Ram is a junior from Upland, CA majoring in History and minoring in Hindi. His political interests include geopolitics, nationalist and ethnic conflicts, the military in terms of foreign policy, and civil liberties/constitutional originality. In addition to writing for the Vanderbilt Political Review, he competes on the Vanderbilt Trapshooting Team, is the president of Turning Point’s Vandy chapter, and is a member of the College Republicans. He watches old gangster movies, listens to classic rock, and works on cars in his spare time.
By Salem Sayegh and Ram Reddy
What do we get from allowing Chinese espionage? Nothing. For years, the United States has failed to achieve a balance between wholesale exclusion of Chinese citizens and the free flow of foreign citizens to American Universities, businesses, and scientific institutions. The Current Administration’s petty trade war, while a net negative, has brought to light the serious problems and gaps in America’s security in regards to espionage: both industrial and academic.
There are no easy solutions, but when students are known to be an arm of Chinese espionage within academia something must be done. The United States cannot continue to allow the wholesale import of Chinese nationals into America’s educational institutions when their willingness to report back home is unknown. Diversity is certainly a strength to America’s educational system but, when it comes to foreign citizens from a country known for espionage, measures should be taken to prevent the decay of America’s security and global standing. Increased screening for the granting of student visas or thorough background checks for those who intend to pursue careers or research opportunities in sensitive STEM fields are desperately needed. Universities alone are unlikely to be more selective or cautious with Chinese international students due to the amount of money these students bring in. Although international students–the majority of which are Chinese–bring hundreds of millions of dollars with them, the security of the nation outweighs lining pockets of America’s already wealthy universities. While the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS: China’s version of both the CIA and FBI) usually limits their espionage operations to targeting ethnic Chinese students who have government permission to study abroad, they have started recruiting sympathetic or unassuming Americans to carry out actions that Chinese Nationals alone cannot achieve. The problem is metastasizing beyond Chinese nationals to implicate US citizens and has to be contained sooner rather than later.
China has been a sleeping giant since the Sino-Soviet split, but the West in general has been overly concerned with the phantom of Russian influence and Middle Eastern entanglement, allowing China to usurp control of South East Asia and Africa through brutal economic and military strategies. They have stolen their way to the top, with giant companies like Huawei and Foxconn being welcomed into the Western world despite their complacency in allowing the Chinese government to infest their products with spyware and backdoors. These hardware exploits are just now being taken seriously by Western governments, so it could be decades before they act to cut off China’s supply of HUMINT (moles, spies, informants, etc) resources. The United States routinely roots out Russian and Iranian assets in the United States, so why is a student visa a golden ticket to get away with espionage for a hostile government? We do not suggest an end to the issuance of student visas to Chinese Nationals, but at the bare minimum there must be increased screening of these student’s ties and connections to the Chinese government and specifically the MSS. Those pursuing STEM research or careers should face even more scrutiny. The United States should not be discriminatory, but it cannot afford to be naïve. Something must be done to prevent further loss of US corporate and military secrets.