China has targeted all sources of American innovation, including universities, corporations, and government labs, exploiting both their openness and naïveté

WASHINGTON: The congressional legislation to force a sale or ban of TikTok in America is just one of a series of ongoing initiatives intended to stop the Chinese government’s relentless and largely previously unencumbered efforts to penetrate the inner sanctum of the American government and acquire and manipulate its citizens’ data, while seeking to influence its political processes. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has deftly done so, with increasing success, for decades by taking advantage of America’s many freedoms and gaps and inconsistencies in its regulatory environment. This had been possible at scale because the American government (and many of its businesses) had failed to successfully contain the CCP’s cyberattacks, intellectual property thefts, access to university (and other forms of) research, and mis/disinformation campaigns.

Fortunately, the Biden administration followed the Trump administration’s lead in starting to turn the tide. Successive US administrations must not stop where Trump and Biden started. The US intelligence community’s 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment report identified a number of research areas that will determine global military and economic superiority in the coming decades; AI, gene editing, synthetic biology, 5G, and quantum computing were among the areas specifically referenced. It noted that America’s lead in the science and technology fields had been significantly eroded, the result of steadily declining US budgets for basic scientific research and a lopsided emphasis on the life sciences, to the detriment of emerging technologies, where China continues to greatly outspending America.

Government funding of basic and applied scientific research is not only lagging, but falling dangerously behind China, and too little corporate funding is being spent on the basic research that leads to transformative discoveries. The US has the world’s best research universities and a strong culture of innovation. All that it really needs to do is devote more funds to scientific research to give China a run for its money. To beat the Soviets to the moon, NASA received more than 4% of the federal budget in 1965 and 1966. If it really wants to have a hope of maintaining its scientific edge, that type of commitment is once again required. But will it be enough in the face of what is, in essence, a state-sponsored foreign technology transfer apparatus?

Beijing has enacted dozens of laws that have created a technology-siphoning machine. That apparatus maintains databases of foreign co-optees and distributes stipends, sinecures, and cash to foreign donors of high-tech innovations. China has targeted all sources of American innovation, including universities, corporations, and government labs, exploiting both their openness and naïveté, with methods and tradecraft custom-tailored to each target. At American universities, China takes advantage of the commitment to intellectual freedom on campuses. In US corporations, the lure of access to the Chinese market gives Beijing tremendous leverage in eliciting technology transfer from American firms, combined with financial incentives for employees to purloin intellectual property for personal gain.

China could not have experienced the dramatic economic transformation it has experienced in the 21st century, nor have sustained its progress as it has, without inexpensive and unrestricted access to other countries’ technology. Since the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is required to cover a portion of its own costs, state theft through the PLA has become a well-established business. With only 70% of its operating expenses covered by the state budget, the PLA must make up the difference and generate supplemental funds for its modernization . The PLA maintains thousands of front companies in the US, whose sole reason for existing is to steal and exploit US technology. That includes American universities.

The recently reported rise in the number of interrogations and deportations of Chinese students in America is an unfortunate, but necessary, extension of the evolving mosaic between the US and Chinese governments. Certainly, the same is true vis-à-vis American students in China, where the CCP has zero tolerance for anything that even has the potential to result in the theft of Chinese research, technology, or secrets. It is only natural that American universities would become a battleground between the Chinese and American governments.

But this is ultimately the result of the CCP’s brazen ongoing campaign of theft of intellectual property in America and around the world. If Chinese students are looking for someone to blame, they should look no further than their own government. This battle must be fought by the US government on an eye-for-an-eye basis—what the CCP does to America and its citizen, America will do to China and its citizens. The rest of the world should do the same.

(With Reporting by Sunday Guardian Live)