I noted last month that the infamous Confucius Institutes, operating as propaganda arms of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on U.S. campuses, had simply rebranded themselves, and that many American universities decided to engage in business as usual by reconnecting with the “new” organizations, from which no doubt money and influence flow freely.
And this week, George Fishman published a CIS Backgrounder in which he outlined in detail the danger that Chinese students and exchange visitors pose to U.S. national security, given their CCP masters' iron-fisted ability to control their lives even while studying or conducting research on our shores. This renders them particularly open to pressure to engage in theft of information and data about high-end technologies and research that China can put to great advantage, both economically and in its effort to become the predominant global superpower.
As if we needed more proof of the unique risk that the CCP octopus poses on the campuses of America's institutions of higher learning, another tentacle has been revealed. The James G. Martin Center has issued a report cataloguing the Chinese government's subversion and infiltration of Chinese student groups in the United States: “How China Plays Us for Fools: CCP Subversion of Student Groups”:
[International] students contribute to the cultural and intellectual diversity of our campuses, enrich the experience of the student body, and bring in-demand expertise to our institutions. However, this positive enterprise is thrown into peril when foreign actors exploit the freedom and opportunity provided by American universities for political and economic gain.
This is exactly what the People’s Republic of China is doing at American colleges and universities — including some in North Carolina. The Chinese government, through its embassies and consulates in the United States, has sought to suppress free speech among visiting Chinese students, fund political action surreptitiously, influence public perception of China, and gain access to ongoing research and protected intellectual property.
This type of behavior was previously observed within many universities’ Confucius Institutes, the last of which in North Carolina (at UNC-Charlotte) closed in 2020. However, the Chinese government continues to exploit other campus organizations. For instance, the approximately 150 chapters of Chinese Students and Scholars Associations [CSSAs], campus organizations for Chinese students studying abroad, have become increasingly entangled with Chinese authorities.
By way of just one example, the Martin Center cites this particularly egregious incident:
CSSA-related political tension came to a head at Duke University in 2008 when Grace Wang, a Chinese student, attempted to facilitate open conversation between Chinese and Tibetan students at a campus protest. After being shouted down and escorted away by campus security, Wang checked the Duke CSSA website, where she saw organization officers “gloating” about the turmoil. After responding with a call for civil discussion, she found the website flooded with pictures of her labeled “traitor,” as well as her Chinese parents’ state ID numbers. She then learned that her parents were receiving death threats and being harassed at their home in China. Her diploma was subsequently revoked by her Chinese high school.
But this is not an isolated, dated incident. The CCP uses the CSSAs as a surrogate to ferret out, isolate, and punish Chinese students who do not toe the party line. And although the Martin Center report focuses on North Carolina campuses, the national implications are clear given the multiplicity of CSSAs across American university campuses.
Once again, we are left with more questions than answers:
What are university officials with a CSSA presence on campus doing to protect the rights and liberties of individuals on those campuses to be free from harassment, abuse, and bullying; and to discipline the offenders, up to and including a ban on the organization if it chooses to behave collectively in such a manner?
Where is the otherwise reliably woke U.S. Department of Education in formulating rules governing how universities interact with the CSSAs or related organizations to ensure they comport themselves in a manner consistent with the Constitution and federal laws and regulations governing freedom of expression and equal rights under the law for students attending those universities?
Similarly, what is the Department of Homeland Security and its Student and Exchange Visitor Program (“SEVP”, a component of ICE), doing to establish rules of conduct for universities hosting on-campus CSSAs? The same question pertains for the students who comprise the membership of those organizations since they are, by their very nature and scope as international students, within the ambit of SEVP. Federal regulations could easily be crafted holding universities accountable for misbehaving CSSAs that they do not supervise or discipline, through loss of their right to enroll foreign students and scholars. Those same regulations can also be crafted to hold that foreign students or scholars who engage in egregious behavior of the nature cited are deemed “out of status” for conduct inconsistent with the purpose of their admission, and thus subject to removal from the United States.
Last but most certainly not least, where is the quiescent U.S. Department of Justice under the stewardship of Merrick Garland, which, like the Department of Education these days, is reliably woke and heavy-handed in so many other matters? Has anyone in the National Security Division of DOJ examined, for instance, exactly where these CSSAs exist? For example, are they primarily collocated with universities engaging in important and sensitive research on behalf of federal departments such as Defense and Energy? If so, why?
And the questions for DOJ also hold true, of course, for the FBI. It is not enough for Director Wray to consistently single out in public speeches the overarching and existential threat posed by the CCP if there are no follow-on actions — or has the FBI been so thoroughly tamed by Garland since having its China initiative dismantled that it has become a paper tiger?