Monday 14 March 2022

A Compelling Read: New Yorker Article on the U.S. Department of Justice's "China Initiative"

The New Yorker has published an important, fascinating and excellent article concerning Franklin Tao, a university researcher, who was caught up in the U.S. Department of Justice's China Initiative.  The article is titled, "Have Chinese Spies Infiltrated American Campuses," and is authored by Gideon Lewis-Kraus.  The article mostly focuses on Mr. Tao's experience, but also raises numerous important questions about the Trump Administration's China Initiative and its general approach. Notably, the Biden Administration has discontinued that initiative, but see here on addressing "The PRC Threat." The article may be classified as additional proof under the Trump Administration critique: "Can Spot a Problem, But Proposes Unworkable and Likely Ultimately Unproductive Solutions." The article could focus a bit more on how in some technical fields the line between basic and applied research is blurred.  Additionally, the question of industry competitiveness (and dare I say protection) is an important one that has national security implications--especially in a global economy.  This is particularly true where private interests control a significant amount of critical (and other) infrastructure and national governments spend significant amounts of funding on research and development that leads to economic development.  It is important to remember that many universities in the United States are land grant institutions with direction to help develop local economic interests.  The Bayh-Dole Act itself points toward a preference for U.S. economic development.  Moreover, democracy relies upon the trust and the relative prosperity of many of its citizens (the protection of good paying middle class jobs). The article seems to indicate that the big difference between now and past policy concerning approaches to sharing technology with, for example, the Soviet Union, is that the United States is no longer perceived as being "on top."  There may be some truth to that, but I don't think it is the full story: a lot has happened since then besides that fear. The important recommended article is available, here. I hope it stimulates more thought and conversation. 

No comments: