The pro-China business group that counts two key Biden administration picks as strategic advisers likened the Justice Department’s crackdown on Chinese economic espionage to “McCarthyism” in a shocking panel discussion last month.

Reta Jo Lewis, Biden’s nominee to run the Export-Import Bank, and Mitch Landrieu, the new infrastructure czar, are both listed as "strategic advisers" for the U.S. Heartland China Association, which regularly works with Chinese organizations tied to the CCP’s United Front — which Xi Jinping has described as a “magic weapon.”

Last month, the USHCA released a video of a panel discussion titled “Return of McCarthyism” on YouTube. The video blasted the Department of Justice's China Initiative, which is aimed at stopping China from stealing intellectual property and economic secrets from U.S. academic institutions, describing it as reminiscent of onetime Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy, who crusaded against communist influence in the United States.

“History never repeats itself, but it rhymes. At this time of political divide in America and tension between the U.S. and China, many symbols of the Cold War era are coming to haunt us today,” the USHCA video said. “From the Justice Department’s much criticized China Initiative to the reemergence of McCarthyism in America, there are alarming signs that, if we are not careful, our country may once again go down a troubling path, especially for Chinese Americans who are stuck in the middle.”

USHCA posed the question: “What lessons can we learn from the past that can help us prevent a repeat of policies and rise of demagogues that will lead our country down a path of ruin?” Former Democratic Gov. Bob Holden serves as the CEO of USCHA, and his LinkedIn page brags he “helped bring the first Confucius Institute ” to Webster University. He introduced the McCarthyism discussion.

“We do have conflicts internationally. We’ve got paranoia. Cold War versus hot war,” Holden said when introducing the panel. “We have country differences, whether it be France, Great Britain, China, Russia, South/Central America. ... And what we want to talk about is how do we find the common ground.”

Haipei Shue, president of United Chinese Americans, moderated the discussion, claiming there has been a new “Red Scare” in the U.S.

“I’m not really sure that there was one Chinese spy that has been found by our government,” said Shue, who went as far as to question laws against economic espionage.

The Justice Department would likely disagree with Shue's assertion no Chinese spies have been caught. Yanjun Xu, deputy division director of China’s Sixth Bureau of the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, was convicted in November for attempting to commit economic espionage and trade secrets theft, and three members of China’s Ministry of State Security were charged in July for participating in a global computer intrusion campaign. Those are just a few among numerous examples.


In July, Shue called the DOJ's China Initiative "racial profiling Chinese American scholars." His group has also labeled the DOJ China Initiative a “witch hunt of racial profiling."

Mara Hvistendahl, a discussion panelist, compared FBI Director Christopher Wray to McCarthy and called a lot of the DOJ China Initiative cases “overblown.” Her 2021 book, The Scientist and the Spy, was about the FBI’s investigation into a Chinese national named Robert Mo, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to participating in a long-term conspiracy to steal trade secrets from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.

“There’s no country that presents a broader, more comprehensive threat to America’s innovation, to our economic security, and to our democratic ideas than China does,” Wray said in the summer of 2020, adding, ”The FBI has over 2,000 active investigations that trace back to the government in China." He said these cases represented a 1,300% increase from one decade ago and noted the bureau was opening a new counterintelligence investigation tied to China every 10 hours.

“This is not about the Chinese people or Chinese Americans,” Wray stressed. “This is about the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.”

DOJ’s China Initiative, launched by the Trump DOJ in 2018, aims at pushing back on Chinese economic espionage on U.S. campuses, focused on rooting out academics concealing their ties to the People’s Liberation Army or China’s Thousand Talents Program.

Larry Tye, who wrote a 2021 book titled Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy and was also a USHCA panelist, compared Trump supporters to McCarthy supporters, claimed McCarthy is channeled by Trump, suggested Trump administration concerns about Chinese trade secret theft were a modern version of McCarthyism, said Glenn Youngkin acted like McCarthy to win in the governor’s race in Virginia, and called himself “anti-demagogue” but “not necessarily anti-Republican” when claiming that “Trump and his acolytes” are “demagogues.” He also praised Holden and UCA.


China Daily, owned by the CCP’s Publicity Department, wrote a story about Tye’s remarks titled “Ghost of McCarthyism still haunts Washington.” The piece claimed, “Legacy lives on as U.S. ideological hawks fabricate spy claims against Chinese. Parallels exist between the zealotry of Joseph McCarthy, the anticommunist firebrand in the U.S. Senate of the 1950s, and the approach of some politicians in today's United States, according to” Tye.

USHCA executive director Min Fan told a story during the discussion about a friend who dressed in an “old Chinese Army jacket” for Halloween and said the joke was that “nothing scares Americans more than a communist."