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.

Obama: The rest of us have to live with the consequences of what Trump's done

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Campaigning for Joe Biden at a car rally in Miami on Saturday, Barack Obama railed against President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying "the rest of us have to live with the consequences of what he's done."

Driving the news: With less than two weeks before the election, the Biden campaign is drawing on the former president's popularity with Democrats to drive turnout and motivate voters.

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