On February 17, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-UT) released a report saying that the U.S. should implement an Education decoupling plan for the Chinese Communist Party, protect U.S. universities and laboratories, impose a technology embargo on the Chinese Communist Party, and end the 10-year visa program for Chinese citizens.
The 84-page report, titled “Beat China: Targeted Decoupling and the Economic Long War,” has been described by the U.S. media outlet Vox called “the most detailed strategy for long-term U.S.-China competition” and “reflects a growing bipartisan consensus on the future of U.S.-China economic relations, truly putting into writing the view coming out of Washington that U.S.-China relations are a zero-sum game.”
On Feb. 25, five senior Republican senators, including Cotton, formally introduced a bill to repeal the 10-year valid, multiple-entry visa given to Chinese citizens and return to the pre-2014 one-year multiple-entry visa as a way to pressure the Chinese Communist Party to improve human rights in China.
Cotton, who chaired a congressional subcommittee on economic policy last term, is familiar with the most sensitive information about the U.S.-China economic relationship. In the preface to the report, Cotton said: The U.S.-China economy is far more integrated than the economic relationship between the free world and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and it is this relationship and U.S. freedoms that the Chinese Communist Party hopes to use to replace the United States and reshape the global order according to its own ugly ideology, without a major war. In a few decades, it will be too late when Americans wake up to find that the United States has become poorer, weaker and more disadvantaged.
The cost of targeted decoupling from China pales in comparison to the cost of passivity,” the report says, “and we cannot stand by and watch the United States become increasingly decrepit, ceding its position to a totalitarian state committed to bending the world to its will. Americans must act decisively to avoid this fate.”
The report is divided into four parts: first, the current state of U.S.-China economic relations, second, targeted economic decoupling from China, third, how to reduce the costs of decoupling, and fourth, the role of the federal government.
U.S. Technology Helps Chinese Communist Party Develop Military
U.S. universities and laboratories, the report says, have been victims of systematic intellectual property theft and espionage by China (the Chinese Communist Party). Over the past decade, the Communist Party has supported Chinese companies to use stolen technology and make cheap imitations, costing innovative U.S. companies a great deal of money, and inadvertently, the U.S. has helped China (the Communist Party) build the world’s second largest military power.
Approximately 370,000 Chinese students are studying in the U.S. in 2018-2019, up from less than 100,000 10 years ago, with nearly half of them enrolled in STEM (science, technology and engineering) courses, the most of any country. The significance of these courses to the technological and military advancement of any country is enormous.
U.S. universities have also produced some of the top talent for the Communist military. One report found that in the past 10 years, the CCP military has funded more than 2,500 scientists and engineers to study abroad, with an estimated 500 of them conducting research in the United States.
The CCP has established more than 200 foreign talent recruitment programs, offering incentives such as salaries, research grants and laboratories to attract U.S. scientists and engineers to turn over their research.
For example, Charles Lieber, head of the chemistry department at Harvard University and a leader in the field of nanotechnology, has signed on as a “strategic scientist” at China’s Wuhan University of Technology. The Chinese Communist Party gave Lieber $50,000 per month, an annual stipend of $150,000, and a laboratory in Wuhan worth more than $1.5 million.
In July 2020, the FBI announced that it was investigating nearly 2,500 cases of Chinese Communist espionage and intellectual property theft, accounting for about half of the FBI’s counterintelligence cases. But the American academic community has largely turned a deaf ear to this.
Communist China’s penetration of U.S. higher education has met with little resistance from U.S. universities, which rely on International Students for tuition. In a recent case at Boston University, for example, a Chinese military officer was embedded by the CCP in one of the university’s laboratories to conduct cutting-edge artificial intelligence research with a prominent physicist. When the plot was uncovered in January 2020, the physicist said he was “not interested in politics …… If people anywhere in the world want to join my group and they have the money to come, I say why say no?” The physicist’s lab is Home to more than 200 research partners and visiting scholars, 75 of whom are from China.
These cases are just the tip of the iceberg, where Chinese Communist Party black money infiltrates U.S. higher education. The U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into Harvard and Yale in February 2020 and found that unreported foreign funding to U.S. universities, including from China, amounted to at least $6.5 billion.
