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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.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kellyanne Conway's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

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