Q&A: COVID-19 Fuels Chinese Espionage
Q: What’s the latest red flag with regard to China’s efforts to steal U.S. research?
A: The theft of American ingenuity and know-how by foreign agents is a tale as old as the republic. However, in the global race to find treatments and cures for COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is pulling out all the stops. By that, I mean cheating instead of cooperating. The CCP and President Xi have made no bones about their plans to dominate the 21st century global economy. Its Communist government regime will stop at nothing to “become the world’s biggest superpower.” In fact, intellectual property (IP) theft is effectively a government-dictated policy and an entrenched way of doing business. According to the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, IP theft costs U.S. companies hundreds of billions of dollars a year. These crimes put America’s economic and national security interests in serious jeopardy. Stealing valuable IP even happens in the farm fields of Iowa. In 2016, a Chinese citizen was sentenced to prison for conspiracy to steal trade secrets from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto after a years-long investigation that started in an Iowa seed-testing field. America’s spirt of enterprise and innovation has propelled our economy to the frontiers of science and technology, telecommunications, artificial intelligence, medicine and more. Our research and academic institutions also have a red bulls-eye painted on their backs by foreign spies. The federal government must do more to combat economic espionage targeting U.S. businesses, industries and academia. From my leadership positions in the United States Senate, I’m dialing up my efforts to increase public awareness, strengthen enforcement and crack down on foreign criminal piracy that steals investment and research from under our noses. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated China’s shameless approach to win at all costs. Its abject negligence to come clean about the virus in 2019 has cost countless lives and wreaked havoc across the world. I’ll continue working with the Trump administration to act decisively and root out China’s economic espionage before it’s too late.
Q: How would your bills help lower health care prices?
A: I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation that would make foreign nationals deportable from and inadmissible to the country if they are found to have violated our laws preventing the export of certain goods, technology, or sensitive information, or laws relating to economic espionage and the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets. For too long, the Chinese Communist regime has sought to lie, cheat and steal its way to prosperity. Not surprisingly, China is targeting U.S. researchers and scientists to hijack or disrupt COVID-19 vaccine development. Our academic and research institutions are especially vulnerable to infiltration by foreign nationals abusing immigration and employment laws. The U.S. State and Justice Departments are ramping up enforcement efforts to stop IP theft, cybercrimes, visa fraud and economic espionage. I’m keeping close watch to ensure the executive branch fully enforces U.S. intellectual property protection laws already on the books and working to enact stronger laws to thwart cyber-thieves and keep bad actors out. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I convened an oversight hearing on foreign threats to taxpayer-funded research in June 2019. I also wrote to the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Health and Human Services Inspector General, and the Department of Defense relating to foreign threats to taxpayer-funded research. A Government Accountability Office review, which I requested, found that federal agencies need to be doing more to protect against foreign theft of U.S. research. As part of my oversight work, I’ve also sought a GAO review of the government’s use of conflict of interest policies regarding taxpayer-funded research. What’s more, I’ll continue to expose and stop the orchestrated efforts to plant pro-China propaganda across U.S. college campuses. For example, I issued a warning earlier this year to more than 70 colleges, universities and school districts who have an active Confucius Institute on campus. These Chinese-government-backed entities are a front for the Communist regime to infiltrate and influence our academic environment by spreading pro-Communist Party propaganda. The U.S. Justice Department and FBI officials have confirmed that China is fully engaged in non-traditional espionage to steal taxpayer-funded research with immersion into our labs, academic institutions and defense systems. That’s why I’m working to strengthen the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to strengthen reporting and disclosure requirements. Americans who work and interact with foreign nationals must do so with their eyes and ears wide open. Understanding Chinese propaganda, keeping thieves out of the country and exposing malicious foreign influence for what it is will help prevent the Communist regime from leveraging cultural exchange of ideas, diplomacy and research for criminal economic advantage. Once and for all, America needs to wake up about China’s efforts to take advantage of our intellectual property, infringe upon our academic freedom and take U.S. taxpayers for a ride.