Biden Admin Taps China Apologist for Foggy Bottom Post

Quincy Institute scholar Jessica Lee has lambasted the administration's rhetoric toward China, arguing it fuels anti-Asian hate crimes

Chinese and U.S. flags fly in front of the White House (Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images
August 1, 2022

The State Department is tapping a China apologist who has blamed the Biden administration’s rhetoric toward the Communist country for a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and called for "a cooperative relationship" with North Korea, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Jessica Lee, a scholar at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, an isolationist think-tank bankrolled by George Soros and Charles Koch, is joining the administration as senior adviser for legislative affairs at the State Department, two sources familiar with the matter told the Washington Free Beacon on Monday. Lee sent an email to her Quincy Institute colleagues Sunday advising them of the move.

Lee has been one of the most strident critics of what she called the Biden administration’s "anti-China" foreign policy, advocating for closer ties with the CCP and arguing that "over-the-top" warnings about China’s malign activities—including widespread hack attacks and domestic spying incidents—increase the likelihood of war with the country.

"The continual naming and blaming of China as a bad actor on seemingly every front, as the source of all of America’s problems, cultivates real fear and insecurity among Americans," Lee said in a May 2021 video. "And it directly fuels violence against Americans of Asian descent. From physical attacks to outright murder, evidence of violent racism fueled by our anti-China policy is alarming."

Lee’s move from the Quincy Institute to the State Department is a sign the American foreign policy community’s most dovish voices are making inroads with the Biden administration. She is one of several Quincy Institute members to join the administration, including Rachel Esplin Odell, a State Department employee who has claimed "the military threat posed by China to U.S. interests is limited in nature."

The move comes at a precarious time for the organization, which has seen two top staff members resign over its calls for a speedy resolution to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its opposition to the Biden administration's support for the Ukrainian resistance. In addition to China and Russia, the think tank is also home to several scholars who are calling for a more accomodationist posture toward Iran.

Lee has been one of the most prominent pro-China voices working at the Quincy Institute. In a May 2021 video posted online, Lee claimed that "a hostile relationship with China will make Americans less safe." She also bemoaned the potential to lose "cultural and student exchanges" with China, but did not mention that the CCP uses these programs to infiltrate U.S. institutions and spy on them.

The "most troubling" result of America’s "anti-China" foreign policy, according to Lee, is the rise in racist violence. "There is a clear link between the militaristic foreign policy that we’re seeing today and the rise of anti-Asian discrimination and hate crimes," the Quincy Institute wrote in an introduction to Lee’s video.

Lee's rumored hire comes at a pivotal point in the U.S.-China relationship and against the backdrop of the White House's softening stance toward China. While President Joe Biden has said in the past that the United States would defend Taiwan if it is invaded by China—comments that administration officials walked back—Biden recently warned Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi against visiting the contested island during her trip to Asia this week.

Lee also has advocated for the United States to end the Korean War and develop a "cooperative relationship" with the country’s dictator, Kim Jong-un.

"Over the long-term, Washington should also be open to the possibility of not just normalization of relations but to a cooperative relationship with Pyongyang as part of closing the chapter of the Korean War and stemming the growing arms race between the two Koreas," Lee wrote in a July 2022 analysis for the Quincy Institute.

Lee said that North Korea’s nuclear missile testing "makes sense" and that "over-emphasizing the nuclear threat fosters deterrence-centric solutions."

Lee, who will liaise with Congress as part of her role at the State Department, publicly griped in 2021 that Capitol Hill staffers are unable to comprehend North Korea policy issues.

"I saw firsthand the inherent challenges of getting 545 Hill offices to play a constructive role in [North Korea] related matters," she tweeted. There is a "lack of expertise, high staff turnover, and lack of sustained attention to Asia, just to name a few."

The State Department would not comment on personnel matters.

Update 3:57 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Sasha Baker, a senior official at the Pentagon, was a former Quincy Institute official.