Trump acts to protect U.S. research

Donald Trump speaking into microphone in front of U.S. flags (© Alex Brandon/AP Images)
President Trump announces a plan to block the Chinese Communist Party's research theft at a White House news conference May 29. (© Alex Brandon/AP Images)

In a move to protect U.S. national security, President Trump is limiting the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to misuse student exchange scholar visas to inappropriately acquire critical and emerging technologies to support its military.

“For years the government of China has conducted illicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets,” Trump said May 29, announcing a proclamation aimed at stopping the CCP’s theft and diversion of sensitive U.S. research and technology to benefit China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The United States continues to welcome international students and scholars from around the world — including China — and values the tremendous contributions that they make to the U.S. academic sector and research enterprise, according to State Department officials speaking about policy June 2.

However, a small subset of Chinese graduate and postgraduate students and researchers have been co-opted, exploited or otherwise leveraged by the CCP to steal U.S. technology, intellectual property and information to support China’s pursuit of military dominance, the officials said.

“The United States wants an open and constructive relationship with China, but achieving that relationship requires us to vigorously defend our national interests,” Trump said.

The proclamation comes as the CCP has been sending military and civilian researchers around the world to acquire sensitive technologies from the U.S. and other nations.

The effort to boost the PLA on the backs of foreign research is part of a public national strategy of “military-civil fusion,” which is working to ensure all advanced technology acquired or developed by the civilian sector benefits the development of advanced military programs in China, the proclamation said.

The strategy specifically exploits the openness, transparency and international cooperation that drive universities’ research in the United States.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) pressures some Chinese citizens to use their access to open research environments, such as the United States’, to divert emerging technologies for China’s military. For example, the PRC’s National Security Law mandates that civilian entities and individuals participate in efforts to advance and protect the national security interests of the CCP.

Since 2009, the CCP has undertaken a systematic effort to incorporate civilian universities into military research and development. The effort seeks to ensure defense research and development programs benefit from the cutting-edge research undertaken by the civilian university system and to leverage the Chinese university system’s growing access to the most advanced research universities and labs in the world.

The PRC has granted more than 150 Chinese universities the security clearances required to undertake sensitive military research and development. In 2016, the CCP explicitly directed their university system to collaborate with the best technical universities in the world in order to acquire emerging technology and bring it back to China.

Trump said that the People’s Republic of China’s campaign to steal research exploits Chinese researchers and threatens U.S. national security.

“The PRC’s acquisition of sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property to modernize its military is a threat to our Nation’s long-term economic vitality and the safety and security of the American people,” Trump said in the proclamation.