Texas A&M ends climate research partnership with Chinese university as tense Washington-Beijing relations persist
The tense situation between the U.S. and China has escalated to the academic and scientific front, with a university in Texas severing ties with its Chinese counterpart
for a climate project.
A report by NTD
said Texas A&M University
(TAMU) shut down its climate change modeling center, launched in partnership with the Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (QNLM), back in February 2022. The university alleged that its Chinese partner defaulted a $2 million payment for the International Laboratory for High-Resolution Earth System Prediction (iHESP).
However, security risks were the real reason why the TAMU-QNLM project was terminated. The Department of Defense
, alongside some American policymakers, feel that Beijing is using academic collaboration to steal valuable information
that could see potential use and application in the military.
TAMU's decision to stop the partnership, which began in 2018, followed a letter penned by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to several universities. Rubio, who is part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged TAMU and 21 other institutions
to "terminate existing academic and research partnerships with universities located in the People's Republic of China that have been overtly tasked by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to support Beijing's military-industrial complex."
The College Station, Texas-based institution was quick to respond to the Florida senator. Its administrators told Rubio that TAMU had either mitigated or eliminated 200 "instances of activity" with a hint of foreign influence. They added that the TAMU system coordinates with the Federal Bureau of Investigation
on a regular basis.
"International research collaboration provides valuable opportunities to advance scientific knowledge, but can also present challenges and risks, all of which we are aware," wrote TAMU President M. Katherine Banks and Chancellor John Sharp. "When the decision is made to enter an international research collaboration, risks are identified and measures are put in place to mitigate those risks."
Chinese partnerships with US universities pose national security risk
The TAMU-QNLM partnership was not a one-way street, as American researchers managed to gain access to China's Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer for climate-related research. Nevertheless, the project's termination about halfway through its five-year-timeline was a good development for Pentagon pundits and national security experts.
However, national security expert Jamil N. Jaffer believes the threat of Chinese interference still hangs high
Jaffer, the founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University
's Antonin Scalia Law School, gave two reasons why Beijing intentionally targets U.S. universities. First, American universities are hotbeds of research and innovation. Second, Americans generally respect academic freedom and open research concepts.
"The reality is that this is a concerted effort by the Chinese government
to engage in widespread industrial, economic and national security espionage – and we've got to confront it," he said.
Back in August 2020, authorities arrested TAMU professor Zhengdong Cheng
for allegedly hiding his Chinese connections. He was subsequently charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and making false statements. Cheng joined the Texas university in 2004, but worked for the Guangdong University of Technology
from 2012 to 2018.
"The terms of Cheng's grant prohibited participation, collaboration or coordination with China, any Chinese-owned company or any Chinese university," the Department of Justice
said in a press release announcing the professor's arrest. (Related: NASA researcher and Texas A&M professor accused of secret collaboration with China.
Whether Cheng is guilty of relaying information to his counterparts in mainland China, however, is another matter.
Watch this video about Chinese students being tapped to translate stolen materials from Western universities
This video is from the Chinese taking down EVIL CCP on Brighteon.com
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