Recent reports claim that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and directly linked entities have granted American universities around $88 million between 2014 and 2019. Chinese state-owned enterprises and universities collectively donated at least $315 million within the same period; however, such estimates are conservative, as many Chinese state-backed enterprises fly under U.S. government radar.
“A Department of Education audit found that U.S. universities failed to disclose more than $6.5 billion in foreign funding from China and other countries in recent years,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.
The biggest donors to American universities were their Chinese counterparts. The Free Beacon found that Chinese universities donated more than $192 million and that 40 percent of this money came from Chinese universities that had research ties with the PLA. It presents a problem with the amount of influence that Communist China may have in U.S. universities.
“Duke University operates a joint-campus in China with Wuhan University, a public university that repeatedly carried out cyber attacks on behalf of the Chinese military,” the Free Beacon reported.
“Northwestern University and the University of California Irvine have together received more than $4 million in research funding from an entity controlled by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, a Chinese defense contractor that used stolen designs of American F-35 fighters to build planes for the Chinese military.”
Ian Easton, the senior director for the Project 2049 Institute think tank, told the Free Beacon that Chinese donations to American universities could pose a grave threat to national security.
“The CCP’s armed-wing, the People’s Liberation Army, has access to any and all information collected by Chinese entities at American universities,” Easton told the Free Beacon. “Xi Jinping’s military-civil fusion strategy has removed even the thin cloak of plausible deniability Chinese companies and other civilian organizations previously could hide behind.”
The Free Beacon reported that the U.S. is starting to crack down on this practice. In 2020, the FBI arrested several researchers for concealing Chinese funding, including the chair of Harvard University’s chemistry department.
Back in July 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray gave a talk at the Hudson Institute, outlining the threat posed by Chinese espionage. “The greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China,” Wray stated. He claimed that the problem was not just a matter of big corporations losing some of their profits, but of something more threatening to Americans’ well-being and safety.
China accused of stealing personal data
“If you are an American adult, it is more likely than not that China has stolen your personal data,” Wray said. “We’ve now reached the point where the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours. Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China.” Wray feels that China has been exploiting the American system’s openness, making everyone from top government politicians to upcoming staff and students susceptible to Chinese influence.
“The Chinese government is engaged in a broad, diverse campaign of theft and malign influence, and it can execute that campaign with authoritarian efficiency. They’re calculating. They’re persistent. They’re patient. And they’re not subject to the righteous constraints of an open, democratic society or the rule of law,” Wray said.
The Epoch Times recently reported that Chinese student groups are denied free speech by the CCP on university and college campuses. “[Chinese Students and Scholars Associations] CSSAs form part of Beijing’s sprawling overseas influence activities run under the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front Work Department (UFWD). The Party unit coordinates thousands of groups to carry out foreign political influence operations, suppress dissident movements, gather intelligence, and facilitate the transfer of technology to China, according to analysts,” The Epoch Times reported.
Another Party-controlled entity that has been used to infiltrate campuses and suppress free speech is Confucius Institutes. They present themselves as a Trojan horse with the seemingly benign purpose of teaching the Chinese language and promoting Chinese culture for free. Once they are accepted to operate at a school or university, they try to influence what is taught about China. They have been the subject of much controversy internationally, including accusations of espionage. They have spread all over the world. Trump and Pompeo decided to remove them from the U.S. before the Trump administration departed from office.