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From surveilling Chinese students in the US to running spy rings in top US universities: All you need to know about CCP infiltration

Chinese nationals studying at Harvard and Princeton universities will be using code names to shield their identities this semester as a protection measure against surveillance by China’s Communist government. The university classes will also carry warning labels such as "This course may cover material considered politically sensitive by China".

A few months ago, the top US universities, such as Princeton and Harvard, decided to allot code names to Chinese students to protect their identities following Communist Party of China (CCP) new censorship rules on its students barring them to debate on topics that it deems controversial.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the Chinese nationals studying at Harvard and Princeton universities will be using code names to shield their identities this semester as a protection measure against surveillance by China’s Communist government. The university classes will also carry warning labels such as “This course may cover material considered politically sensitive by China”.

Rory Truex, an assistant professor who teaches Chinese politics at Princeton, said that assigning code names to Chinese students is better than choosing not to discuss controversial topics. “We cannot self-censor,” Truex said adding, “If we, as a Chinese teaching community, out of fear stop teaching things like Tiananmen or Xinjiang or whatever sensitive topic the Chinese government doesn’t want us talking about, if we cave, then we’ve lost.”

Confirming the same, Professor Meg Rithmire of Harvard Business School said that she will have her students use code names to prevent persecution.

Avery Goldstein of the University of Pennsylvania said that he encouraged international students to make their own decision before enrolling in his political science courses. As a result of teaching a course that will cover Chinese politics, Goldstein added he himself has restricted his own travel to China due to concerns for his safety.

“We have to leave it up to the students whether they enrol because it is ultimately their lives that are going to be affected,” Goldstein said. He added, “I will make it clear that there is nothing I can do to protect them”.

Meanwhile, commenting on the drastic measures taken by US universities to avoid Chinese censorship, Senator Tom Cotton stated that it was ironical for these institutions to use codenames to protect them from the CCP at a time when they do not shy away from accepting millions of dollars from the very same Chinese communists.

Various reports, senate findings also strengthen Senator Cotton’s allegations against the deep presence of Chinese in US universities. Lately, it has been revealed how the Communist Party of China has funnelled a massive amount of money into ivy league US universities including Stanford, Harvard in an effort to infiltrate into these research institutes.

China gifted close to $58 million to Stanford, Harvard

Stanford University, one of the topmost universities in the world, recently faced massive criticism over its relationship with the Chinese government. The university reportedly received $58 between 2013 and 2019 as gifts and contracts from China and its communist government.

Reportedly, Stanford University accepted $58 million in gifts and contracts from China after it partnered with several Chinese institutes. In 2009, Stanford University entered into a partnership with China’s Confucius Institute to promote Chinese culture and language on campus. Three years later, Stanford partnered with Peking University in Beijing, China.

According to the US Department of Education, Stanford has accepted more funds from China than nearly any other university or college in the United States. Not just Harvard, USC, and the University of Pennsylvania have taken money from China.

Interestingly, the “Biden Centre” at the University of Pennsylvania also has financial ties with China. An investigative report had accused the centre of failing to disclose $70 million in gifts from China between 2017 and 2019 recently.

Considering the growing Chinese involvement in the US, the US State Department had cautioned the governing boards of US universities about the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party. These universities were also advised to have clean investments and endowment funds by disclosing Chinese firms in such funds.

Recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had also asserted that dozens of Chinese-government funded Confucius Institute cultural centres on US campuses will be shut down by year-end. In August, the US Department of State had also designated the US headquarters of the Confucius Institutes as a foreign mission.

Harvard enjoys intimate relationship with China

According to journalist Soumyadipta, Harvard University enjoys a close relationship with the Communist Party of China. Reportedly, China has doled out billions of dollars for Harvard University in the last few years, turning it as the world’s leading higher education hub for the Chinese Communist order.

One of the interesting details about China’s sudden involvement with Harvard University comes from the fact that Xi Mingze, the daughter of Chinese President Xi Jinping, studied at the university for four years till 2014. Xi Mingze referred to as ‘Princess of China’ was enrolled at Harvard University in 2010 under a pseudonym and finished her graduation amidst high-level Chinese security inside the United States.

It is often said that it is because of Mingze, China began to develop a relationship with Harvard University. Apparently, Chinese President Xi began to frequenting visit Harvard University, both privately and sometimes as an official trip.

Interestingly, the Chinese President developed a close relationship with Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow and his wife, Adele Fleet Bacow. The visit by Xi Jinping to Harvard university assumes extreme significance as it is rare for a head of the state, especially the Chinese President to visit a university in the United States.

In March 2019, both Lawrence Bacow and Adele Bacow had visited China and were beneficiaries of luxurious Chinese hospitality. Chinese President Xi Jinping had received the couple at The Great Hall of the People in Beijing during their visit to China.

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow and his wife, Adele Fleet Bacow being received by the Chinese President at The Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 20, 2019/ Image Source: Soumyadipta

China has funded more than a billion dollar to US universities

Reportedly, the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Ji Xinping has pumped a lot of money money into Harvard ever since his daughter joined the university as a student. Another Ivy-league University Yale also began to receiving grants and gifts from China. Many top Chinese leaders enrolled their children into Yale University.

