The recent move by the Biden administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) to terminate the China Initiative is a “big mistake,” former President Donald Trump said at a Feb. 26 press conference prior to his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Trump also issued remarks on the current situation in Ukraine during the press conference.
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.
“I’m surprised to see that. I don’t think we should be doing that. … I think it’s a big mistake,” Trump said of the DOJ’s decision to terminate the program, in response to a question from Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek. “China, as you know, is a very big player, but it can be a very dangerous player in so many different ways.”
DOJ Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen told a press briefing on Feb. 23 that the China Initiative was designed as a coherent approach to the challenges posed by the CCP and was “driven by genuine national security concerns.”
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.