There was once a time when we wouldn’t take immigrants from countries with which we had hostile relations. Now, our number-one strategic adversary, Red China, is also the number-one source of immigrants and foreign students. There is no way we can vet hundreds of thousands of students and immigrants a year to ensure China is not sending them here to engage in espionage. Indeed, there are scores of people arrested every year on espionage charges. How many are we not catching?
On Monday, two Chinese students from the University of Michigan appeared in federal court on charges of entering Naval Air Station Key West in Florida with the intention of photographing defense installations. Yuhao Wang and Jielun Zhang were arrested last Saturday when they drove through a restricted area of the naval base in Key West after they were told to turn around. After half an hour, U.S. Navy Security Forces found them and discovered pictures on their cell phones and Nikon cameras of U.S. military structures on Fleming Key.
This comes just two weeks after another Chinese student, Lyuyou Liao, was arrested for taking pictures of another annex of the base. Liao, like so many of these students, had a full scholarship paid for by the Chinese government.
The question is how much of our national security are we willing to sacrifice to the gods of open borders? In the case of foreign students, it’s really the god of public education, which is being subsidized happily by the Chinese. The universities get cash from the Chinese government, while the Chinese get operatives and intelligence officers into the country to work in academic fields and occupations. The rest of the American people lose.
The arrest of these students comes on the heels of the attack at the naval base in Pensacola by a Saudi military student. It’s shocking how it took security 30 minutes to locate these Chinese nationals who ran through a checkpoint. Yet despite Trump’s promise to arm soldiers on bases from the “first day” of his administration, even these attacks on military bases have not prompted that change.
An even bigger issue here of course is our massive Chinese immigration. We bring in roughly 369,548 Chinese foreign students a year, together with 80,000 more on immigrant visas. In other words, there are about as many Chinese students in the U.S. as the entire university enrollment in the state of Maryland. As John Binder of Breitbart observes, taken together, that means we have admitted more people from China as immigrants and long-term visa holders in recent years than from any other country, including Mexico. Knowing that China directly uses immigrants for asymmetrical warfare against us, why is there no outcry to end this policy? The director of national intelligence warned in the latest Worldwide Threat Assessment, “China’s intelligence services will exploit the openness of American society, especially academia and the scientific community, using a variety of means,”
Last November, the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee on investigations published a bipartisan report warning how 10,000 Chinese nationals conduct research in the Department of Energy’s National Labs. The report found that foreign-born researchers working for various U.S. scientific research agencies were being paid by China under the Thousand Talents Plan run by the communist government. The report concludes, “American taxpayer funded research has contributed to China’s global rise over the last 20 years,” as Chinese plants ensure we pay for the rope to hang ourselves.
The report’s authors note that despite the Chinese government openly announcing in 2008 its intent to recruit overseas researchers with access to advanced research and technology, the FBI did not make it a prior to monitor until mid-2018, years into the mass migration from China. In the words of the authors, it allowed China to go “from brain drain to brain gain.”
How in the world do we vet people who were selected by the Chinese communists for espionage and intellectual property theft, among the many well-meaning Chinese students or scientists? How can we vet hundreds of thousands every year? Well, we don’t. The report found that agencies and department conducting scientific research like the National Institutes of Health and the State Department do not “systematically track visa applicants linked to China’s talent recruitment plans.” The Department of State denies just five percent of visas scrutinized for violations of export control laws.
The Senate report cites another report claiming that “so many [Chinese] scientists from Los Alamos have returned to Chinese universities and research institutes that people have dubbed them the ‘Los Alamos club.’” It doesn’t take a large percentage to create national security problems when we admit hundreds of thousands every year.
China’s use of foreign students and workers to spy on enemies extends to cultural subversion and stifling of academic research as well, and it’s not limited to the United States. Just before the U.K. elections, the British Parliament published a report warning about the “alarming evidence” that China’s Confucius Institutes, the arm of the Communist Party promoting Chinese influence in foreign universities, serves as academic malware to stifle research on college campuses through tremendous influence.
“There is clear evidence that autocracies are seeking to shape the research agenda or curricula of UK universities, as well as limit the activities of researchers on university campuses,” warned the report from the British Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. “Not enough is being done to protect academic freedom from financial, political and diplomatic pressure.” This has also been a systemic problem in universities in Australia and New Zealand.
At its core, the racket of elite university heads working with elite politicians to allow China to subvert and spy on us from within, all for some money and influence, is the perfect example of what is wrong with today’s disloyal elites in western democracies. They might desire more money, but what about our security and culture?
The president has unilateral authority to shut off, restrict, regulate, or modify our policy on visas from any given country when he believes it’s in the “national interest.” National interest takes into account a lot more than lining the pockets of universities. Trump has an opportunity to begin slowing down visas from China and demanding greater vetting and conditions placed on their applications.
Unfortunately, it’s not just a problem from China. As I reported before, Iranian nationals who came here as foreign students have been caught passing on trade secrets to Iran. We continue to bring in a lot of foreign students even after the so-called travel ban, although not as many as from China. For the 2018-2019 academic year, there were still over 12,000 Iranian foreign students here, despite the moratorium. We bring in 1.1 million foreign students overall, often from countries with whom we share hostile or “complicated” relations. In the 1990s, that number hovered around 400-500K. Foreign student visas are not capped at all, so as long as foreign countries subsidize the program and the universities accept them, we more or less greenlight their visas. How anyone can look at this and see no problems, given the volatile world we live in, defies basic common sense.
It would be difficult for any country today to beat us militarily. But what they can do is rot us from within. Our irresponsible immigration and visa policies serve as the biggest conduit for their asymmetrical warfare, and it’s 100 percent avoidable. Our federal government doesn’t have the ability to remake other countries in our mold, but it sure has the ability – indeed, the solemn responsibility – to prevent them from remaking us in theirs.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.