Pompeo warns of Chinese threat to US colleges, says many 'basically bought' by Beijing

Brett Tolman: ‘Lawmakers have been on notice of’ threat of China ‘for a long time’

Former Counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee Brett Tolman discusses the threat of China.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday highlighted the danger China poses to both security and free speech on U.S. college campuses, warning that many U.S. colleges are “basically bought” by Beijing and that they censor themselves to avoid upsetting the communist regime.

Pompeo warned that the Chinese regime is “poisoning the well of our higher education institutions for its own ends” and that they “degrade our freedom and America national security.”

“If we don’t educate ourselves, if we are not honest about what is taking place, we’ll get schooled by Beijing.”

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The top diplomat said that many American scholars have been “lured” into its recruitment programs and they are paid to do research in or for China, while others are easy targets for their anti-American messaging due to their own anti-American bias.

While one might expect that scholars and administrators would be “up in arms” about Chinese interference, Pompeo said, the opposite is true and colleges engage in self-censorship.

“We see it too seldom, but why, why do schools censor themselves? They often do it out of fear of offending China,” he said, adding that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wasn’t interested in having him make the remarks on its campus.

He said that while censorship is often purportedly done for politically correct reasons, he doubted that is the real reason.

“We see too often on American campuses that the silence and censorship driven by the Chinese Communist Party usually boils down to something far less idealistic — so many of our colleges are bought by Beijing,” he said.

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Pompeo cited instances where universities reportedly refused to defend their students due to multi-million-dollar deals with China.

“What more bad decisions will schools make because they’re hooked on Communist Party cash?” he asked.

He made a distinction between the Chinese government and innocent Chinese students, who are often the victims of the government’s repression. He noted that 400,000 Chinese students come to the U.S. each year.

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“American students talk about safe spaces as shelter from ideas they dislike. Chinese students need safe spaces to learn of ideas that they love — what a stark contrast,” he said.

Earlier in the speech he noted the case of Professor Fei-Ling Wang, who was held in China by security, who quizzed him for his time teaching at West Point.

“The lesson I think we can take away from this is clear: The Chinese Communist Party wants what we have and they will do whatever they must do to take it and get it, they will steal our stuff, they will pressure critics of the Chinese Communist Party to keep quiet, they will do whatever it takes,” he said.

The remarks come as part of a continued aggressive approach to China from the Trump administration, including in relation to college campuses — where the U.S. earlier this year designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) as a Chinese foreign mission.

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Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe recently told Fox News that China intends “to dominate economically, militarily and technologically, and is the only country capable of challenging American supremacy across the board.”

That message was echoed by Pompeo, who said Chinese leader Xi Jinping is seeking to make China a top power abroad and to “build a high-tech repressive state like the world has never seen” while building up the People’s Liberation Army, manipulating international organizations and engaging in “vast influence campaigns abroad."

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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