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Each week, we learn more about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) campaign of economic espionage and covert influence in the United States. In addition to cyberattacks and intellectual property theft, the campaign now includes attempts to discredit opponents of the Chinese agenda and interfere in US policy. Yet despite Beijing’s increasingly brazen activities, the Biden administration decided earlier this year to shut down the Justice Department’s “China Initiative.”
Since the administration ended the initiative, 12 Chinese agents have been charged or charged with conducting or directing operations inside the United States. According to court documents, these agents: attempted to undermine the campaign of a candidate for US Congress; used information illegally obtained from federal law enforcement databases to harass and discredit Taiwanese independence groups, pro-Tibet and Uyghur human rights activists; spied on pro-democracy activists living in the United States; and attempted to coerce Chinese citizens back to China, so they could face “corruption” charges. Several of these cases involve former or current US law enforcement officers who abused their positions in exchange for Chinese intelligence money. All of these arrests were based on investigations that began long before the administration’s decision not to prioritize investigating CCP activities in that country.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the decision, FBI Director Christopher Wray and MI5 Director General Ken McCallum warned business and academic leaders of the Chinese threat earlier this month. at the agencies’ first-ever joint public event.
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On the same day, the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center released a bulletin highlighting how the CCP has stepped up its covert campaign to influence US and local leaders. By “using the local to surround the central,” the bulletin said, the CCP seeks to influence, pressure or coerce state, local and federal officials into adopting pro-China policy positions. U.S. officials who support measures consistent with CCP policy priorities are rewarded with economic investments and paid trips to China. Those who don’t may be blackmailed based on sensitive personal information the CCP has collected or threatened to cancel business deals in their state.
In the face of this increasingly aggressive threat from China, why has the administration canceled the Justice Department’s China Initiative? Apparently it succumbed to activist groups and a handful of progressive politicians who turned a few fraud lawsuits against Chinese and Chinese-American researchers into a narrative that the whole initiative was an exercise in xenophobia and racism. .
This account was obviously false. He ignored, for example, the condemnation of Harvard chemistry department chairman Charles Lieber after he was caught smuggling tens of thousands of dollars in his luggage on flights back from China. And he ignored the massive reach of Beijing’s espionage and influence campaign outside of academia.
In ending the initiative, the administration signaled that combating malicious Chinese activity in our country is no longer a top priority for federal law enforcement. Instead, Assistant Attorney General Matt Olsen, who heads the Justice National Security Division, said China is just one of many nation states that threaten US national security. Although correct, his statement ignores the outsized threat the CCP poses to our political and economic system.
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In U.S. prosecutors’ offices across the country, line prosecutors pay close attention to statements from their leaders and prioritize their limited time and resources accordingly. While truly egregious cases will still be prosecuted, many more will now be left behind, allowing Chinese agents to continue working to overthrow our political and economic system.
The Biden administration has also done little to counter the CCP’s threat to Americans’ personal information. More than a year ago, the president revoked President Trump’s executive order that banned TikTok, WeChat and other CCP-related apps. He replaced it with an order that gave the Commerce Secretary six months to formulate a risk-based approach to assessing Chinese apps. This deadline has passed without any sign of action from the administration.
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Likewise, Biden’s Commerce Department has so far made little effort to implement or enforce Trump-era regulations that authorize the agency to ban information and communications technology transactions. with foreign adversaries like China. Such inaction in the face of the CCP threat itself leaves the American people less secure.
For years, the FBI has portrayed China as the primary threat to US economic and national security. The Biden administration should acknowledge this truth and treat the CCP threat with the seriousness it deserves.