China is infiltrating American universities and research centers in a bid to build up its power, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.
“Americans must know how the [Chinese Communist Party] is poisoning the well of our higher education for its own ends, and how those actions degrade our freedoms and our national security,” Mr. Pompeo said in a speech at Georgia Tech University.
Mr. Pompeo in his remarks recalled how a Georgia Tech professor, Wang Feiling, was kidnapped by Chinese authorities several years ago during a visit there.
“They wanted information about his research in China, and his time teaching at my alma mater, West Point. They thought they could intimidate him — or recruit him — because he’s ethnically Chinese,” he said.
The professor was released after pressure from the university.
But Mr. Pompeo said the lesson from the incident “is clear: The Chinese Communist Party wants what we have, and it’ll do whatever it takes to get it, from stealing our stuff to pressuring critics of [China] to keep quiet.”
Mr. Pompeo said Beijing’s goal is to dominate the United States and the free world, a goal that many in the West had not recognized until recently.
“No one’s to blame,” he said. “For a long time, Republicans and Democrats thought that by trading and engaging with China, the party would reform, loosen up. Instead, the Chinese Communists used that wealth to tighten their grip on power over the Chinese people, and build a high-tech repressive state like the world has never seen.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping is seeking “total control” in a bid to make China the world’s most powerful state, building up a high-tech military with both conventional and nuclear weapons.
Mr. Pompeo contended that China has recruited American researchers at universities, several of whom failed to disclose being paid by China or their ties to the People’s Liberation Army.
China “deploys dollars just as much as it does cloaks and daggers to get its hands on valuable knowledge,” he said. China also is propagandizing Americans and intimidating Chinese nationals on American campuses.
Yang Shuping, a University of Maryland student, was harassed by Chinese propaganda outlets after she gave a commencement address celebrating the “fresh air of free speech” in the United States.
At Princeton, students studying in a Chinese politics class were forced to use code names to prevent Chinese authorities from prosecuting them for criticizing a harsh new national security law imposed on Hong Kong.
“I think that puts the idea of ‘safe spaces’ in perspective,” Mr. Pompeo said. “American students want safe spaces as shelter from ideas they dislike. Chinese students need safe spaces to learn of ideas they love.”
China, Mr. Pompeo added, also is exploiting left-leaning universities for “anti-American messaging,” creating a string of campus-based Confucius Institutes ostensibly created to promote Chinese culture and language.
“That’s why they planted Confucius Institutes on our campuses,” the secretary of state said. “And that’s why there are groups called Chinese Students and Scholars Associations here, too. They’re directed and often funded by the Chinese Embassy or local Chinese consulates to keep tabs on students and press pro-Beijing causes.”
American universities also have been self-censoring out of “fear of offending China,” Mr. Pompeo claimed.
Mr. Pompeo revealed that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had refused his offer to give a speech there because his arguments “might insult their ethnic Chinese students and professors. That is never my intention.”
“Yielding to the objection of ‘hurt feelings’ plays right into the CCP’s hands,” he said. “It’s what the party says constantly in response to legitimate criticism around the world.”
“Look, we can’t let the CCP weaponize political correctness against American liberties,” he added. “Fraudulent cries of racism and Sinophobia should never drown out a candid exposure of the CCP.”
Mr. Pompeo said the United States needs to act to counter the threat posed by China.
“We can’t allow a tyrannical regime to steal our stuff to build their military might, and brainwash our people, or buy off our institutions to help cover it up,” he said.
He called on university leaders to push back against Chinese pressure, close Confucius Institutes and investigate China-sponsored student organizations
“Let’s carry forward a banner of freedom to defend our schools — and our security — from the central threat of our time — the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. Pompeo said.
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