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Sunday November 28th

Professors at Stanford speak out against racial profiling

<p>On Sept. 8, a letter was created by faculty at Stanford University in hopes of stopping the China Initiative permanently (<a target="">Flickr</a>).</p>

On Sept. 8, a letter was created by faculty at Stanford University in hopes of stopping the China Initiative permanently (Flickr).

Hailey Ruane

Staff Writer

In 2018, the Trump Administration created the China Initiative in hopes of preventing U.S technology theft by China, and reported to GT Law that the reason the initiative was created was to “identify priority Chinese trade theft cases, ensure that we have enough resources dedicated to them and make sure that we bring them to an appropriate conclusion quickly and effectively.”

A few years have gone by since the China Initiative has been created — its original purpose has drifted significantly. Tensions have been rising amongst researchers at prominent universities due to the racial profiling that the initiative has incited. According to Newsweek, there have been numerous cases of the FBI beginning a case and then dropping it due to lack of evidence against the suspect. The only reason the case was opened in the first place: they are of Chinese descent. 

On Sept. 8, a letter was created by faculty at Stanford University in hopes of stopping the China Initiative permanently. According to Reuters, this letter states “(I)t is harming the United States’ research and technology competitiveness and it is fueling biases that, in turn, raise concerns about racial profiling.”

There has been widespread support for ending this initiative. So far, the letter has been signed by 177 faculty members at Stanford University and, according to Reuters, there are now 140 faculty members at the University of California, Berkeley that are supporting the creation of another letter. 

Another motivator to end the China Initiative is the fact that according to a study done by the FBI that was reported by Newsweek, hate crimes against Asian-Americans have skyrocketed to 70% as of Aug. 2021 in comparison to how many occurred in 2019.

Under the China Initiative, there have been a total of 27 cases of information theft involving the Chinese government according to Reuters. Some of these cases have resulted in guilty charges, while others have been dropped or are still ongoing. An example of one case was reported by Greenberg Traurig, where a man in Tennessee was charged with trade secret theft with economic espionage involving the Chinese government. According to the Greenberg Traurig, the man had “stole valuable trade secrets related to formulations for bisphenol-A-free (BPA-free) coatings for the inside of beverage cans  to set up a new BPA-free coating company in China,” and that the defendant “and her Chinese corporate partner received millions of dollars in Chinese government grants to support the new company.”

Although there have been cases of theft involving the Chinese government, for the Stanford staff who have created the letter, the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to the China initiative itself, and the discrimination and stereotyping against Chinese-Americans has skyrocketed.

Judy Chu is the Chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus and has spoken out about the unfairness the initiative has caused, telling Newsweek that “instead of the normal process of beginning with a crime and searching for a suspect, the FBI has, through its China Initiative, started with racially profiled suspects and searched for a crime.”

The suspicions toward Chinese-Americans have had an impact on the science and technology field, as the initiative has caused Chinese scholars to be wary within the field due to the fear that they could be accused of stealing information from Americans for the Chinese government. Peter Michelson, Stanford’s senior associate dean for the natural sciences reported to Reuters, “I think what the FBI's done in most cases is to scare people - investigating people and interrogating them. And it's harmful to the country.”

These tensions are rising more than ever, and mistrust between colleagues due to ethnicity is the last thing these researchers need. U.S Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu from Stanford University told Reuters “we were the brain gain for half a century. You really want to throw this away?"


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