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An elite American university joined an alliance with the Chinese Communist Party that helps the Chinese government grow its economy and influence.
Washington University-St. Louis remains the only Northern American school to join the University Alliance of the Silk Road (UASR), which is an academic arm of the People’s Republic of China. The school joined the alliance in 2015 under the leadership of Chancellor Mark Wrighton.
According to the UASR website, it was designed to “advance institutional exchanges and partnerships on the Silk Road routes in regards to talent education, scientific research, cultural dissemination, policy studies, and medical services.” The organization claims to be “non-governmental,” though Chinese-sanctioned media admits that UASR is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s academic programming.
Former-Chancellor Wrighton told The Daily Wire that he joined the initiative to expand collaborative programs that exist between Washington University-St. Louis and a Chinese university.
“I was invited to join the UASR at the time of its founding by the President of Xi’an Jiaotong University,” Wrighton said. “I felt that by joining the UASR we would expand our collaborative programs in education and research with important international universities, including ones outside China.”
A 2018 press release from the university explained that representatives from the school took part in an executive council meeting of the UASR held at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China. The press release claimed that Washington University’s ties to the Chinese university are “especially strong,” as the universities offer dual degree programs for Washington University’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences and the Brown School, which is Washington University’s school of social work and public health.
The UASR is part of a broader Chinese infrastructure plan called the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The policy calls for increased infrastructure via land, which would link China to Europe, and via maritime trading, which would link Chinese ports to Europe and Africa. The routes aim to cover more than 65 countries. More than 60 countries — including the European Union — have signed memorandums of understanding to participate in China’s expansion.
According to a policy analysis from The Federalist, China will benefit more than any other country from the One Belt, One Road policy. By increasing investment in infrastructure, China will likely become a larger market as the demand for China’s exports become more consistent. The countries along the “belt and road” routes are known for being rich in natural resources. An increase in such resources and energy could help China build economic growth, stability, and independence.
“The OBOR initiative will also give China access to strategically important locations while providing additional security protection,” The Federalist reported.
China has created an oil and natural gas pipeline from Myanmar which is linked to Kunming, a major Chinese city. Such infrastructure allows China to establish energy security and independence.
A study from the Brookings Institute found that the One Belt, One Road policy may also provide military strength for the Chinese Communist Party. “Some projects will also support China’s ability to project military strength in the region,” the study found. “For instance, the development of the Port of Gwadar in Pakistan will give China access to the Indian Ocean for commercial purposes and could serve as a deep-water port for its navy.
A Washington University-St. Louis spokeswoman said she was “unfamiliar” with the program and could not offer further comment in time for publication.