May 27, 2024

House Committee Goals UC Berkeley Program for China Connections

A congressional committee focused on national security threats from China said it was “deeply concerned” about a research partnership between the University of California, Berkeley, and several Chinese entities, claiming the collaboration’s advanced research could help the Chinese government make economic, technological gains. out. or military advantage.

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

The letter focused on the institute’s research into certain “dual-use technologies” used by both civilian and military institutions, such as advanced semiconductors and imaging technology used to map terrain or drive autonomous cars.

The committee also questioned whether Berkeley had properly disclosed Chinese funding to the institute, and cited its collaboration with Chinese universities and companies that have been the subject of US sanctions in recent years, such as the National University of Defense Technologythe telecommunications firm Huawei and the Chinese drone maker DJI.

He added that Berkeley faculty serving at the institute received funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency and other US funding to develop military applications, raising concerns about China’s access to those experts.

In April, for example, a team from a Shenzhen-based lab that describes itself as being supported by Shenzhen’s Tsinghua-Berkeley Institute said that won a competition in China to optimize a type of advanced chip technology that the US government is now trying to prevent Chinese companies from acquiring, the letter said.

It is not clear what role the university played in that project, or whether the partnership, or the institution’s other activities, would violate US restrictions on China’s access to technology. In October, the United States set significant boundaries on the type of advanced semiconductor technology that could be shared with Chinese entities, saying the activity posed a national security threat.

“Berkeley’s PRC-backed collaboration with Tsinghua University raises many red flags,” the letter said, referring to the People’s Republic of China. It was signed by Representatives Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the committee, and Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina who chairs the committee on education and the workforce.

In a statement to the New York Times, UC Berkeley said it took national security concerns “very seriously” and was committed to comprehensive compliance with the laws governing international academic engagement.

“The campus is reviewing past agreements and actions involving or related to Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute” and “will cooperate fully and transparently with any federal inquiries,” he said.

The university also said it responded to inquiries from the Department of Education with detailed information about gifts and contracts related to the institution, that it was committed to full compliance with the laws governing such arrangements and that it “follows the direction of Congress and the federal regulators. when evaluating proposed research relationships with foreign entities.”

Universities have also stressed that foreign governments may have little to gain from infiltrating such partnerships, since academic researchers are focused on basic research that is quickly published in academic journals, although it may be valuable.

“As a matter of principle, Berkeley conducts research that is published openly to the entire global scientific community,” the university said in a statement.

The letter, and other allegations from members of Congress about US universities partnering in China, to emphasize how a rapid evolution in US-China relations is putting new pressure on academic partnerships established to share information and break down barriers between the countries down.

The Chinese government has tried to improve the country’s technological capabilities through legitimate commercial partnerships, but also espionage, cyber-theft and coercion. Those efforts—along with a program to curtail military and civilian innovation—have led to a backlash in the United States against ties to Chinese academic institutions and private companies that might have seemed relatively innocuous a decade ago.

The select committee, which was set up this year, describes its mission as building consensus on the threat of the Chinese Communist Party and developing a plan to protect the United States. The bipartisan committee, which is led by Republicans, can provide legislative recommendations but cannot legislate on its own. He has been naming and shaming major companies and others for ties to China in congressional hearings, investigations and letters.

Tensions between the United States and China are high, and some lawmakers have called for the decoupling of the two economies. But academic links are hard to pull off. American universities are focused on open and collaborative research and count many Chinese scholars among their workforces. China’s significant technology industry and huge population of science and technology doctorates make it a natural magnet for many research collaborations.

Still, the rapid expansion of export controls in the United States is putting more restrictions on the type of information and data related to advanced technologies that can be legally shared with individuals and organizations in China. Under the new rules, even transporting a laptop to China with certain chip designs on it, or giving a Chinese national a tour of an advanced US chip lab, can violate the law.

The House committee asked the university to provide documents and extensive information by July 27 about the partnership, including its funding, structure and technology work; current and past alumni affiliations; and its compliance with US export controls.

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