“The greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China.” This, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray at a video event at the Hudson Institute in 2020. The FBI warns of China’s efforts to specifically target academic institutions and research with the intent of stealing foreign technology for the sake of Chinese advancements.
Despite this, the Daily Wire reports last week that the Justice Department dropped five cases involving purported connections to the Chinese military. Five visiting researchers from China were arrested last year following discovery of prior military service, ties each of the five researchers had lied about on visa applications.
A Justice Department official cited “recent developments” in the cases as reason for dismissal, vaguely noting that “We have determined it is now in the interest of justice to dismiss them.” Sources at the FBI have recently suggested that evidence in the cases has failed to produce any direct link between false information provided on visa applications and transfer of intellectual property.
The Justice Department’s announcement came just days before U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to China in the midst of heightened tensions between the two nations. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “The Deputy Secretary underscored that the United States welcomes the stiff competition between our countries, but that we do not seek conflict with the PRC.” This most recent announcement by the Justice Department highlights a less aggressive approach by the Biden administration than that adopted by former President Trump on China.
The Biden administration’s unfolding China policy potentially serves to undermine the acknowledgement of the threat that China poses and the methods it employs to gain a competitive edge globally. A report by the Center for Strategic Study lists 160 publicly reported instances of Chinese espionage directed at the United States since 2000, with 76% of those occurring between 2010 and 2021. Not included are “more than 1200 cases of intellectual property theft litigation brought by U.S. companies against Chinese entities in either the U.S. or Chinese legal systems.”
China poses a very real threat, engaging in nefarious espionage tactics, yet is on track to receive a free pass in this latest move by the nation’s highest enforcer of federal law.