OPINION: Stanford profs are siding with China on foreign spies

Stanford University has received more than $16 million from Chinese sources since 2017.

A group of Stanford professors has asked the Department of Justice to end a program designed to find Chinese spies at American universities.

When the opinions of American academics match the opinion of the Chinese Communist Party, it’s clear that higher education has a problem. This is exactly what is happening at Stanford University, where a group of 177 faculty members have asked the Department of Justice to stop seeking out Chinese spies at U.S. universities. 

The DOJ’s scrutiny of suspected Chinese agents has yielded remarkable and frightening results. It has found a researcher at U.C. Davis who hid in the Chinese consulate when she was caught, a Chinese professor at Texas A&M who provided false information to NASA, a professor at Harvard who lied about his China ties while getting grant funding from the NIH and Department of Defense, a professor at Case Western Reserve who allegedly committed wire fraud while receiving NIH funding, and even a researcher at Stanford itself who lied about her connections to the Chinese military. These are just a few examples of academics who the U.S. government believes lied about their connections to China. 

The Stanford faculty who signed this letter assert that the DOJ is unfairly biased against Chinese nationals. They write, “It is fueling biases that, in turn, raise concerns about racial profiling.” The letter says, “The China Initiative disproportionally targets researchers of Chinese origin,:” failing to acknowledge the fact, reported by the Washington Post, that more than 1,000 Chinese nationals fled the United States after hiding their connections to the Chinese military. 

[RELATED: Ohio professor the latest to be arrested over China ties]

The letter ignores the very likely situation that China is sending spies at a higher rate than other countries. If other countries are not sending us spies, the government will never be able to find spies from those countries at a comparable rate. That is not profiling; that is math. 

The professors write, “Investigations are often triggered not by any evidence of wrongdoing, but just because of a researcher’s connections with China.” They pretend as if a researcher’s connection to a hostile foreign government is not reason enough for concern. They pretend as if the DOJ has been on a witch hunt, rather than collecting significant evidence against spies through legal means.

It is troubling to see academics show such disregard for our national security. It is even more concerning that their opposition to the China Initiative reads like a press release from Beijing. 

When a researcher or professor is caught working on behalf of the Chinese government, the Chinese government is, naturally, furious. Spokespeople from China’s foreign ministry have accused the U.S. of harassing Chinese nationals and harming legitimate cultural exchange - the exact same accusations lobbied by the Stanford letter.

[RELATED: Emory prof admits to Chinese spy ring involvement]

Letters like the one from Stanford’s faculty play right into the hands of the CCP. In 2019, a foreign ministry official touted a similar letter from the president of Columbia University as proof that even Americans think the U.S. government should back off, and Chinese state media reported it. News of the Stanford letter has already been retweeted by Chen Weihua, a leader in Chinese state-owned media. 

Stanford has a history of being less than truthful about its foreign connections. A Department of Education investigation found that, since 2010, Stanford has reported $64 million in anonymous donations from Chinese sources. Federal law requires universities to report major foreign donations, as well as who they come from. The Department’s investigation prompted Stanford, among other colleges, to update their foreign funding reports to report gifts and contracts they had previously hidden. Now, government data shows that Stanford has received more than $16 million from Chinese sources since 2017. 

The cultural exchange that the Stanford faculty and the Chinese government is so worried about is alive and well. A whopping 372,000 Chinese students studied in America in the 2019-2020 school year, according to Fortune. This country should welcome the top students from around the world with open arms - and with significant vetting. Allowing theft to persist will not assist cultural exchange; it will only make this country less safe. There is nothing to be gained by asking the U.S. government to stick its head in the sand and neglect a real problem under the guise of social justice.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito