The U.S. Hounding and Driving Out of Chinese Cancer Researchers from Top Institutions
Sharpening Contention, Assaulting Science, Targeting a Whole People



We received this contributed article from a reader:

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the FBI are targeting ethnic Chinese scientists, including U.S. citizens, who are searching for a cancer cure. They have staged a witch hunt against a Chinese-American scientist Xifeng Wu, who is a U.S. citizen, labeling her an “oncological double agent” (oncologicalrelating to the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer). This ultimately forced the resignation of Wu, a top-ranked epidemiologist (a scientist who investigates patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans) at the nation’s top-ranked cancer research center, MD Anderson. Wu had worked at MD Anderson for the last 27 years. In the wake of her resignation, three other Chinese-American scientists have resigned.

This is happening in a context of, and is part of deep and intensifying contention between the U.S. and China; between the top-dog imperialist power in the world and a major, rising capitalist regional power and global economic power. This contention is happening in many arenas, including the military, economic, and here, the scientific arena.

According to an article at (“The U.S. Is Purging Chinese Cancer Researchers From Top Institutions,” by Peter Waldman, June 13, 2019):

[Wu] joined MD Anderson while in graduate school and gained renown for creating several so-called study cohorts with data amassed from hundreds of thousands of patients in Asia and the U.S. The cohorts, which combine patient histories with personal biomarkers such as DNA characteristics and treatment descriptions, outcomes, and even lifestyle habits, are a gold mine for researchers. (Some examples of the use of cohorts: Wu and her team showed that Mexican Americans who sleep less than six hours a night had a higher risk of cancer than Mexican Americans who get more sleep, and that eating charred meat such as barbecue raised the risk of kidney cancer.)

A Broad and Deep Fascist Attack on Chinese and Chinese-Americans in the U.S.—Targeting and Demonizing a Whole People…

This case is just the tip of a large, horrific iceberg. A vicious climate of suspicion is being whipped up aimed at all 130,000 Chinese and Chinese-American scientists working in the U.S. This has caused tremendous anxiety among these scientists and among Chinese and Asian people generally. As the Bloomberg article states, “Chinese people in America, including U.S. citizens, are now targeted for FBI surveillance.” There are almost five million people of Chinese descent living in the U.S. and over 360,000 Chinese international students at U.S. universities.

In a speech in April to the Council on Foreign Relations, FBI Director Christopher Wray put straight out the pretext for this: “China has pioneered a societal approach to stealing innovation in any way it can from a wide array of businesses, universities, and organizations.” Wray implicated a wide swath of Chinese people, continuing, “They’re doing it through Chinese intelligence services, through state-owned enterprises, through ostensibly private companies, through graduate students and researchers, through a variety of actors all working on behalf of China.” And further, he said, “Put plainly, China seems determined to steal its way up the economic ladder at our expense...,” and he stated that this Chinese societal approach must be combated by the U.S. with a “whole-of-society approach.” Wray also said that the FBI is pursuing economic espionage investigations “that almost invariably lead back to China” in almost every one of its 56 field offices. According to the journal Science, over the last year the NIH sent out “inquiries” to many institutions it helps fund about “foreign ties” of researchers. NIH says this has prompted 55 institutions to launch investigations.

The Bloomberg article states, “Ways of working that have long been encouraged by the NIH and many research institutions, particularly MD Anderson, are now quasi-criminalized, with FBI agents reading private emails, stopping Chinese scientists at airports, and visiting people’s homes to ask about their loyalty.” This FBI activity did not start with the Trump/Pence regime but these attacks are a huge oppressive leap, and a further ominous step in consolidating fascism in America. Fifty-two percent of people indicted for espionage from 2009 to 2017 had Chinese names. “In the same way racial profiling of African Americans as criminals may create the crime of ‘driving while black,’” wrote the author of an article in Cardozo Law Review, “profiling of Asian Americans as spies … may be creating a new crime: ‘researching while Asian.’”

