On Sunday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) appeared on Fox News with host Maria Bartiromo where he discussed China’s culpability in the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his belief that the United States should “take a very hard look at” issuing visas for Chinese nationals studying science and technology.
Bartiromo asked Cotton about the Chinese Communist Party’s theft of U.S. intellectual property “that has been going on for decades,” and if he believes the CCP is stealing IP even during the pandemic in order to “save face” and develop a vaccine before the rest of the world.
Cotton replied, first stating that the CCP wouldn’t stop the theft of intellectual property, and that there are “active cases against Chinese nationals” throughout the U.S. pertaining to such theft.
In the middle of the pandemic, what’s the most valuable intellectual property in the world? It’s the research that our great laboratories and life science companies are doing on prophylactic drugs, therapeutic drugs, and ultimately a vaccine. So, I have little doubt that the Chinese intelligence services are actively trying to steal America’s intellectual property as it relates to the virus that they unleashed on the world because, of course, they want to be the country that claims credit for finding those drugs or finding a vaccine, and then use it as leverage against the rest of the world.
Bartiromo then asked the senator to explain his position on reevaluating the issuance of visas to “Chinese students who want to study advanced sciences.”
Cotton responded, saying that “it’s a scandal to me that we have trained so many of the Chinese Communist Party’s brightest minds to go back to China, to compete for our jobs, to take our business, and ultimately to steal our property, and design weapons and other devices that can be used against the American people.”
So, I think we need to take a very hard look at the visas that we give to Chinese nationals to come to the United States to study, especially at the postgraduate level in advanced scientific and technological fields.
He said that if Chinese nationals want to “study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers,” that’s fine, but not “quantum computing and artificial intelligence.”
In 2019, CNN published a major story about the Chinese Communist Party using students studying abroad in the United States “as a form of espionage.”
In 2015, “at the direction of a high-level Chinese intelligence official,” a Chinese student named Ji Chaoqun sent an email titled “midterm test questions” to a Chinese national.
However, the email didn’t relate to school at all. Ji had “allegedly attached background reports on eight US-based individuals who Beijing could target for potential recruitment as spies, according to a federal criminal complaint.”
Ji was arrested in September 2018. A Justice Department statement reads in part: “The complaint charges Ji with one count of knowingly acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General.” The statement makes sure to note that Ji is innocent until proven guilty.
Ji was indicted by a grand jury in January.
The CNN story includes a quote from a World Wide Threat Assessment from the U.S. intelligence community stating that “China’s intelligence services will exploit the openness of American society, especially academia and the scientific community, using a variety of means.”
Also quoted is William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, who said that while nearly all of the approximately 350,000 Chinese students admitted to U.S. universities are there for legitimate purposes, our “liberal visa policy” could be “used by the Chinese government to facilitate nefarious activity here.”
The issue of Chinese students being coerced or recruited by the CCP to act as information funnels is a daunting one for United States, notes the CNN report.
NBC News reports that in January, two individuals were arrested with ties to China:
…the chairman of Harvard’s chemistry department was arrested by FBI agents in his office, charged with lying about a lucrative relationship with a Chinese talent recruitment program. The same day, a former Boston University student was accused of visa fraud after she allegedly failed to disclose her status as a lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army.
The story continues, listing four other instances of arrests for various alleged crimes, including a “Chinese scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles” who “was convicted in June of shipping banned missile technology to his homeland.”
Despite requests from the “FBI and other agencies” to better police policies that might lead to these kinds of breaches, some university faculty, as well as lawmakers and others have pushed back, claiming, among other things, that such policies could engender racism and create unpleasant situations.
The report cites an instance in which a Chinese professor was allegedly accused of spying, but it was later revealed to be a “misunderstanding.” The professor reportedly spoke at a panel where he “choked up as he recalled being taken out of his house in handcuffs in front of his children by FBI agents.”
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