US intelligence agencies continue to warn against From Beijing espionage activities in the United States – including commercial espionage and theft of intellectual property.
"The Threat of Chinese counterintelligence It's deeper, more varied, more vexing, more difficult, more comprehensive, and more worrying than any counterintelligence threat I can think of, "said FBI Director Christopher Wray at a hearing held last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And now, lawmakers are also focusing on new allegations of China's attempts to influence American universities and public opinion.
A report from the director of National Intelligence is categorical: "The Chinese intelligence services will exploit the openness of American society, especially the academic world and the scientific community …"
"It is widespread and dangerous, it is legislation designed to prevent this", Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz spoke to Fox News about a bill that he introduced again, namely the Stop Spying and Robbery Act in the ######################################################################################### 39, higher education.
Its goal is to deter what it calls "infiltration" by China's universities, colleges and research institutes in our country.
"Too many universities, I think, are gullible, do not realize the magnitude of this threat," Cruz warned. "It is a concerted, organized and systematic threat to undermine our universities and our economy and we must be serious to fight them."
Several Chinese students and former Chinese students have been convicted of espionage by US courts.
Recently, Ji Chaoqun, who had studied electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, was arrested and accused of working for Chinese intelligence to recruit spies here in the United States. He is now awaiting trial. The Chinese government has long denied the allegations of espionage.
But Senator Cruz is not only spying. He is also sounding the alarm about a university program supported by China's Confucius Institute, which currently operates on approximately 100 US campuses.
Critics allege that the institute, partially funded by Beijing and designed to educate about the country's culture, indoctrinates American students to the regime's propaganda. The National Association of Scholars, a conservative pennonist, is one of those critics and published a 184-page study titled "Outsourced in China, Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education." He claims that the institute suppresses academic freedom, lacks transparency and is part of China's use of "soft power" intended to "present China in a positive light" in order to "train a generation American students with a selective knowledge of a large country. & # 39;
"I have enacted a law specifically targeting Confucius Institutes, institutes funded by the Chinese Communist Government," Cruz said. "The FBI has raised very specific concerns about Confucius institutes."
At a Senate hearing last year, FBI Director, Wray, acknowledged this concern.
"We share the concerns about the Confucius Institutes, we have been monitoring this development for some time, and it is one of the tools they benefit from," he said.
The National Association of Specialists calls on Congress and state legislatures to open investigations to determine "whether Confucius institutes increase the risk of espionage or collection of sensitive information by a foreign government ".
"The main risk is that the American public and students hear a unilateral view of what is happening in China," said Rachelle Peterson, policy director of the National Association of Scholars, author of the study. She said the institutes should all be closed.
"In these Confucius Institutes, teachers are hand-picked and paid by the Chinese government, textbooks are sent and paid for by the Chinese government, and the funds are provided by the Chinese government," she said.
"The only way to protect against this type of incursions from the Chinese government is to shut down the Institute." There is really no safe way to run a Confucius Institute that protects academic freedom . "
Cruz said that it was time to send Beijing an even stronger message than closing the doors of the Institute.
"The Chinese communist government is a dictatorship, it is cruel and repressive, it tortures and murders its citizens, and dictatorships hate sunlight, they hate the truth, we sit here in my Senate office, over my shoulder ", did he declare. a large painting of President Ronald Reagan addressing the crowd in Berlin during his famous speech "Tear down this wall" in 1987. "This painting depicts Ronald Reagan standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate.This wall & # 39; in the style and graffiti on the Berlin Wall, I think these are the most important words spoken by any leader of modern times. "
The senator compares this call for freedom for the millions of people living behind the Iron Curtain, to a call that he says is necessary to inform Beijing today.
"That's what the Chinese government fears, they're scared of the sun, so they spend money trying to stifle academic freedom in our universities, and universities should not be willing to sell their academic freedom. should not be willing to let the communist government control the discussion. "
Neither the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, nor Hanban, a Chinese public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education, have responded to Fox News' requests to comment on the allegations. But the US Confucius Institute Center defended itself by issuing a statement saying, among other things:
"These are programs … devoted to teaching Mandarin, raising awareness of Chinese culture and facilitating education for global citizenship … Programs do not teach history, politics or news … Courses are run and supervised by American universities who also decide on content, instructors and textbooks. "
The center also states that, although "the operational expenses of the program are co-financed" by the "headquarters of the Confucius Institute (also called Hanban), affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education," the "programs provide demand-driven language and cultural education "and are" generally operated by the university as part of their academic … or administrative departments. "
Despite this defense, Rachelle Peterson has reservations.
"The American people need to know that what they hear about China may not be true, which could be influenced by the Chinese government's public relations campaign, and even by the Chinese people. universities, which are supposed to be trustworthy and respected, is going on there. "
She said that at least 15 universities had closed or were about to remove Confucius Institutes from their campuses, and that others should follow.
Senator Cruz said that the University of Texas at Austin had refused Chinese funding.
"Fortunately, U.T. took the right decision and said, "You know what, we will not take the Chinese money," he said.
"There is no doubt that, in the long run, China is the biggest geopolitical competitor and the biggest threat to the United States," warns Cruz. "The tools they use are spying and stealing, and too many of our university officials are naive about this threat and see only free money without the risks. associated with it. "