Senator Demands Florida Universities Report How They Defend Against Chinese Influence

A Florida senator sent a letter to the presidents of public universities in his state, asking them to turn over details of how they safeguard their intellectual properties from communist China.

In the Dec. 3 letter (pdf), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) warned Florida’s institutions against “countries that are actively trying to exploit your hard work and take credit for your successes.”

The “most obvious threat,” according to Scott, is communist China.

“The growing influence of communist China presents a clear and present danger to the stability of world markets, to the security of the United States and our allies, and to the quest for freedom and democracy around the globe,” wrote Scott. “We know communist China is stealing our technology and trying to compete with us on the global stage. We should all be greatly concerned about what is happening in communist China as they continue to take steps to try to ‘win’ the great power conflict of the 21st century.”

The former governor of Florida specifically asked university presidents to report if any faculty members or employees at their respective institutions have failed to disclose they participate in Chinese-funded “talent requirement” programs, or whether they have shared “unauthorized information” with foreign entities.

Scott also asked university presidents to explain existing disclosure requirements for faculty members that may have financial conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment as it relates to foreign entities. He specifically asked whether universities disclose this information to federal law enforcement agencies.

“We understand the importance of conducting collaborative research, but U.S. businesses and universities must protect their information from communist China,” Scott wrote. “We cannot take this threat lightly.”

The Republican senator said his concern arose after a Nov. 19 hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, titled “Securing the U.S. Research Enterprise from China’s Talent Recruitment Plans.”

A report (pdf) presented to the hearing detailed how China aggressively exploits America’s openness to advance its own national interests through its more than 200 talent recruitment plans. The most prominent of these is the Thousand Talents Plan, which encourages researchers in American institutions to transmit the knowledge and research they gain to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space, and other benefits.

“In recent years, federal agencies have discovered talent recruitment plan members who downloaded sensitive electronic research files before leaving to return to China, submitted false information when applying for grant funds, and willfully failed to disclose receiving money from the Chinese government on U.S. grant applications,” the report said.

RECOMMENDED