A report by Hoover Institution reveals that there are over 250 published research collaborations between the US and Chinese academicians, that are extremely crucial to that country’s defence research and industrial base, could possibly be getting leaked to China.
According to the report, the Chinese scientists collaborating with the American researchers are involved in stealth technology and classified weapons studies. They are employed by the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) General Arms Department and are engaged in work on high-tech naval systems.
However, the report does not mention whether any of the studies done with American partners were directly related to weapons development. Nevertheless, it raised the question – why Chinese academies that serve the advancement of China’s military are sending researchers to the US and why was Washington accepting them.
US President Donald Trump’s “Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Non-immigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China” came into effect on June 1.
In July, the US Justice Department charged four researchers with visa fraud after lying about their work for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
“Our actions are a direct consequence of Chinese government strategies and policies that exploit the access of some of China’s brightest graduate students and researchers, in targeted fields, to divert and steal sensitive technologies and intellectual property from US institutions, taking undue advantage of our open and collaborative academic and research environment,” said Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State.
According to John Pomfret, an author and former Washington Post bureau chief in Beijing, the US government and society were generally sympathetic to China’s growth based on the idea that, as China strengthened, it would embrace Western values.
However, that mood has shifted, given the wholesale rejection of a more pluralistic society by the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. “The party continues to threaten democratic Taiwan with invasion and is engaged in a widespread crackdown on dissent, not just on mainland China, including in Xinjiang, but also in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong,” he added.
The Hoover report looked into 254 articles that were co-authored by US-based researchers from seven Chinese universities that “were originally founded either as institutes of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or from mergers of military engineering academies”.
It further stated that the main aim of these universities is to support China’s defence research and industrial base and promote or execute military-civil fusion policies which use civilian research into military applications.
The universities include the Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin Engineering University, Northwestern Polytechnical University, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Nanjing University of Science and Technology.
“Four of the seven institutions are on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List for export control purposes, but U.S. universities still allow their scientists to collaborate with researchers from those Chinese institutions,” stated Pomfret.
The report didn’t claim that the American researchers broke the law but argued that it was not in the US’ national interest to collaborate and assist with the military development efforts of China, a nation that the US government constantly sees as a strategic competitor and military rival.
“These cases establish that US scholars and research institutions have been contributing directly to the [People’s Republic of China’s] military modernization,” the report concluded. It advised US research institutions to expand vetting and due diligence of collaborations with Chinese partners.