Beijing’s pattern is to identify a technology they need and find a weak link at Michigan or another university who is responsible for it. They then build an op around this person. It starts off with a carefree introduction and relationship building. From there the expert is invited to China for a benign talk. Things progress from there and eventually the academics are pressured and or tricked into giving up sensitive material.
Consider that there is a large community of Chinese students being co opted by the communist party. They understand an important aspect of them being in the USA is to get American technology, and the Chinese do it right. According to Mr. Kaufmann, the Chinese “people sent here as students are highly qualified specialists who are sent here to acquire niche tech”. Fortunately for China, Michigan is complying vis a vis advanced aerospace technology.
The Michigan blood letting does not stop there, however. They proudly have an on-going partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University which is tied to the Chinese military hacker unit 61398 (2), which has been stealing us blind.
China’s Military Hackers, Unit 61398
Interestingly enough a software firm called Mandiant outed unit 61398 and its work with the Chinese military. This was the first documented proof that Beijing and its military is responsible for state sponsored hacking. The report traced the group’s activities and placed them squarely in Shanghai, which I am sure makes collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong all the easier.
Coincidentally, Mandiant claims that PLA Unit 61398 targeted and attacked America’s auto corridor. The Chinese hackers waged war on the American industry which invested hundreds of millions in research and development. Not surprisingly, at the heart of that same corridor is the University of Michigan with its ever present Jiao Tong University tie up.
When asked if the military hackers and Chinese university leveraged Michigan’s assets to assist the attack, Michigan claimed, “There was no indication in 2010 that the joint institute was involved in any way and that also is the case today.” (3)
Wow, such a bold statement really allays my fears. I, for one, am glad that there is no “indication” that the jiao tong/Pla hook up stole our secrets via its U of Michigan tie up. I would, however, feel much better if Michigan had said something like, “We have systems in place to ensure that the Chinese army does not leverage its human and cyber connections via the UM-Jiao Tong University partnership which would enable it to be a part of the ring which is stealing America blind.”
Then again, such words from the U of M would ring hollow. After all, if they see nothing wrong with inviting the Chinese military to spend a few weeks on campus and learn about our dual use tech, then I really doubt they are worried about unit 61398 either. If the Michigan staff were in charge of Branson’s space shuttle, they would probably outsource all R&D to Beijing, or partner with them at a minimum.
Experts agree that the problem is grave and Michigan’s conduct has been scandalous. When Mary Sue Coleman, Michigan’s President, was asked to explain this China connection, she deigned to answer. Based on her actions, Ms. Coleman apparently sees nothing wrong with inviting subcontractors for the Chinese military for a little campus crawl. Nor does she mind Michigan collaborating with shady partners and “sharing secrets”. Indeed she has been active in campaigning to loosen the rules on what technology is considered “sensitive” and thus can be given to countries like China. Ms. Coleman must not see a problem with her student body, after all, she even refused to speak with the FBI about the China espionage problem.
Who needs to spy when our universities hand over secrets on a platter?
What About Stanford?
Compared to Michigan, Stanford’s conduct is almost angelic. Rather than taking tax payer dollars, innovating and then sharing it with the Chinese, they don’t even bother with “sensitive projects” any more.
Stanford decided it didn’t want to alienate foreign students, including the Chinese and now does not touch “export controlled research”. (4) As has been shown, such research has military applications and is the backbone of American innovation. Only Americans can participate in this type of research without a license, due to the implications on economic and or national security.
Rather than use the brilliant minds of their students to keep America safe and competitive, Stanford has tapped out. The Stanford administration does not want to cut off the money spigot from foreign students and has spurned us in the process.
When asked about why they do not want to protect and further American interests in sensitive research, Stanford’s President John Hennessy said this at a congressional hearing, “Stanford does not, nor will it, restrict participation of students on the basis of citizenship.” (5)
Essentially this means that Stanford is unwilling to further US interests if it gets in the way of making money. Universities earn top dollar in tuition from foreigners and do not want to derail the money train. With over 50% of Stanford’s PhD candidates coming from countries such as China, Mr. Hennessy is playing politics.
When pushed about his knowledge of the China spy threat by Dana Rohrabacker, a republican congressman, Mr. Hennessy said, “I am aware of that.”
The China threat should come as no surprise as the FBI has approached universities delineating this issue. Backing their claims is research showing that roughly 2/3 of foreign students in the USA are “Assets of their Respective Nation States” aka spies. (6)
If that number is even close to being true, then we are in trouble when considering that a country like China has over 200,000 people studying here. Perhaps the increase in students from China is what led to an eight-fold increase in attempts by East Asian countries in trying to “gain access to developing technologies and cutting-edge research”. (7)
References & Image Credits:
(3) UK Reuters
(6) Slash Dot
(8) parhessiastes via Compfight cc
(10) TSW: Protecting American Space Exploration from Chinese Nationals – Part I