New York: Secretary of State Michael Pompeo accused U.S. universities of letting China steal American science and technology and stifle criticism in return for funding from Beijing.
“What more bad decisions will schools make because they are hooked on communist cash?” he said Wednesday at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “What professors will they silence? What theft and espionage will they overlook?”
Arguing that the Chinese communist party is “poisoning the well” of U.S. higher education, Pompeo called for “rigorous” oversight of students and scholars from China while saying the U.S. needs Chinese students who “really do want to enjoy the fruits of our freedom.” He cited several cases of Chinese students who were deported by the U.S. for lying on visa applications about their ties to the People’s Liberation Army.
Pompeo also reiterated criticism of China-funded “Confucius Institutes” on some college campuses as a sign of Beijing’s influence on higher education. Earlier this year the institutes were ordered to register with the U.S. as “foreign missions,” as embassies and consulates do, but Pompeo said universities should go further.
“We need administrators to close Confucius Institutes, and investigate what so-called ‘student’ groups backed by CCP money are really doing,” Pompeo said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the American Council on Education, called Pompeo’s remarks “absurd and insulting.”
“It’s hard to fathom how a secretary of state could make these remarks in good conscience,” Hartle said in an interview. “I assume this is political red meat for the Republican base.”
The top U.S. diplomat said he believes American universities often self-censor to avoid putting Chinese funding at risk. He cited the case of a University of Washington student, Vera Zhou, who he said was detained by authorities and put in a “re-education camp” on a visit home to China’s Xinjiang region in 2017.
Pompeo said university authorities did little to advocate on Zhou’s behalf during her imprisonment and subsequent home arrest because it would risk Chinese funding. University officials countered that they worked with the State Department on the case and were told the U.S. was limited in what it could do because Zhou isn’t an American citizen.
While Pompeo provided little evidence of his claim that American universities broadly are under China’s thumb, the speech underscored how President Donald Trump and his administration are piling pressure on Chinese’s President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party in his final weeks in office before President-elect Joe Biden takes over.
The secretary of state accused “left-leaning college campuses” of being rife with anti-Americanism, presenting easy “target audiences for their anti-American messaging.”
Earlier in the day, Pompeo scoffed in a tweet at suggestions he was visiting Georgia because the state is nearing an election for two Senate seats that will decide whether Republicans continue to control the chamber. He said the speech was “planned long before the Georgia runoff.” During his remarks, he said he chose the Georgia campus after another college refused his offer to speak there on the sensitive topic of Chinese influence.- Bloomberg