National security commission, chaired by former Google chairman, warns of Chinese Communist efforts to infiltrate US universities

A new report by a commission chaired by former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt stated that American universities need to take measures to protect research from being stolen by China.

The report recommended more government oversight on academic research.

According to a new report issued by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, American universities should be taking measures to protect research from being stolen by China. 

The group, led by former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, stated in its report that groups with ties to the Chinese government have been operating on American college campuses, gathering information and research to send back to the Chinese Communist Party.

One program is called BGI, formerly known as the Beijing Genomics Institute. 

The group’s website explains that the group, founded in 1999, has “businesses in more than 100 countries and regions around the world.” The site goes on to say that “BGI has established cooperation and partnerships with thousands of different organizations…”

According to the report, BGI “has research affiliations with multiple U.S. universities, including the University of Washington and Washington State University.” UW Medicine spokeswoman Leila Gray, however, told Campus Reform that UW “has no relationship with BGI.”

Harvard University’s website contains a page about BGI. Harvard did not respond to Campus Reform when asked what, if any, relationship it maintains with BGI.

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The NSCAI expressed concern over BGI’s close ties with the Chinese government, as it operates the China National GeneBank. As written in the report, BGI could provide the Chinese government with “access to sensitive personal information about key individuals around the world.”

The head of Harvard’s chemistry department was indicted in 2020 for allegedly lying to officials about his ties to the Chinese government. 

The Ivy League school was also under investigation for “hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts” from nations such as China.

The Commission expressed concern that through such partnerships with American universities, “BGI may be serving, wittingly or unwittingly, as a global collection mechanism for Chinese government genetic databases, providing China with greater raw numbers and diversity of human genome samples.”

The NSCAI recommended that the State Department “closely monitor BGI’s activities, and that should BGI be utilized as a mass DNA-collection apparatus for the Chinese government it could face additional U.S. regulatory action.”

The Director of Strategy, Communications, and Engagements for the NSCAI, Tara Rigler, told Campus Reform that the threat is something that should be taken seriously by American universities.

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“We are facing a reality in which foreign adversaries are exploiting our open research environment to expedite development of their military and intelligence communities. China, in particular, has pursued a multifaceted effort of cyber-enabled intrusion, talent recruitment programs, and manipulated research partnerships to use U.S. government-funded research of priority emerging technologies such as AI to their advantage,” Rigler said.

As previously reported by Campus Reform, since the beginning of 2020, multiple Chinese students, researchers, and professors at American universities have been arrested over their alleged ties to the Chinese government and intelligence agencies. In one instance, UCLA researcher was arrested for allegedly trying to dispose of a hard drive as the FBI was investigating him for transferring sensitive U.S. data to Chinese defense entities.

In an effort to combat this theft of sensitive information, the NSCAI has made several recommendations. 

Rigler told Campus reform that “specifically, the Commission recommends that Congress establish a government-sponsored center of excellence on research security, mandate compliance operations at each research funding agency, and standardize grant processes and databases across agencies to facilitate audits.” 

She explained, “The United States should also guard against the entrance of researchers with problematic affiliations through implementation of a special visa review process.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @loganwashburn76