Authored by Gordon Chang via The Gatestone Institute,
Beijing, in seeking influence on American college and university campuses, has been infringing on academic freedoms, violating American sovereignty, and breaking U.S. law. U.S. officials, neglecting their responsibilities to the American people, have allowed this injurious behavior to continue, in some instances for decades.
As an initial matter, some of this impermissible Chinese conduct is harmless, even amusing. As detailed by Anastasya Lloyd-Damnjanovic in a landmark study for the Wilson Center, Chinese officials in 2004 and 2007 threatened then Columbia University professor Robert Barnett, the prominent Tibet expert, that if he did not adopt a more favorable view of China’s policies they would — heavens! — stop speaking to him.
Most of the time, however, impermissible conduct has taken on a more ominous tone. Barnett, for instance, was also the target of an effort, by a Chinese student at Columbia and a faculty member from China (at another institution), to “depose” him for trying to protect Tibetan exiles from harassment by Chinese students and Chinese consular officials.
In 2009, an official from the Chinese Consulate in New York got in touch with Ming Xia, a faculty member at City University of New York, and demanded he stop work on a documentary on the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The official, saying China could offer more “financial rewards” than he was getting for the documentary, essentially offered Xia a bribe; when that did not work, the official directly threatened him.
Then there was the Yang Shuping incident in June 2017. Yang gave the commencement speech at the University of Maryland, criticizing Beijing’s environmental record and praising American democratic values. She was targeted by the infamous Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), which called her speech “intolerable”, a word inconsistent with the notions of an open campus. Her family back in China was threatened.
China’s Communist Party, especially its United Front Work Department, has targeted institutions of higher learning as part of an intensive, multi-decade effort to influence American society. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has placed great emphasis on international propaganda efforts, in May 2015 identified students as “a new focus of United Front Work,” suggesting they should be promoters and implementers of Party efforts.
As a result of this direction from the top of the Chinese political system, United Front Work Department activity, according to one “senior US official” quoted in the Financial Times, has …read more