Restrictions on Chinese Students Studying STEM Eliminate 10-Year Visas
The Cotton report said this well-organized Chinese Communist Party spying is something that U.S. research institutions have become accustomed to. This must change. The U.S. should protect universities and laboratories, etc., by imposing a technology embargo on the CCP, ending the CCP’s self-contained theft, forcing the CCP to spend huge amounts of money on basic science research, and making painful choices about resource allocation to keep up with U.S. research.
The United States should prohibit the CCP from providing funds to U.S. universities, laboratories, and other research institutions, whether those funds come from the CCP government or from private entities that nominally operate on behalf of the CCP government. The U.S. government should take affirmative action, as required by the Higher Education Act (HEA), against universities that have not disclosed monetary dealings with the CCP in the past 20 years.
The U.S. should also restrict university faculty from receiving compensation from China, whether in the form of salaries, grants, establishment of laboratories, subsidized travel, or honoraria. Too many U.S. researchers, including leaders in their respective fields, have been lured by large payouts from CCP talent acquisition programs.
The United States should eliminate federal funding for scholars receiving CCP talent acquisition programs and require them to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). In addition, the government should require universities that receive federal funding to pledge not to hire CCP-funded faculty. These measures will prevent more U.S. researchers from being caught in the CCP’s net.
The U.S. also needs to end U.S. universities, research institutions, and establish branches in mainland China. Because nothing is secret on Chinese soil. The U.S. should also end the peer review of federally funded research by Chinese citizens, another means by which Chinese Communist researchers steal American innovation.
Many Chinese STEM (science, technology and engineering) students are not Chinese Communist Spies. But it is often impossible to distinguish between an innocent student and a spy. Even when U.S. counterintelligence and law enforcement agencies are able to catch and prosecute Chinese Communist spies, it is often too late. A harsh sentence will not cause the CCP to return stolen intellectual property, nor will it prevent it from recruiting new spies.
Preemptively Stopping CCP Spying at U.S. Universities
Stopping Chinese Communist Party spying at U.S. universities requires a pre-emptive strike. The United States must prohibit Chinese undergraduate and graduate students from studying or conducting research in STEM fields involving sensitive technologies. The government should also closely scrutinize any Chinese undergraduates engaged in similar cutting-edge research.
To successfully implement these policies, the State Department must expand its review of visas for Chinese nationals, a program known as “Visa Mantis. Congress must ensure that embassy officials have the legal authority needed to deny applicants who pose a risk to national security or technology transfer. Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security should mandate that colleges and universities seeking DHS accreditation certify that they will abide by these rules in their admissions process when hosting foreign students.
The U.S. government should also end the 10-year multiple-entry visa program for Chinese citizens, which Obama initiated in 2014 over the objections of U.S. intelligence officials, and which has allowed Chinese Communist Party intelligence agents and intellectual property thieves, to enter and exit the United States at will.
The U.S. should allow Chinese citizens to study non-STEM humanities, and these could foster an alternative viewpoint that deepens suspicion of Chinese Communist rule. The U.S. government should ensure that all Chinese students staying in the U.S. are free from Communist intimidation and surveillance.
Many universities will oppose the necessary action by the U.S. government because of the Culture of political correctness on their campuses. Others will cite economic reasons for their dependence on Chinese students’ tuition and unwillingness to provide their monetary dealings with the CCP. Still others will even say that either the entire STEM department should be closed due to lack of students (about 25% of STEM graduates in the U.S. are Chinese nationals) and lack of funding, or Chinese students should be allowed to study STEM.
These institutions may be more receptive to protective measures and willing to make sacrifices if law enforcement, intelligence, and policymakers, in a partnership capacity, approach them to explain the serious threat of Chinese Communist espionage and try to alleviate their concerns.
Banning Chinese nationals from STEM at U.S. universities is somewhat disruptive. But the U.S. federal government should be able to mitigate the side effects by prioritizing researchers and workers from U.S. partner countries-such as Israel, Taiwan, Japan, and India.