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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Justice Department's arrest of Simon Saw-Teong Ang, an engineering professor at the University of Arkansas, for wire fraud earlier this month ratcheted up a long-running confrontation with China over a controversial scholarship program.

What’s happening: Ang’s indictment was related to his failure to disclose the extent of his ties to China’s 1000 Talents Program, an initiative of the Chinese government to encourage U.S. scientists and researchers to share technical know-how and innovations with Chinese universities and businesses.

  • U.S. officials view the program warily — primarily as an instrument used by the Chinese government to facilitate the transfer of valuable intellectual property out of the United States, and perhaps even to steal it.

The big picture: Ang’s arrest was the latest in a crackdown by DOJ officials over the 1000 Talents Programs, which has ensnared the chair of Harvard’s chemistry program, a former Emory University neuroscientist, a Coca-Cola engineer and others.

  • 1000 Talents-related criminal charges have generally not involved espionage and have centered instead on the theft of trade secrets, false statements, tax fraud and wire fraud.
  • This isn’t entirely unusual in national security-adjacent cases, but critics say that DOJ’s hard-charging approach will chill scientific exchanges between the U.S. and China and discourage open laboratory environments more broadly.

The bottom line: The U.S. is walking a tightrope between aggressively pursuing intellectual property theft cases and creating a chilling effect through overbroad and/or racially tinged prosecutions.

Go deeper

Aug 18, 2020 - World

Trade is now the relative bright spot in U.S.-China relations

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Trade is the last major area where the U.S. is still relying on traditional diplomacy to work through problems with China.

Why it matters: U.S.-China relations are at their lowest point in decades, as both sides have taken an increasingly harder line over Hong Kong, Xinjiang, the South China Sea and other issues. The desire to keep the trade deal alive seems to be keeping the relationship from unraveling entirely.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under de Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.

4 hours ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.

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