Communist China continues to exploit our free and open research institutions for its own gain. In late August, another researcher and Chinese national was charged with computer intrusion and stealing trade secrets at the University of Virginia. However, the theft of research breakthroughs that enhance China’s technological and military prowess is not the only issue that concerns Americans.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively working to influence the next generation of Americans and Chinese students in America by expanding its soft power, attempting to control and threaten Chinese students, and using financial leverage over U.S. educational institutions.
For example, in mid-August, the U.S. Confucius Institute headquarters was designated by the State Department as a foreign mission due to its efforts to push CCP propaganda. Yet, there are still nearly 60 Confucius Institutes on U.S. college and university campuses. There are also about 500 Confucius Classrooms in K-12 schools.
Professors and students are pressured to refrain from addressing topics seen as sensitive by the Party if they want to retain access to China. This results in incomplete, watered down or inaccurate academic analyses of the totalitarian dictatorship.
Chinese students are also pressured to avoid engaging in any pro-democracy or anti-CCP activism. After speaking out against China’s communist government, students at the University of Georgia—and their family and friends in China—were harassed by China’s “secret police.”
Further, previous administrations did not prioritize enforcing the law that requires universities and colleges to report gifts from and contracts with foreign sources valued at more than $250,000. These compliance and transparency failures led to a blind spot in knowing the extent to which universities are beholden to foreign entities’ interests.
Since July 2019, Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education’s enforcement actions resulted in the reporting of about $6.5 billion in previously undisclosed foreign funds from countries such as China, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Further investigations into universities have simultaneously been launched.
Pension funds and university endowments are also investing in bad-acting Chinese companies that advance the Party’s broader strategic objectives.
According to publicly available information, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System—the second largest pension fund in the country, with almost one million members and beneficiaries—held a stake in Hikvision, as of June 2019. Hikvision was placed on the U.S. Commerce Department’s Entity List for facilitating human rights abuses in Xinjiang. It was also included on the Department of Defense’s list of “communist Chinese military companies.”
Endowment funds are similarly at risk for engaging in nefarious investment practices. In a letter to the governing boards of U.S. universities, Under Secretary Keith Krach wrote: “The boards of your institution’s endowment funds have a moral obligation, and perhaps even a fiduciary duty, to ensure that your institution has clean investments and clean endowment funds. I urge you to divest from companies that are on the Entity List or that contribute to human rights violations.”
The breadth of the CCP’s tactics to destroy academic freedom and its attempts infiltrate the American education system is alarming. The integrity and purpose of the U.S. academic system is under attack as the CCP buys influence, entices censorship and threatens its overseas student diaspora.
Further decisive and diligent action must be taken. Pension and endowment funds should closely examine their portfolios. These funds should divest from any entities that facilitate the CCP’s human rights abuses or are affiliated with China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Schools and universities should shut down all Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms. Members of Congress and state and local educational officials need to determine where resources are needed to enhance or develop Chinese language programs. Alternative programs must be instituted that are not reliant upon a totalitarian government-run entity.
Additionally, the Trump administration has made it clear that the U.S. welcomes overseas students from China who have the intention of getting a world-class education. Administrators, professors and students need to be educated on the pressures this group of students face and the resources available for those who are being coerced by the CCP.
There also needs to be more transparency and accountability for chapters of Chinese Students and Scholars Associations. These groups work closely with China’s embassy and consulates and actively engage in work that is consistent with the CCP’s United Front efforts.
The United States cannot let the Chinese Communist Party transform our prized academic institutions in a system that is submissive to the objectives of China’s totalitarian dictatorship.
To read, hear and watch more of Newt’s commentary, visit Gingrich360.com.
The views expressed in this article are the writers’ own.