It is estimated that the total tally of gifts and contracts from China to US universities since the start of 2013 is estimated to be around $1 billion.

Nearly 115 colleges received monetary gifts, contracts or both from sources in mainland China from 2013 to 2019, according to US government data. Harvard University alone received a whopping amount of $93.7 million, the majority as gifts. The University of Southern California and the University of Pennsylvania were second and third in the list of receiving millions of Chinese donations. Another university  Middle Tennessee State University also received $1.1 million in contracts, almost all of it for a Chinese music and culture centre that opened in 2016.

The sudden influx of Chinese money into US universities had prompted US security agencies to stay on high alert. They had even launched an investigation into Yale and Harvard universities for not disclosing millions of dollars in gifts and contracts from foreign donors, especially China.

Why is China funding billions into Chinese university?

Most suspect that China was investing billions of dollars into university after fully realising the need for trapping the world’s most brilliant minds who teach at these universities. The Chinese establishment reportedly started approaching senior faculties and researches by offering millions of dollars to work for Chinese interests.

In 2008, China had also started its infamous ‘Thousand Talents Plan’ – an ambitious programme launched by the CCP to fund foreign scientists and researches of the top universities in the name of recognize and recruit leading international experts in scientific research, innovation. Under this programme, it has recruited thousands of researchers from countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, Canada, Japan, France and Australia.

According to a 2019 Senate report, the ‘Thousand Talents Plan’ (TTP) is part of China’s ‘strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the US private sector. The report further stated that the ‘Thousand Talents Plan’ is one of more than 200 CCP talent recruitment programs, that drew more than 60,000 researchers between 2008 and 2016.

Both the United States and Canada have repeatedly warned that China intends to use massive funds to trap scientists to gain access to new technology for economic and military advantage.

Interestingly, the Chinese government has established more than 600 recruitment stations globally. At least 146 such stations operated at one point of time in the US, 57 each in Germany and Australia, and more than 40 each in the UK, Canada, Japan and France.

These recruitment agencies contracted by the CCP are paid anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000 annually plus incentives for each successful recruitment. As a fallout of the TTP, more than 54 scientists have lost their jobs for failing to disclose this external funding, and more than 20 have been charged on espionage and fraud allegations in US alone.

Under the project, the Chinese achieved a good amount of success. They bribed and recruited senior faculty members from these universities. With massive outlay for the project, China took the expertise of these researchers and enabled knowledge transfers to various Chinese faculties back home. Essentially, China was funding the researchers in these top universities in the US, who were working for Chinese interests.

Charles Lieber – the Harvard research scientist trapped by China

One of the major success of China’s TTP came in the form of the alleged recruitment of one of America’s topmost chemist and pioneer in nanoscience and nanotechnology – Dr Charles Lieber.  Lieber, who was considered as the leading chemist in the world, was one of the beneficiaries of China’s ‘Thousand Talents Plan’.

Prof. Lieber, who was a research scientist at Harvard, was allegedly recruited by Chinese for carrying out projects that aligned with their nationalist interest from labs in the US. According to the US Dept of Justice, he was arrested and later indicted by the court for lying about getting bribed by China and taking part in a Communist programme.

As per reports, Dr Lieber had entered into a three-year employment contract with China’s Wuhan University of Technology in July 2012 as a ‘High-Level Foreign Expert’ under TTP project. Under the contract, Dr Lieber was paid a salary of $50,000 per month, $158,000 per month in living expenses, and more than $1.5 million to establish a lab in China.

During his participation in the Plan, Dr Lieber had also organized international conferences, published articles, and applied for patents on behalf of WUT.

At the same time as his involvement with the Chinese, Dr Lieber’s Harvard research program in the US had received millions of dollars of funding from the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. The DOD and NIH grants required the recipient to disclose foreign collaboration, potential conflicts of interest, and sources of financial support. However, Dr Lieber hid his participation in the TTP and his association with the Chinese university and made false statements regarding the same.

Not just Lieber, the other past participants in the TTP includes a former General Electric engineer, Xiaoqing Zheng, who was indicted in April 2019 for allegedly stealing GE’s trade secrets related to turbine technology while he was working with GE Power & Water in Schenectady, New York.

China running a spy network inside top universities in US

Addition to its ‘Thousand Talents Plan’, the China has successfully established a spy ring at top US universities, including Harvard and other Boston universities.

Reportedly, the Chinese military sends its spies disguised as students, who are specifically trained to steal intellectual property and research documents from the university labs and send it back to China.

The US security agencies became aware of such a Chinese spy network in US universities after the arrest of Lieber. Along with Lieber, two Chinese spies disguised as researchers were also charged as agents of a foreign government. The two Chinese spies had lied about their research work, wh used their access to smuggle research samples out of the country.

One spy was a lieutenant in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which she did not disclose when she obtained a visa to enter the United States. She is accused of passing information on research conducted at Boston University to China’s government. Another spy – Zheng was arrested at Boston’s Logan International Airport as he tried to leave the United States by smuggling 21 vials containing sensitive biological samples.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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