Letter to Senator Chris van Hollen (D-MD) regarding FBI Director Wray comments on Chinese spying

FBI Director’s xenophobic view on Chinese students and scholars threatens our pluralistic open society

Dear Senator van Hollen,

I want to voice my grave concern about FBI Director Christopher Wray’s xenophobic view about Chinese students and scholars. During a testimony in the US senate, Director Wray claimed that the whole Chinese society is a threat to America. “So, one of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-of-government threat but a whole-of-society threat on their end and I think it’s going to take a whole of-society response by us”, Director Wray claims. He particularly pointed out Chinese students and scholars in America’s academic institutions as potential spies for Chinese government. Confucius Institute, a mere language and cultural exchange program, is also regarded by him as a tool for the Chinese government, and poses threat to American culture.

It is absurd to think that the Chinese government somehow has this magic power over the Chinese people and society, so that the Chinese society as a whole conspires with the government to undermine America.

In today’s America, extreme views are being normalized. People have grown numb to racism and xenophobia. This view, if spread to the broader society, poses a serious threat to our liberal democracy and pluralistic open society. I believe Director Wray’s view is in a tiny fringe minority. But we need to be vigilant. We cannot let this country gradually slip backward.

There is no doubt that the rise of China poses a serious threat to America’s strategic interests around the world. To respond to this challenge, we have two different choices to make: to engage with the Chinese people confidently and influence them with our moral and cultural persuasion, or to close up our society and view everything from China as a foreign threat.

I grew up in China in the 1960s and 1970s, emigrated to the US in 1991, and became a proud American citizen in 2003. I recall back in the 1970s, I was told by the Chinese government that everything from America was a cultural pollution and a threat to the Chinese society. I am surprised and dismayed to hear a similar ring in Director Wray’s testimony.

For the most part, I am more concerned about my children. I worry that Chinese Americans become collateral damage in the US-China geopolitical rivalry. Our children are born here and have no other place to call home. While they may embrace Chinese culture and ethnic identity, they view themselves 100% American. This is possible, thanks to our liberal society that appreciates cultural diversity and common American ideals that transcend culture and ethnicity. I am worried, in the current political environment, America is moving backward, and our children may be forever regarded as foreigners in their own country.

Please don’t let that happen. Please stand up against Director’s Wray’s extreme xenophobia, no matter how minority his view may be in.

Thank you.

Paul Q Li

President, Calvin J Li Memorial Foundation