' anti-Asian sentiment in academia and society seriously aggravated one year after Joe Biden took office, and the worsening xenophobia shows that the US is sliding into comprehensive decline.  

After acknowledging it could "no longer meet its burden of proof" in court, a federal court in Boston on Thursday dismissed the charges against Chen Gang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who was accused of failing to disclose ties to China and arrested in January 2021. He was charged as part of controversial "China Initiative," launched by the US Department of Justice under then president Donald Trump. 

After the dismissal, Chen said in a statement that "While I am relieved that my ordeal is over, I am mindful that this terribly misguided China Initiative continues to bring unwarranted fear to the academic community and other scientists still facing charges." 

 "The China Initiative has had a chilling effect on US academic research and unjustly targeted Chinese American researchers through racial profiling," said Zhengyu Huang, President of the Committee of 100, according to a statement of the non-profit US leadership organization of prominent Chinese Americans. 

Huang told the Global Times on Friday that Trump's policy of cracking down on Chinese scientists backfired. 

According to the research of the Committee of 100 on over 2,000 scientists, including Chinese scientists, in the US, many elite scientists are reluctant to apply for federal funding and decided to stop cooperating with China. Some are even considering leaving the US.

The US has become a bellwether of the world's economy because it attracted talent from all over the world. It has the world's leading hi-tech industry. Yet science is a global thing and needs interaction. From this perspective, what the US is doing has backfired, Huang said.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that the dismissal shows that some in the US realize that the "China Initiative" is a witch hunt, a self-destroying project that undermines US scientific research capability and international image. 

The plan has met setbacks in the US, with many scholars and scientists demanding the controversial initiative be immediately terminated. MIT also expressed support for Chen, paying his legal expenses and placing him on paid leave, US media reported. 

Despite the dismissal, other Chinese-born scholars, businessmen and ordinary residents have increasingly become the victim of surging racial violence and targets of hate crimes, and Biden, who vowed to walk out of Trump's shadow, has only made the US fall into a deeper mire of systemic failures in racial discrimination. 

Wang Wen, a professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that growing anti-Asian violence in the US showed that from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, the US has set off the biggest wave of McCarthyism in over half a century. The xenophobia revealed in the anti-Asian sentiment is proof of America's decline, and the US is sliding into a general decline, Wang said. 

The suppression of scientists in the natural sciences is even worse than the Cold War era of McCarthyism, Lü Xiang, an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. 

Stop Asian Hate Photo:VCG


Struggle and fight

Chinese Americans' daily fear and anxiety was pushed to a new high with the tragic death of an Asian American Michelle Go, who was pushed to her death in front of a New York subway train on January 15. 

From being called "China viruses," to being punched and now life-threatening attacks against Asians, the hate crimes grew more violent in the US and have struck fear in the hearts of many Asians, Keith Cheng, Chairman of the New York-based Fukien American Association, told the Global Times. 

"Many Chinese Americans are fearful, especially women and seniors, as they don't know who will be the next victim," he said. 

Asians have been bullied almost "every day" since the pandemic in 2020, and such anti-Asian hate grew more violent amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the US, as many released their anger and discontent to the worsening pandemic situation on Asians, Cheng said. 

To fight such crimes, Chinese communities in Chinatown set up patrol teams comprised of local residents. 

Cheng and some 500 residents, mostly Asian Americans, protested anti-Asian hate in Chinatown on Thursday and mourned over the death of Go and Yao Pan Ma, who died months after being attacked, the third such rally he participated in two months. 

"We want the New York government to offer more protection to Asians in policies, and arrange more police patrols in the Asian communities," Cheng said. 

John Chan, chairman of the Asian American Community Empowerment and convener of Coalition of Asian-Americans for Civil Rights, told the Global Times that the coalition and local communities will organize an emergency meeting on Sunday on how communities respond to safety issues, following the tragedy of Go. 

Lü said that American society's anti-China sentiment was driven by Trump's anti-China rhetoric during the last year of his term, and then this sentiment was further consolidated by Biden who embraced Trump's Xinjiang "genocide" slander. 

Wang Huiyao, the president of Chinese non-government think tank the Center for China and Globalization and Vice Chairman of China Western Returned Scholars Association, told the Global Times that some Asian scientists in the US are nervous and pessimistic about the US' anti-Asian sentiment, which will not improve in the short term, Wang said, noting that Biden, facing midterm elections, has to cater to congressional leaders eager to take a hard stance on China even if he attempts to make improvement.

The result will be Asians, especially Chinese, leaving the US for good, Lü said, noting the suppression and political persecution of scientists will only harm the US. 

Li said Democrats and Republicans are benefiting from or relying on such a divided and polarized situation, and they want to maximize their political interests, and some political figures with extreme views may take advantage of the situation to gain an upper hand in the midterm elections, such as possible Trump's return and rampant populism, which will result in profound problems for US politics and society.