Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined a conversation with Campus Reform and the Leadership Institute to discuss the role the Chinese government and Communist Party has played in influencing American universities.
Rubio talked about China’s impact on younger generations.
“I encourage you to look at Made in China 2025, it is an industrial plan put out by the Chinese Communist Party where they basically detail the 10 industries that they intend to be the world leader in,” Rubio said. “I think that’s a call to action on our part and that means that we have to make sure that we have our own capabilities and that we’re investing and prioritizing in these key industries like biomedicine, like quantum computing and artificial intelligence, telecommunications, but also things like rail and clean energy and all sorts of other industries that they intend to be dominant in the world because we want to have those capabilities as well and we don’t want to be dependent on China for them. It gives them tremendous leverage over the rest of our country.”
Rubio also talked about Chinese foreign exchange students.
“A growing number of Chinese students in the United States do not get the full university experience,” Rubio insisted. “There is, and we know there is, active monitoring on behalf of Chinese embassies and other programs to keep an eye on foreign nationals that have traveled to the United States to in essence, in their theory to prevent them from becoming infected with Western ideas, human rights, freedom of speech and the like… Ultimately, we’ve always counted on diversity, plurality of opinions and our society to balance it out. And ultimately, for someone from abroad to see that and say, wow this is a great country, it functions, and people are allowed to believe all sorts of different things and not be punished, I don’t believe Chinese students are getting that experience any longer when they come to the U.S., primarily because I think they are being watched. And that is not a conspiracy theory. That is something that we have been able to document and to see and many on campuses will tell you it’s been a reality as well…
“I do know that one of the things we’re going to have to address, particularly graduate students in certain fields, is we are going to have to be more sensitive about, frankly allowing foreign nationals of a variety of different places who are known for active efforts to steal trade secrets and technological secrets — we’re going to have to be more careful of that sort of thing,” Rubio added.
Turning to faculty matters, Rubio talked about the ties between the Chinese Communist Party and some American professors.
“There’s been instances like the professor at Harvard or researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in my own home state of Florida who were deriving a paycheck from their own institution, Harvard or Moffitt, but they were also secretly getting a paycheck and sharing the exact same research with an institution in China, and that was not being disclosed. So I think part of the answer here is to require strict disclosure, when you are doing research or you are drawing compensation from a foreign state, particularly China, who has a track record of trying to steal research or at a minimum getting you to duplicate it for them, that has to be something that is disclosed and there needs to be criminal penalties for people that deliberately hide it,” Rubio said.
Rubio also talked about the Confucius Institutes which have ties to colleges and universities across the country–but also have connections to the Chinese regime.
“Confucius Institutes are programs of the Chinese Communist Party — they run it through a bunch of different organizations, it sounds benign, but it is most certainly an effort of the Chinese Communist Party… it’s become a growing and important part of their influence efforts in the United States for the future,” Rubio said.
“You can make universities and schools aware of all of this and ask them to voluntarily cut ties because of the threat they represent… I’ve also introduced a bill called the Foreign Influence Transparency Act, which would require higher education institutions to report gifts, contracts from a foreign source for $50,000 or more. I would prefer to start along that route before beginning with threats of cutting funding and things of this nature… I think it’s more important that we convince people this is a threat and get them to voluntarily do it before we start bringing down the hammer of threatening cuts to federal funding and the like, which would impact the entire student body, but probably wouldn’t impact the Confucius Institutes,” Rubio added.
Rubio also talked about China’s role with the World Health Organization (WHO) and pointed to their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“As the largest donor of the World Health Organization, we should be demanding accountability… The political leadership of the organization, which is not supposed to be political, was covering for China because they didn’t want to upset China, because they didn’t want to anger them. That can’t continue — if you’re going to be the World Health Organization, you can’t be a political organization… because we’re depending on you to serve as a sort of fusion center for the world to respond to things like a pandemic, and we lost about 8 to 10 weeks in this response because we didn’t have clear eyes as to what was happening on the ground in China,” Rubio said.
Rubio also focused on China’s production of pharmaceuticals and the role of U.S. territories.
“We need more domestic capabilities in that field, as this recent pandemic has proven. We need to improve our own domestic capabilities, as I think you’re going to see a growing amount of biomedical nationalism around the world, because countries have faced the abyss of running out of materials and are going to look for ways to be able to produce more by themselves. We’re going to have to have that same capability, but also because it produces great jobs… It would also help with Puerto Rico’s economic recovery, by producing high paying jobs available to the graduates in Puerto Rico and those who seek to return from the mainland and back to the island… It fits a need that our country has, and it also helps to deal with the need to help Puerto Rico recover economically after a financial crisis, two terrible storms, and an earthquake. It’s been a tough five years,” Rubio said.
Rubio turned towards holding China accountable.
“The most important thing that we need to do in order to deal with all this is take care of our own business, ensure that we are rebuilding these industrial and technological capabilities and not continuing to allow this erosion because it puts our national security and our national economic interests, especially in the long term,” Rubio said.
Rubio sits on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).