Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday warned of the threat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses to American educational institutions during a speech at Georgia Institute of Technology.
“Americans must know how the Chinese Communist Party is poisoning the well of our higher education institutions for its own ends, and how those actions degrade our freedoms and American national security,” he said.
During the speech, he explained how the CCP has been infiltrating American universities to collect valuable information and recruit American engineers and scientists to help them improve the Chinese military.
“There are many American scholars — often doing research funded by American taxpayers — that have been lured into the Chinese Communist Party’s talent recruitment programs,” Pompeo said.
“The CCP pays them what is for them a fortune to do research related to their current fields for, or in, China — and then often uses the fruits of their brainpower to build its military strength,” he said.
Pompeo also warned that CCP infiltration on American campuses is also to keep an eye on the approximately 400,000 students that China sends to study in the United States every year.
He described how Chinese students on American campuses have faced repression and blowback from speaking too freely or not reporting back to authorities on the activities of Chinese dissidents.
He said students at Princeton University were forced to use code names in a Chinese politics class so that the CCP could not discover their identities and prosecute them for their views.
“This happened right here in the United States of America,” Pompeo said.
“Students from China at American universities also live in fear that their families back home will be arrested, will be interrogated, tortured — or worse — because of things they say in an American classroom,” he added.
But the CCP is also targeting American students, professors and administrators, too, he said.
“Look, they know that left-leaning college campuses are rife with anti-Americanism, and present easy targets for their anti-American messaging,” Pompeo went on.
He pointed to Chinese programs on American campuses, such as the Confucius Institutes, Chinese student organizations directed and funded by the local Chinese embassy or consulate. Pompeo stated their purpose is “to keep tabs on students and to press pro-Beijing causes.”
Despite the importance of warning Americans of the CCP’s activities right on American campuses, Pompeo said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) president denied his request to deliver the same speech at its campus.
“MIT wasn’t interested in having me to their campus to give this exact set of remarks. President Raphael Reif implied that my arguments might insult their ethnic Chinese students and professors,” he said.
“This set of remarks is intended to protect, to protect their freedoms,” he added. “The yielding to the objection of hurt feelings plays right into the Chinese Communist Party’s hands.”
Pompeo pointed out that China has given more than $1.3 billion to American universities since 2013, according to the Department of Education. MIT was one of the institutions under investigation by the Department of Education for its lack of transparency of their donations from China.
“That’s just what we know about. Like so many — like Columbia [University] — so many schools that have failed to report the true amounts [sic],” he added.
“What more bad decisions will schools make because they are hooked on Chinese Communist Party cash? What professors will they be able to co-opt or to silence? What theft and espionage will they simply overlook? What business deals will get done as a result of that?” he asked.