Rep. John Katko in Fox News: China is using our own technology against us – this is how we fight back
China’s recent test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile was largely condemned, but few stopped to question exactly how China got its hands on this technology.
For years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has sought to undermine American intellectual property by targeting our academic institutions, conducting cyber espionage, and forcing the transfer of technology. In a clear escalation of this malign behavior, the hypersonic weapon tested recently by the PRC appears to have been created in part with American technology obtained through a variety of shady business deals and technology transfer schemes.
The capabilities gap between China and the United States is closing every day, and we cannot afford to stand on the sidelines.
America remains a global superpower because of our unmatched ability to innovate. When American research and development is compromised, it threatens our economic and national security. That’s why I’m gravely concerned about our academic research being exfiltrated and repurposed by adversarial nations.
We know the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively engaging Chinese students and researchers prior to their arrival at U.S. institutions and encouraging them to carry out specific missions.
While these types of foreign espionage campaigns have been happening for decades, the stakes with China are now simply too high for inaction. In 2020, a Chinese professor at the University of California, Los Angeles was convicted of shipping banned missile technology back to China. A Chinese student at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology was charged last year with helping to recruit spies for the Chinese intelligence services. And a Chinese professor conducting sensitive research at the University of Kansas was indicted in August 2020 on charges that he concealed his ties to a Chinese university.
There are several steps we should immediately take to prevent our academic institutions from being exploited by the CCP.
Mainly, we should take a hard look at our process for screening and vetting visa recipients. To be clear, I support and have long advocated for reasonable immigration policies that welcome those who wish to work, learn and make a better life for themselves. America is a nation of immigrants, and we want to attract the best and brightest from around the world.
However, the CCP is clearly aiming to exploit our visa system and use it not only to their benefit, but also to our detriment.
Since 2019, eight Chinese nationals have been charged with visa fraud, grant fraud or both. In 2020, more than 1,000 Chinese researchers in the U.S. were found to have hidden their affiliation with the Chinese military. In 2021, the Department of Justice levied indictments against Chinese nationals for concealing their affiliation with the CCP.
I’m proposing two specific improvements to our visa process to help safeguard against those with malicious intent and protect the integrity of our system for those who wish to come for honest purposes.
First, we should reduce the time period on tourist visas provided to Chinese nationals. The current 10-year visas are ripe for abuse, and a more reasonable time frame would allow for greater visibility into who is entering the country and why.
Second, we should fully implement U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) for student and researcher F1, J1, and M visas. Enrollment in this web-based system, which is already required for those on tourism and business visas, would give us a better understanding of who is in our country, what they are studying, and where they are conducting research. Currently, none of this information is updated after a visa is initially issued – undoubtedly creating blind spots and vulnerabilities.
The great powers’ competition between the U.S. and China will determine the future of the world as we know it. From exploiting U.S. academic institutions, to its military buildup in the South China Sea, to debt-trap diplomacy, to its genocide of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang province, the CCP has shown it will stop at nothing to achieve its geopolitical goals.
Countering China will take sustained, clear-eyed focus in the days and years ahead. Ensuring our sensitive information is not being transmitted to the CCP under the guise of academic advancement should be job one.
Republican John Katko represents New York in the United States House of Representatives where he is the lead Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security.