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Justice Department ends controversial Trump-era China Initiative

The DOJ acknowledged that the China Initiative "effectively focused attention on the multi-faceted threat" posed by China.

Published: February 23, 2022 4:32pm

Updated: February 23, 2022 5:20pm

The Department of Justice is replacing the controversial China Initiative with what it says will be a more "comprehensive" strategy to counter threats.

The 2018 China Initiative is being replaced in part due to concerns over anti-Asian bias and hate crimes, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said on Wednesday.

The China Initiative was created by the Trump administration in 2018 with a focus on countering national security threats from China. An archived DOJ webpage promotes more than 50 examples of China-related charges made through the program including espionage, conspiracy and grant fraud.

Olsen acknowledged that the China Initiative "effectively focused attention on the multi-faceted threat" posed by the People's Republic of China. However, Olsen is concerned over the program's anti-Asian accusations and that it creates a "chilling atmosphere" for academics. 

"We have heard concerns from the civil rights community that the 'China Initiative' fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias," Olsen told reporters. "To many, that narrative suggests that the Justice Department treats people from China or of Chinese descent differently. The rise in anti-Asian hate crime and hate incidents only heightens these concerns."

The "Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats" introduced Wednesday broadens the China Initiative approach by focusing on nations such as Russia, Iran and North Korea as well, according to Olsen.

"Our goal with this strategy is to take a comprehensive approach that draws on the full extent of our tools and authorities to address the alarming rise in illegal activity from hostile nations," Olsen said. "This includes growing threats within the United States and to Americans and U.S. businesses abroad."

The DOJ had faced pressure from politicians, nonprofits and academics to end the China Initiative over accusations of racial profiling.

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