According to the Bloomberg article, a retired federal employee closed a recent panel discussion on “The New Reality Facing Chinese Americans” by “raising the unspoken dread in a room full of scholars familiar with the long history of U.S. laws and executive orders aimed at Asian immigrants.” She said:

The greatest fear is that history may repeat itself in this political climate, and Chinese Americans may be rounded up like Japanese Americans during World War II… The fear and worry is real.

It is notable and frightening that up to now, these attacks have gotten very little coverage in mainstream media beyond Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle. Everyone who has an ounce of humanity needs to expose this and oppose it.

...and a Serious Attack on Science—Imposing a Fascist Rupture from a Global Scientific Culture of Cooperation to an Ugly USA #1 with No Sharing of Knowledge

The Trump/Pence regime wants to dupe people to believe there is some kind of big conspiracy involving the entire Chinese science community—scientists with “foreign ties.” But science generally today, and especially basic scientific research like cancer research, is a very global process. Scientists from all over the world collaborate with each other, regularly sharing data and theories, insights, questions. They publish their findings openly for review and criticism. These attacks will have a chilling effect on cancer research worldwide. Cancer kills nearly 10 million people each year, including 4.3 million in China. This will lead to more unnecessary deaths around the world. Without scientific cooperation, insights and discoveries will be missed or delayed, there will be increased waste as resources have to be duplicated, slowing down everything.

Oliver Bogler, MD Anderson Cancer Center’s senior vice president for academic affairs from 2011 to 2018, spoke about the changes:

MD Anderson was very much an open door. The mission was “End cancer in Texas, America, and the world.”

And Adam Kuspa, senior vice president and dean of research at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, described the global social relations involved in cancer research, relations that are now under attack:

Faculty don’t see international borders anymore. If someone in another country has a piece of the puzzle, they want to work with them.

The Bloomberg article continues:

Relationships often begin at academic conferences, jell during invited visits for symposiums or lectureships, and culminate in the melding of research into scientific papers.

This System Is a Shackle on Science—We Need a Whole New System and a Whole New World

Science is and should be a global effort to further humanity's understanding of nature and society and to help solve many of humanity’s problems, many of which are global in scale.

But under the system of capitalism-imperialism, the whole world is broken up into rival blocs of capital and rival nations forever locked in life-and-death competition. And as long as this system continues to exist, everything, including science, is subordinated to that and twisted by it. This assault on scientists and Chinese people more broadly is taking place in the broader context of intense contention between the U.S. and China, including the well-publicized trade wars. Besides this attack on scientists, there is also a similar parallel attack on Chinese tech workers.

As the Bloomberg article states, “Everything is commodified in the economic cold war with China, including the struggle to find a cure for cancer.” And it goes on to say:

Wu hasn’t been charged with stealing anyone’s ideas, but in effect she stood accused of secretly aiding and abetting cancer research in China, an un-American activity in today’s political climate.... There was no evidence, and no accusation, that she’d given China any proprietary information, whatever that term might mean in cancer epidemiology.1

This system itself is a societal cancer on humanity. Humanity desperately needs to find and implement a cure for this cancer, needs a whole better system than this. And while not yet enough people know this, humanity can do much better than this system. To get there, to do this, requires a real revolution, requires the scientific framework for being able to understand and change this system; Bob Avakian’s New Communism requires actively preparing for that revolution now.

1. Behind the investigation that led to Wu’s exit—and other such probes across the country—is the National Institutes of Health, in coordination with the FBI. “Even something that is in the fundamental research space, that’s absolutely not classified, has an intrinsic value,” says Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director of the NIH, explaining his approach. “This pre-patented material is the antecedent to creating intellectual property. In essence, what you’re doing is stealing other people’s ideas.” 

In a world situation marked by extreme contention between rival world powers like the U.S. and China, this represents not only the commodification of all knowledge but also its weaponization. [back]


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