UC Berkeley Faces Congressional Investigation Over China Ties

Aldgra Fredly
By Aldgra Fredly
July 19, 2023USshare

A congressional committee has formally requested the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) to provide information regarding its partnership with a Chinese state-controlled university, citing grave research security concerns.

In a letter to UC Berkeley’s president and chancellor on July 13, the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) said the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute (TBSI) gives Beijing access to research that might be leveraged for China’s military purposes.

TBSI was established in 2014 as a joint institute between UC Berkeley, Tsinghua University in China, and the Shenzhen government. Its research efforts mainly focus on information technology and data science.

The letter—signed by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the Select Committee on the CCP, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the Education and the Workforce Committee—stated that the CCP-backed collaboration “raises many red flags.”

According to the letter, TSBI’s research on “dual-use technologies,” such as semiconductor chips and imaging technology, could contribute to China’s intelligence and military goals.

It also stated that TBSI students were employed by entities linked with the People’s Liberation Army—the military wing of the CCP—including the China National Space Administration.

In addition, the committee said that UC Berkeley faculty serving at the institute had received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Defense Department and the U.S. Navy, among other entities, raising concerns about China’s access to those experts.

“While TBSI is billed as a joint technology venture among educational institutions, in practice, it appears to be a program through which the PRC [People’s Republic of China] pays for access to research and expertise from Berkeley experts, researchers, and students,” the letter reads.

The committee said that UC Berkeley had failed to disclose the contracts or gifts received from Chinese partners, notwithstanding a reported agreement by the Shenzhen government to provide $220 million for the construction of a campus in Shenzhen.

In the letter, the committee requested that the university provide by July 27 all documents and information regarding its funding, technical collaboration, compliance mechanisms, non-disclosure agreements imposed by TBSI, as well as past and current affiliations of TBSI alumni.

They also questioned whether TSBI’s winning contest to optimize 7-nanometer chip technology in April violated the U.S. export controls on advanced semiconductor manufacturing items to China, which was imposed in October 2022.

“The PRC abuses seemingly innocuous research collaborations like the one between Berkeley and Tsinghua to advance PRC science and technology goals at the expense of the United States,” the committee stated.

“The PRC has sent thousands of military scientists abroad to gather scientific-military know-how, obtain sensitive details regarding research projects and emerging technologies, and to gain access to American, academics, their research, and their networks,” they added.

UC Berkeley told The Epoch Times by email that it has responded to the Department of Education’s inquiries “with detailed information about gifts and contracts related to TBSI” and that it was committed to full compliance with the laws governing such matters.

“UC Berkeley takes concerns about national security very seriously, and we are committed to transparency and comprehensive compliance with rules, laws, and regulations that govern international academic engagement,” the university stated.

“UC Berkeley follows the lead of Congress and federal regulators when evaluating proposed research relationships with foreign entities. As a matter of principle, it is important to note that UC Berkeley conducts fundamental research,” it added.

The university also said that it will respond to the relevant committees or agencies regarding the other issues and questions raised in the letter.

“Regarding other issues raised in the letter, as a matter of long-standing practice, the university prioritizes direct communications with legislative committees and governmental agencies when responding to their questions and inquiries,” it stated.

Failure to Disclose China Funds

Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) is seen on his phone as the Congressional Integrity Project video truck showing 12 minutes of footage from the Jan. 6 insurrection drives around the D.C. Department of Corrections in Washington on March 24, 2023. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Congressional Integrity Project)It comes a month after the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee sent a letter to the National Science Foundation regarding UC Berkeley’s failure to disclose $240 million in funds from China.

The letter, signed by committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Collins (R-Ga.), said the university also explored funding from dozens of Chinese companies, including Huawei, ZTE, and DJI, all of which were sanctioned by the United States.

“In exchange for monetary contributions, UC Berkeley officials offered exclusive tours of cutting-edge semiconductor research facilities to Chinese delegations,” the committee stated in a press release.

“Allowing adversarial nations to access research facilities at the leading edge of semiconductor design is unacceptable, especially when that access is given by a U.S. research institution that receives over $700 million annually in funds from the Federal government,” they added.

Berkeley–Tsinghua–Shenzhen Ties

The tripartite venture between the two universities and the city was the first of its kind in China. At the institute’s opening ceremony, UC Berkeley was congratulated by Tsinghua’s president as being the first Western university to participate in a new collaborative framework known as the “government-universities-industries partnership” (GUIP) model.

According to its Chinese language website, TBSI has an external advisory board and an industry advisory board that include a long line of high-level executives from leading Chinese and Western tech corporations, as well as investment firms, venture capital companies, and insurance companies.

Tech firms advising TBSI include: Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE, China’s biggest internet company Tencent, and American firms Cisco, Apple, and Applied Materials. European tech company Siemens Ag, and Taiwan’s Delta Electronics are also on the list.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that American colleges are becoming “hooked on Chinese Communist Party cash,” while Beijing works to siphon cutting-edge U.S. research to China.

“So many of our colleges are bought by Beijing,” Mr. Pompeo said during a speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology in December 2020.

“Americans must know how the Chinese Communist Party is poisoning the well of our higher education institutions for its own ends, and how those actions degrade our freedoms and American national security,” he added.

Nathan Su and Cathy He contributed to this report.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comment from UC Berkeley.

From The Epoch Times

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