House committee targets UC Berkeley’s China Relations program

A congressional committee focusing on national security threats from China said it has “serious concerns” about a research partnership between the University of California, Berkeley, and several Chinese entities, claiming that the collaboration’s advanced research could help the Chinese government gain an economic and technological advantage. or military advantage.

In a letter sent last week to officials at Berkeley and the University of California system, the Chinese Communist Party’s House Selection Committee requested extensive information about the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute, a collaboration established in 2014 with China’s prestigious Tsinghua University and the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The letter referred to the institute’s research into some of the “dual-use technologies” used by civilian and military organizations, such as advanced semiconductors and imaging technology used for terrain mapping or driving self-driving cars.

The panel also questioned whether Berkeley had correctly disclosed Chinese funding for the institute, and cited its cooperation with Chinese universities and companies that have been sanctioned by the United States in recent years, such as National University of Defense Technologyand telecommunications company Huawei and DJI, the Chinese drone maker.

It also said that Berkeley faculty serving at the institute received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other US funding to develop military applications, raising concerns about Chinese access to these experts.

In April, for example, a team from a self-described Shenzhen lab said it was receiving support from the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute. won a contest in China to improve the kind of advanced chip technology that the US government is now trying to block Chinese companies from acquiring, the letter said.

It is not clear what the university’s role will be in this project, or whether the partnership, or the institute’s other activities, would violate US restrictions on China’s access to the technology. In October, the United States Set big boundaries about what kind of advanced semiconductor technology might be shared with Chinese entities, saying the activity posed a threat to national security.

“Berkeley’s PRC-supported collaboration with Tsinghua University raises many red flags,” the letter said, referring to the PRC. The agreement was signed by Representatives Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin and chair of the committee, and Virginia Fox, R-North Carolina and chair of the Education and Workforce Committee.

In a statement to The New York Times, UC Berkeley said it takes national security concerns “very seriously” and is committed to comprehensive compliance with laws governing international academic participation.

“The campus reviews prior agreements and procedures related to or related to Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen” and will “cooperate fully and transparently with any federal inquiries,” it added.

The university also said it has responded to inquiries from the Department of Education with detailed information about gifts and contracts related to the institute, that it is committed to fully complying with the laws governing such arrangements and that it “follows the leadership of Congress and federal regulators when evaluating proposed research relationships with foreign entities.”

Universities have also emphasized that foreign governments may not gain much from sneaking into such partnerships, since academic researchers focus on basic research that, valuable though it may be, is promptly published in academic journals for all to see.

In its statement, the university said, “In principle, Berkeley conducts research that will be made public to the entire global scientific community.”

letter f Other accusations From members of Congress about American universities with partners in China, they underscore how the rapid development in US-China relations is putting new pressures on academic partnerships created to share information and break down barriers between countries.

The Chinese government has sought to improve the country’s technological capability through legitimate business partnerships, but also espionage, cyber theft, and coercion. These efforts — along with a program to integrate military and civilian innovation — have led to a backlash in the United States against relationships with Chinese academic institutions and private companies that might have seemed relatively harmless a decade ago.

The select committee, formed this year, describes its mission as building consensus about the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party and developing a plan to defend the United States. The bipartisan committee, which is led by Republicans, can make legislative recommendations but cannot legislate on its own. She has been busy naming and shaming major corporations and others over ties to China in congressional hearings, investigations, and letters.

Tensions between the US and China are high, and some lawmakers have called for the two economies to be decoupled. But severing academic ties is a difficult prospect. American universities are oriented toward open and collaborative research and count many Chinese scholars in their workforce. China’s significant technology industry and huge population of PhDs in science and technology make it a natural magnet for many research collaborations.

However, the rapid expansion of export controls in the United States places more restrictions on the kind of information and data about advanced technologies that can be legally shared with individuals and organizations in China. Under the new rules, even carrying a laptop into China with certain chip designs on it, or giving a Chinese citizen a tour of an advanced US chip lab, could violate the law.

The House committee asked the university to provide comprehensive documentation and information by July 27 about the partnership, including its financing, structure, and technology operation. current and past affiliations of its alumni; and its compliance with US export controls.