Chinese infiltration of US colleges results in massive theft of our research
Originally published on Fox News on May 6, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is just the latest chapter in the story of Chinese dishonesty and propaganda – but there is a different disease silently creeping through American society: China’s mass infiltration and theft of American research at our colleges and universities.
America’s higher education system has long been regarded as a beacon of learning, creativity and academic excellence. Our colleges and universities show the power that freedom of knowledge and information can harness in the fields of science, health care, our military operations and global development.
But while our universities are home to some of the best and brightest scholars, they are also plagued by Chinese espionage and intellectual theft that puts America at risk.
Two Chinese programs – the Thousand Talents Program and Confucius Institutes – have given mainland China’s Communist regime the freedom to take full advantage of our academic openness and steal it – all to be used for a New World Order where China calls the shots.
The Thousand Talents Program was launched in 2008. It incentivizes Chinese students engaged in research and development in the United States to transmit the knowledge and research they gain here to China – in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space and other benefits.
China sends nearly 400,000 students to American universities every year – an enormous number and more than any other foreign country.
China’s Communist Party uses American professors and Chinese national students as “nontraditional collectors” of valuable information. Some are aware of this role and others are unaware. They convey American research and expertise to China for that nation’s own economic and military gain.
These students are not all spies or bad people. But they have no choice but to provide the Chinese government with whatever information that government demands.
And many of the U.S. professors, like many politicians, naively see sharing their taxpayer-funded research as no big deal.
While China’s government is mainly to blame for these programs, our colleges and universities have also failed to safeguard themselves from Chinese infiltration. Our institutions of higher education need more accountability, improved best practices and tougher safeguards to prevent this from happening.
In January, Harvard University Professor Charles Lieber was indicted and accused of lying about his participation in the Thousand Talents Program. Lieber wasn’t just any professor, though. As head of Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, he was entrusted with millions of taxpayer dollars from the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health.
Lieber was allegedly seduced by the high price China’s Communist Party was willing to pay for American research. The state-sponsored Wuhan University of Technology reportedly paid him $50,000 per month and gave him $1.5 million to establish a nanoscience research lab in mainland China.
The dollar amount is staggering – and it only illustrates the value of U.S. research and how China’s government will do anything and pay any cost to get it.
There are other examples as well.
In February, James Patrick Lewis, a physics professor at West Virginia University, pleaded guilty to federal program fraud. Lewis claimed he needed to be released from his teaching duties to care for a child he and his wife were expecting – but instead of caring for his newborn baby, Lewis planned on working in China instead, as part of his agreement with the Thousand Talents Program.
In addition, last year an unidentified 20-plus-year veteran chemistry professor at the University of Florida was also discovered to be working for a Chinese university, eventually rising to become vice president at that same Chinese school.
At the University of Florida, this professor was reportedly able to tap into the nearly $190 million in grants the school receives from the National Institutes of Health each year. He was also allegedly able to double-dip in rewards from the Chinese Communist Party, receiving four grants from Chinese science foundations and even running his own lab in the country.
This professor was also a participant in the Thousand Talents Program and never disclosed his involvement with mainland China to his employers at the University of Florida, according to authorities.
When the professor was notified he was under investigation he resigned. A federal investigation is ongoing.
The Chinese government deliberately fast-tracks information it gets through the Thousand Talents Program to develop military arms, pharmaceuticals, technology, energy and other important advancements.
Make no mistake: the Chinese government is stealing this information for later use against us.
Beyond taking our research and development, the Chinese government is also using our universities as sites to further its propaganda machine and subtly portray China’s rise as benign and peaceful.
To do this, the Chinese Communist Party has strategically placed over 100 state-sponsored Confucius Institutes on college campuses. Universities with Confucius Institutes sign contracts requiring respect for Chinese law, which means they operate under Chinese rule.
This enables the Chinese Communist Party to gloss over realities of global history and the mass atrocities it has committed against its own people over the last century. And it allows the Chinese regime to stifle the type of academic freedom America is known for.
This wholesale theft is an attack on how America has maintained economic and military dominance through technological advancement. This information is ours and our researchers have worked tirelessly to develop it.
China must not be allowed to skip ahead and steal its way to the top on the backs of American taxpayers.
Research conducted on behalf of the Defense Department has no business occurring on the same campus where our biggest foreign adversary has a presence.
To put an end to China’s wholesale theft, I’m proposing legislation to prohibit the Defense Department from funding programs with any university housing Confucius Institutes or with faculty participating in the Thousand Talent Program.
I’m also proposing a measure requiring individuals in these research programs to disclose all financial assistance – foreign and domestic – that they or their employers receive.
Our federal agencies need the tools to reject grant applications with known participants in these programs as well.
America cannot stand idly by while our biggest foreign adversary takes advantage of us and the institutions that have made America strong.
The ideals of China’s Communist government run completely contrary to the virtues we hold dear. They cannot be allowed to permeate our schools of free thought.
Our information is clearly precious. Right now, it is in grave danger of falling into the wrong hands. We must do all we can to protect it.