(NewsNation) — The U.S. Department of Justice is concerned that higher learning across the U.S. may be at risk of Chinese spies and international students’ motives aren’t just to learn but to share that intelligence with foreign superpowers to see a competitive advantage.
From the Pac-12 through the Big 12 Conference and onto the Ivy Leagues, more than 60 universities have been warned of an ongoing threat of Chinese nationals infiltrating the American university system acting as agents of the People’s Republic of China to share research and intelligence with the foreign superpower.
In October 2021, the DOJ concluded a decade-long investigation, charging four Chinese nationals with a conspiracy. The DOJ claimed they worked to recruit university professors, federal law enforcement officers and state homeland security officials to become agents of the Chinese government.
In 2020, a UCLA student was arrested on suspicion of attempting to conceal his ties to the Chinese government. The 29-year-old mathematics student was suspected of transferring sensitive software to the Chinese military.
These are only two examples of undercover espionage prompting the National Institute of Health to warn universities of the potential threat. In 2018, they issued a report writing:
“Threats to the integrity of U.S. biomedical research exist. NIH is aware that some foreign entities have mounted systematic programs to influence new researchers and peer reviewers.
“This kind of inappropriate influence is not limited to biomedical research; it has been a significant issue for defense and energy research for some time.”
While the threat of university-infiltrated spies is federally monitored, it’s important to note the U.S. Department of State actively promotes international educational partnerships and publishes a yearly Open Doors Report highlighting the academic progress international scholars achieve at American universities.
Nearly 300,000 Chinese students came to institutions for higher learning across the nation in the 2021-2022 academic year, according to the 2021 annual report.
NewsNation reached out to several universities to find out what changes and progress have been made since that warning was delivered in 2018, but hasn’t heard back yet.