The Department of Justice launched the China Initiative in November 2018 to counter national security threats emanating from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In February 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it had launched about a thousand active investigations under the Initiative; the China Initiative is gaining momentum.

People and entities with connections to the governing PRC party-state structure have, indeed, engaged in trade secret theft and other activities that are criminal under U.S. law; there is a threat. The Department of Justice is, however, framing that threat in a way that is problematic.

In a forthcoming article, law professor Margaret K. Lewis argues that using “China” as the glue connecting cases under the Initiative’s umbrella creates an overly inclusive conception of the threat and attaches a criminal taint to entities that have an even tangential connection to China. She also contends that implying that part of the justification for prosecution and resulting punishment is a shared connection to China is problematic when assessed in light of the goals of deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and retribution. A better path would be to discard the “China Initiative” framing, focus on cases’ individual characteristics, and broaden the Department of Justice’s interactions with non-governmental experts.

Join the National Committee on Tuesday, June 9, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT for a virtual program with Margaret Lewis as she discusses her article.


Margaret K. Lewis is a professor of law at Seton Hall University. Her research focuses on law in China and Taiwan with an emphasis on criminal justice. Professor Lewis has been a Fulbright senior scholar at National Taiwan University, a visiting professor at Academia Sinica, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Public Intellectuals Program Fellow with the National Committee on United States-China Relations, and a delegate to the US-Japan Foundation's US-Japan Leadership Program.
Her publications have appeared in a number of academic journals including the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, NYU Journal of International Law and Politics, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and Virginia Journal of International Law. She is also co-author of Challenge to China: How Taiwan Abolished its Version of Re-Education Through Labor with Jerome A. Cohen.
Professor Lewis received her J.D., magna cum laude, from NYU School of Law, and her B.A., summa cum laude, from Columbia University and also studied at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing, China.


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Tuesday, June 9, 2020
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Margaret K. Lewis

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