AASF Condemns Another Attempt to Reinstate the ‘China Initiative’


Contact: Melissa Stek, media@aasforum.org, 616-550-8039

Washington, D.C. – The Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF), an organization that led 50+ organizations with coalition partners to prevent the reinstatement of the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative,” condemns the recent committee mark-up vote of HR 1398 “Protect America’s Innovation and Economic Security from CCP Act,” and all efforts to reinstate the discriminatory ‘China Initiative’ program. HR 1398 would reestablish the “China Initiative”—a program that raised serious concerns of racial profiling and targeting of Asian Americans and immigrants, particularly of Chinese descent. The reinstatement of the “China Initiative” would have devastating consequences especially for Asian American scholars, many of whom had their lives upended as a result of the harmful Initiative. 

AASF is supported in this stance by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who referenced a previous report by AASF in his argument against reinstating the China Initiative. This report detailed the extensive harm and racial profiling caused by the ‘China Initiative,’ the climate of fear it reinforces, and the chilling effect on science and innovation the program caused, emphasizing the importance of rejecting HR 1398. 

Said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): “In a September 2022 report by the Asian American Scholar Forum, researchers found that between December 2021 and March 2022, 42% of the over 1300 faculty members surveyed nationwide reported being fearful of conducting research in the US. Further 61% felt pressured to leave the US and 45% intended to avoid federal grant application. It is foolhardy to punish China by harming American innovation, but by discouraging researchers from working here, that is exactly what we did.” 

Said Gisela Perez Kusakawa, AASF Executive Director: “As an organization representing the concerns of Asian American scholar, scientific, and research communities, we welcomed the Biden administration’s termination of the flawed ‘China Initiative’ and recognized this action as a crucial step towards addressing the long standing concerns of bias and profiling against Asian Americans in our country. During those harrowing three years under the Initiative, we repeatedly saw how wrongful and unjust investigations and prosecutions under the ‘China Initiative’ destroyed lives and ruined careers, especially for Asian American scholars, researchers, and scientists.

With this most recent attempt to reinstate the China Initiative, we are reminded yet again of discriminatory investigations that create a ‘living hell’ for researchers and their families. There is absolutely no reason for us to take a step back and reinstate a policy that has deeply harmed so many and led to a widespread chilling effect for our communities, especially during Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. While AASF has worked diligently to build bridges and foster trust at the federal level, we also closely monitor the work of our legislators and stand firm in our opposition to any attempt at reinstating the ‘China Initiative,’ including HR 1398. We will continue to work toward healing, trust, and academic equality for all, but this will not be possible if this Initiative is reinstated. Our country is made stronger when Asian Americans and immigrants are able to contribute freely without fear of discrimination or harm—and any legislation from Congress should be a reflection of that.”

Gang Chen, AASF Board Member, said, “The China Initiative and similar efforts have severely impacted the lives of many Asian American scientists and researchers, including myself. The yearlong investigation and my subsequent arrest in 2021 were not just an attack on my character, but also on the principles of academic freedom and scientific collaboration. For 371 days, my loyalty was unjustly questioned and our lives upended. Even though the charges were eventually dropped, the stigma and the damage to our reputation and mental well-being linger. It is crucial to recognize how such initiatives impede our ability to innovate and drive progress, casting a long shadow over our personal and professional lives.”

Said Dr. Kai Li, AASF Co-Founder: “The ‘China Initiative’ has caused a pervasive fear among scientists and researchers in Asian American communities, especially to those of Chinese descent. This has significantly harmed individuals, their families, and the broader scientific field. As lifted up by Congressman Nadler, AASF’s findings indicate that scientists of Chinese descent in the U.S. have been consistently fearful during their daily research and academic work, leading to a loss of talent and obstructing America’s scientific progress and competitiveness. It is essential for our members of Congress to understand these immediate and extensive repercussions to our research community when creating legislative measures that take our communities a step backwards. Rather than reinstating the “China Initiative,” which has already proven to be the wrong approach, our country should work towards an inclusive and welcoming environment to attract and retain talents. This is not only a moral responsibility but also crucial for maintaining America’s leadership in science and technology.”

Just months after an attempt in the House to include the program’s reinstatement in must-pass budget legislation, HR 1398 is yet another legislative reinstatement attempt since the Biden administration terminated the program in 2022. AASF rejects any and all attempts to reinstate the “China Initiative,” and firmly opposes any discriminatory policies, laws, and programs targeting Asian American scholars.


Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF) is a national non-profit that promotes academic belonging, openness, freedom, and equality for all. In response to heightened anti-Asian sentiments and profiling in the U.S., AASF has been a leading national voice fighting for the rights of Asian American and immigrant scientists, researchers, and scholars. AASF membership includes members from the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, in addition to past and current university presidents, provost, vice provosts, deans, associate deans and past and current department chairs.