‘Look The Other Way’: Increase In Chinese International Students Raises National Security Concerns, Experts Say

  • Post category:News / US News

  • The increase of Chinese international students attending U.S. universities presents an opportunity for the Chinese government to conduct espionage, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “You have students you’re sending students abroad, that are gathering up Western expertise, and then once that knowledge is there, they’re taking it home with them. Then obviously, probably working for some state or enterprise or something else where you’re still talking about American adversary,” Ian Oxnevad, program research assistant at the National Scholars Association, told the DCNF.
  • “With an adversary nation like China, some of the STEM-related benefits are double-edged,” Dr. Anders Corr, the publisher of Journal of Political Risk, a peer-reviewed journal examining the impact of events such as war and terrorism, told the DCNF. “The regime in Beijing seeks to extract as much STEM knowledge as possible from the West, and they seek to use it to eclipse our own STEM and its critical role in the economic and military dominance of the democracies.

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The increase in enrollment of Chinese international students in U.S. colleges raises national security concerns, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation, as it presents a golden opportunity for the Chinese government to infiltrate American institutions.

International students’ enrollment in U.S. universities increased to approximately 948,519 in the 2021-2022 school year, with about 291,000 of those students being from China, according to a report by the Institute of International Education and U.S. State Department. Though many argue the influx Chinese students brings economic benefits, it also presents an opportunity for the Chinese government to conduct economic espionage and even threaten national security, experts told the DCNF.

“With an adversary nation like China, some of the STEM-related benefits are double-edged,” Dr. Anders Corr, the publisher of Journal of Political Risk, a peer-reviewed journal examining the impact of events such as war and terrorism, told the DCNF. “The regime in Beijing seeks to extract as much STEM knowledge as possible from the West, and they seek to use it to eclipse our own STEM and its critical role in the economic and military dominance of the democracies. China has already outpaced our industrial strength by extracting it from the U.S. and allies since the 1970s, and now it is attempting the same scientifically.”

U.S. intelligence officials have long believed American universities to be a weak spot for security threats, such as espionage, noting that spies brought to campus through student visas are normally never caught, NBC News reported. Numerous Chinese students and professors working in the U.S. have been convicted of espionage-related crimes, using their university positions to steal intellectual property, scientific knowledge and technological innovations.

Peter Wood, president of the National Scholars Association, told the DCNF that the sheer number of Chinese students affords the PRC ample opportunity to weaken America from the inside.

“First, they make American college programs dependent on foreign powers,” Wood told the DCNF. “Last year China enrolled more than 290,000 students in U.S. universities – 30.6 of the total number of international students. What does it mean when our nation’s leading adversary contributes so much to the bottom line of many of our colleges and universities? It means the leaders of those universities look the other way when many of these students turn out to be agents of the Chinese Communist Party who are bent on acquiring U.S. technical expertise, cultivating close relations with our top researchers and engaging in outright theft of intellectual property.”

In the 2021-2022 school year, Chinese students made up around 30% of all international students in the U.S. as overall international enrollment rose 3.8%.

“A lot of our ideas, technology, research, innovation is incubated on those university campuses,” Bill Evanina, the top counterintelligence official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told NBC News. “That’s where the science and technology originates — and that’s why it’s the most prime place to steal.”

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The Trump administration made the presence of international students in American universities a national security priority and in 2020 cancelled the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students who had connections to the Chinese military, according to a White House press release. The policy has been kept in place by the Biden administration, and denies visas to Chinese students if they attended certain Chinese universities and have ties to certain state organs.

Ian Oxnevad, program research assistant at the National Scholars Association, told the DCNF that universities are ways for China to bring Western knowledge back to their own country.

“From an economic espionage standpoint, that’s basically the softest target, in a lot of ways, at least historically,” Oxnevad told the DCNF.

“You have students you’re sending students abroad, that are gathering up Western expertise, and then once that knowledge is there, they’re taking it home with them,” he said. “Then obviously, probably working for some state or enterprise or something else where you’re still talking about American adversaries.”

However, many have argued that the acceptance of international students is essential to an effective diplomatic strategy.

Lee Satterfield, former Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, told The Washington Post that international students at U.S. universities “is at the heart of people-to-people diplomacy and a foundational component of our U.S. foreign policy strategy to attract the top talent to the United States.”

The U.S. Department of State did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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