Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) introduced a bill on March 7 to re-establish the China Initiative—a Trump-era program that aimed at countering economic espionage, intellectual property theft, and other threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The legislation (pdf)—called the Protect America’s Innovation and Economic Security from CCP Act—is intended to reinstate the China Initiative program, which was terminated by the Biden administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) in February 2022.
“President Biden has once again put far-left activists ahead of our national security by canceling a DOJ program designed to prevent spying by the CCP on U.S. intellectual property and academic institutions,” Gooden told The Epoch Times on Tuesday.
“This soft-on-China approach is emboldening the CCP, and Congress can no longer stand by while President Biden behaves like a puppet of Beijing.”
As envisioned by Gooden’s bill, the program would be reinstated under a new name, the CCP Initiative, and would be focused on “identifying and prosecuting those engaged in trade secret theft, hacking, and economic espionage.” It is also aimed at “protecting the critical infrastructure in the United States against external threats through foreign direct investment and supply chain compromises.”
The China Initiative program was launched during the administration of former President Donald Trump. In 2018, then-attorney general Jeff Sessions announced the initiative to combat “the deliberate, systematic, and calculated threats posed, in particular, by the communist regime in China, which is notorious around the world for intellectual property theft.”
Almost 80 percent of all economic espionage charges brought forward by U.S. federal prosecutors involve allegations of theft that benefit China, according to the DOJ. In 2021, Biden’s first year in office, the DOJ filed charges on 15 China-related espionage cases under the initiative, including those involving Chinese intelligence officers, businesspeople, and researchers.
Last February, FBI director Christopher Wray said the bureau opened a new counterintelligence case against the Chinese regime every 12 hours, and was conducting more than 2,000 investigations into the regime’s attempted theft of information and technology. “There is just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, our innovation, and our economic security than China,” Wray said at the time.
However, there have also been growing concerns from the civil rights community that the program was encouraging “a narrative of intolerance and bias,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said last February. Olsen said the academic and scientific community had raised concerns over the department’s prosecution 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 United States long term.
The DOJ replaced the initiative with a new but broader strategy to tackle threats “from a range of hostile nation-states,” though the department “will continue to prioritize” threats from the CCP, Olsen said.
It’s not the first time that U.S. lawmakers rolled out measures to re-establish the China Initiative program. The most recent effort was made by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who last month announced “five national security focused bills to hold Communist China accountable and better protect American families.”
The package includes a bill (pdf) that would “codify the China Initiative and reinstate its effort to prevent spying by the Chinese Communist Party on U.S. intellectual property and U.S. academic institutions.” Senators Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sponsored the legislation.