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Ranking Member Nadler Opening Statement for the House Judiciary Committee Markup of H.R. 1398, the “Protect America’s Innovation and Economic Security from CCP Act”

Today, Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, for the House Judiciary Committee Markup of H.R. 1398, the “Protect America’s Innovation and Economic Security from CCP Act”:

"Mr. Chairman, in 2018 the Trump Justice Department launched what it called the “China Initiative”.  While it was ostensibly designed to counter efforts by the Chinese government to steal American intellectual property, the program ultimately had few successes.  For nearly four years, the National Security Division brought a series of unsupportable cases against Chinese academics at the height of their careers.  The government was forced to drop many of these prosecutions.  Others failed in court.  Even more were overturned on appeal. 

The China Initiative was born out of the understanding that a strategic priority of the United States is countering national security threats from China.  Had the DOJ gone in a different direction from this starting point, we might be here lauding the successes of the “defend U.S. trade secrets program.” 

Instead, the Trump DOJ invested significant resources into targeting individuals of Chinese descent working in the United States, diverting crucial funding and personnel that could have been used to combat economic espionage and trade secret theft across the board.

But the China Initiative did not just waste valuable resources.  Rather than keeping Americans safe, the China Initiative divided workplaces, ruined careers, and contributed to anti-Asian hate.  If you were a person of Chinese descent working in American higher education, you were a suspect.  Rather than keeping America safe, the China Initiative divided workplaces, ruined careers, and contributed to Anti-Asian hate at the height of the pandemic, when tensions were already high.

Many of my colleagues who served on this Committee during the pandemic remember the vitriol, the carless word choice, and the characterization of “otherness” directed at Asian Americans during that time. 

Programs like the China Initiative, with its explicit targeting of Chinese citizens working in the United States, only served to amplify these tensions. 

For many of us, the clear drawbacks and minimal successes of the program were obvious in real time, and I am proud to say that I opposed the China Initiative throughout its short existence.  And I was glad to see the program ended in early 2022 by the Biden Administration.

Unfortunately, this legislation, which would establish a “CCP Initiative” at the National Security Division, would simply reestablish the China Initiative by another name.  My colleagues across the aisle have repeatedly suggested that without the China Initiative, we as a country are not being “tough on China.”  But what the majority fails—or refuses—to realize is that programs like these are wholly ineffective at protecting our intellectual property. 

In fact, they do the opposite.  During its four-year tenure, the China Initiative stifled innovation by discouraging foreign talent from moving to American companies and prevented Chinese researchers from accepting positions at our institutions of higher learning.  We cannot quantify those missed opportunities.  There is no way to know what inventions never came to be, but we can realize when we made a mistake, and move on.  This bill would prevent us from doing so.

I appreciate that my colleagues have been circumspect when talking about the national security threat posed by China.  But it is imperative that we differentiate the many people who live and work in the United States from the threat posed by the government of China, not just in our words but in our actions.

It is also concerning that this bill would reestablish a pillar of a program that was repeatedly used to target Chinese professors working at American research institutions.

Countries around the world send their best and brightest to the United States for education and to perform valuable research in our academic institutions.  But instead of welcoming their contributions to our economy and to our society, programs like the China Initiative encourage them to take their training and their talents elsewhere.

In a September 2022 report by the Asian American Scholar’s Forum, researchers found that between December 2021 and March 2022, 42 percent of the over 1,300 faculty members surveyed nationwide reported being fearful of conducting research in the U.S.  A further 61 percent felt pressure to leave the U.S., and 45 percent intended to avoid federal grant applications.  It is foolhardy to punish China by harming American innovation, but by discouraging researchers from working here, that is exactly what we did.

The IP Subcommittee has conducted several bipartisan hearings on the threat posed by the Chinese government’s theft of trade secrets.  Democrats and Republicans agreed that there is a real, significant threat to our national security. 

But this Committee has more important things to do than revisit failed Trump-era programs.  If anything, we should expend our oversight resources ensuring that the DOJ is not simply following the practices of the China Initiative in all but name today. 

This legislation would take us in the opposite direction.  I oppose the bill, I encourage my colleagues to do the same, and I yield back the balance of my time."

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