House committee targets UC Berkeley program for China relations

House committee targets UC Berkeley program for China relations

A congressional committee focused on national security threats from China said it had “serious concerns” about a research partnership between the University of California, Berkeley and several Chinese institutions, claiming that the collaboration’s advanced research could harm the Chinese government. Can help to gain economic, technical advantage. or military advantage.

In a letter sent to Berkeley and University of California system officials last week, the House Select Committee of the Chinese Communist Party requested comprehensive information about the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute, which in 2014 formed a joint venture with China’s prestigious Tsinghua University and Cooperation was established. The Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The letter pointed to the institute’s research on some “dual-use technologies” that are used by both civilian and military institutions, such as advanced semiconductors and imaging technology used for mapping terrain or driving autonomous cars. goes.

The committee also questioned whether Berkeley had properly disclosed Chinese funding for the institute, and cited its collaborations with Chinese universities and companies that have been the subject of sanctions by the United States in recent years. National Defense Technology UniversityTelecom firm Huawei and Chinese drone maker DJI.

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

For example, in April, a team from a Shenzhen-based lab that described itself as backed by the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute said it had won a contest The letter states that the US government is now trying to prevent Chinese companies from acquiring Chinese companies to adapt a type of advanced chip technology in China.

It is unclear what role the university had in that project, or whether the partnership, or the institution’s other activities, would violate US restrictions on access to China’s technology. United States in October set important boundaries on the type of advanced semiconductor technology that could be shared with Chinese entities, saying the activity threatened national security.

“The PRC-backed collaboration with Berkeley’s Tsinghua University raises several red flags,” the letter said, referring to the People’s Republic of China. It was signed by Representative Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the committee, and Virginia Fox, a Republican from North Carolina who chairs the Committee on Education and the Work Force.

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

It added, “the campus is reviewing past agreements and actions involving or involving the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute” and will “fully and transparently cooperate with any federal investigation”.

The university also said that it had 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 “Congress and Follows the lead of federal regulators” when evaluating proposed research relationships with foreign entities.”

Universities have also emphasized that foreign governments have little to gain from intruding into such partnerships, as academic researchers tend to focus on fundamental research that, while potentially valuable, is open for all to see. is published promptly in academic journals.

“In principle, Berkeley conducts research that is published openly to the entire global scientific community,” the university said in its statement.

letters, and other charge US universities with partners in China Members of Congress outline how rapid growth in US-China relations is putting new pressure on academic partnerships that are key to sharing information and breaking down barriers between countries were established.

The Chinese government has sought to improve the country’s technological capability through legitimate commercial partnerships as well as espionage, cyber piracy and coercion. Those efforts — along with a program to mix military and civilian innovation — have created a backlash in the United States against ties with Chinese academic institutions and private companies that might have seemed relatively harmless a decade ago.

The select committee, which was established this year, describes its mission as building a consensus on the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party and developing a plan to defend the United States. The Republican-led bipartisan committee can provide legislative recommendations, but cannot legislate on its own. It has been busy naming and shaming major companies and others with ties to China in congressional hearings, investigations and letters.

Tensions run high between the United States and China, and some lawmakers have called for the separation of the two economies. But breaking academic ties is a difficult prospect. American universities move toward open and collaborative research and count many Chinese scholars in their workforce. China’s significant technology industry and vast population of science and technology doctorates make it a natural magnet for many research collaborations.

Nevertheless, the rapid expansion of export controls in the United States is placing more restrictions on the types of information and data related to advanced technologies that can be legally shared with individuals and organizations in China. Under the new rules, even taking laptops with certain chip designs to China, or allowing a Chinese national to tour an advanced US chip lab, could be a violation of the law.

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

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